Three years ago this fall I took drastic measures. I came to grips with the fact that gluten was hard on me and decided it was time to give it up. It was a HUGE change, one that challenged me to tears on and off through the first few months. As many of you know, it is quite a shift to change your diet that drastically! Our family had made this change before, years ago, when we (I, the girl in charge of food) cut out gluten and dairy after I attended an autism conference and learned about the possibility of such a diet helping our son. It wasn’t easy then either, but only lasted the summer. This time it was me who needed the help. Thankfully, eating a gluten-free diet made a huge difference in my health within just two weeks!
Fast forward to last month when a friend of mine asked if I had ever heard of natural yeast. I hadn’t. I immediately went to town reading up on it. What I discovered is that like a traditional sour dough starter, natural yeast dramatically changes the chemistry of regular wheat when it is combined with water and kept in a cool place. Ooooo. The more I read the more interested I became. I believe that there are ways to prepare foods that are much easier for us to digest, and culturing is one of the major tools we use to accomplish that. Could this work for me I wondered? Me, eating wheat again? Eating waffles again? And toast and sandwiches….It was a heady thought.
After reading Caleb Warnock’s blog on natural yeast, I determined that I wanted to find out if I might be one of the people with an intolerance or celiac who might be able to use wheat prepared in this way. Shortly after that decision was reached, my friend called again and asked what I had learned. When I said that I wanted to try it she surprised me by saying that she had a start for me and that her daughter had baked a loaf of bread for me to try! (I owe you Pam Thomson!) I was so hopeful that I would be able to graduate from pasty starchy gluten free “bread” but mostly to be able to get the nutrients in the seeds and grains that I have felt I’ve been missing. I decided to try it….
(Note: We are each responsible for our own health decisions. What works for one may not be a good option for someone else. Caleb suggests that you take some of this bread to your doctor to lab test it and see if it is something you could tolerate if you are concerned about getting sick. For some, better safe than sorry.) I personally went with a “gut feeling” that it was ok for me to try it carefully and slowly. It was great to eat bread again. I ordered the book!
Over the past few months, I have devoured the principles in the book and tried the recipes, created some of my own recipes and of course learned to keep my starts going. The actual hands-on time this kind of baking requires is minimal, it’s the thinking about what you want to make a day ahead that is a little tricky. I have baked bread, made many different kinds of pancakes and waffles (which are crispy and light and taste a bit like a funnel cake), an amazing chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls.
Holy cow! It is so much fun to create and to try new things! I have been tweaking the sugars (another difficulty for me, maybe you can relate) and have found that natural sweeteners work well in these recipes. For instance, in the chocolate cake, I used sucanat and agave in place of white sugar which made the cake sweet, but calmly so. It certainly takes time, when shifting to a whole foods diet, to untrain your taste buds to expect sweeteners on steroids, but this brand of baking sure helps. You eat a piece of chocolate cake made with natural yeast and natural sugar and wait for the blood sugar spike…..and wait…..and it doesn’t come! And that may mean that diabetes won’t come knocking either!
Please let me know if there is some way that I can help you get started cooking with natural yeast if you are interested. I have only scratched the surface of what there is to learn about this here, so please continue to read on the author’s blogs. They are amazing.
Hey! I can share a start! (8 starts went out of my fridge last night for cooking class! Hoorah!)