Almost every aspect of health is influenced by the body’s microbiome — that is, the “good bacteria” in our digestive system, on our skin, and in other areas of the body. Bacteria are essential for good health not only because they produce many of the vitamins and minerals that we need, but they also contribute to our immune system. Good bacteria help fight off pathogens, prevent harmful bacteria from growing in our bodies, and even clean away toxins and other contaminants that we come into contact with.
One of the best preventative measures we can take for our health is boosting our microbiome by consuming fermented foods. Fermentation is helpful because it helps boost the amount of good bacteria we are eating (with yogurt, kombucha, etc.) but it also can help make our foods safer to eat because of their ability to cleanse toxins.
Today, many of the grains we eat today contain different chemicals that can be harmful to health. These effects range from difficulty in digestion to inflammatory responses that can cause headaches, brain fog, fatigue, or even flare up disease conditions such as fibromyalgia or Lyme disease.
When consuming grains, a good way to reduce exposure to these inflammatory compounds is by fermenting them. Sourdough bread undergoes a fermentation process that uses yeast to consume sugars and digest away chemicals like phytic acid, which is extremely inflammatory and can exacerbate or even mimic allergies. Many people who have wheat sensitivities find they are able to tolerate this grain if it has been fermented first. Phytic acid also block’s the body’s natural mechanisms for absorbing important nutrients from food, such as calcium, zinc, and magnesium. This fermentation process also helps break down gluten, which causes food sensitivities in many people. The bacteria convert gluten into other types of protein — so, the bread is more nutritious, but easier to digest!
Fermenting grains is easy with a little patience. This tip from Seattle Natural Health is a great, easy trick for any of your favorite grains:
Soaking or fermenting your own grain is very easy and takes almost no work. Take whatever grain you are going to use, such as wheat, rye, spelt, etc. and put it in a bowl the night before you are going to use it. For example, I take one cup of oats or quinoa and add two cups of warm water and then add one tablespoon of yogurt, kefir or a teaspoon of vinegar to the mixture with a pinch of sea salt. I let it soak overnight and then lightly boil it the next morning and it is ready. By doing this simple procedure, you can improve the nutritional value and digestibility of the grain.
One of my family’s favorite sourdough recipes uses Einkorn grain, an ancient variety of wheat that hasn’t undergone genetic modification. We received a sourdough starter from a neighbor, but there are internet resources for making your own. Making sourdough bread requires a little extra planning and effort, but it’s so worth it! Your whole body (and your family) will thank you!
Einkorn Sourdough Recipe from Jovial Foods
- 2 tbsp. (30 g) Einkorn sourdough starter
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 g) warm water
- 1 cup (120 g) jovial All-Purpose Einkorn Flour
- all of the sourdough levain from above
- 5 cups (600 g) jovial All-Purpose Einkorn Flour
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp. (278 g) warm water
- 1 tsp. (6 g) fine sea salt
Making the Sourdough Levain
- Dissolve starter in water.
- Beat in flour with a fork until you have a paste similar to thick pancake batter.
- Add mixture to a large glass container that you can add a few cups of water to tomorrow, and seal with lid and/or plastic wrap.
- Let stand at room temperature for 6 to10 hours.
Making the Bread
- Add un-sifted flour to a large mixing bowl.
- Mix in salt.
- Pour some of the warm water in the levain to loosen it.
- Add the levain to the large mixing bowl with a spatula along with the remaining water.
- Einkorn is best when kneaded briefly by hand. However, if you use a standing mixer, use a low speed. With either method, form a ball of dough that is firm, adding only enough flour to make it less sticky. Note that einkorn bread dough is stickier than regular wheat dough.
- Place in a covered ceramic bowl in a dark place to rise.
- After 20 minutes, turn the dough to activate the leavening process. To turn the dough, flatten it on a countertop and fold in each corner as shown in the pictures that follow, kneading it back into a ball and placing it back in the bowl. This should be done 3 times in the first hour, at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, and 60 minutes. As you starter matures, this process is not so essential.
- Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2-10 hours until is has nearly doubled in size. If your sourdough starter is new or it is cold in your kitchen the time it takes to rise will vary.
- Form your loaf by rolling and tucking the dough into the desired shape.
- Preferably, place the loaf in a 100% linen cloth dusted with flour, and then in a lined basket that is the desired shape of your loaf. Remember to place the good side (the one without the folds) down so when you flip it out of the basket, it will be facing up in the oven. Let the loaf rise again for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F, and place an empty baking tray inside for 15 minutes.
- Have a sharp knife or baker’s razor ready, and after the 15 minutes have passed, flip the loaf out of the basket and onto the baking tray.
- Slash the top to help the dough expand properly during baking, and bake on the middle rack for 40 minutes, rotating it after 20 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the crust gets really dark – that means you will have the best quality crumb. If you like a lighter crust, experiment later with another loaf at a lower temperature and compare.
- Set on a rack to cool for at least one hour before slicing. Your loaf might be compact on the first try, but will get lighter as your starter gains strength.