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This Home-Baked Bread Can Help You Rise Above Industrial Food

Food
This Home-Baked Bread Can Help You Rise Above Industrial Food
A loaf of homemade 100% whole wheat rustic bread, baked in a Dutch oven. Katrin Ray Shumakov / Moment / Getty Images

By Alexandra van Alebeek

As more home bakers rediscover how to capture wild yeast and turn it into nourishing loaves of bread, they are part of a growing kitchen movement standing up to the industrial food system.


Step 1: Capture Wild Yeast and Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Sourdough bread begins with the starter, made by capturing wild yeast from the environment and using it to ferment flour and water. Because yeast cultures vary depending on where you are, every sourdough starter tastes a little different. Here's how to make your own sourdough starter using an ancient grain.

You'll need:

  • A quart mason jar with lid
  • All-purpose einkorn flour
  • Water
  • A scale


Day 1: Mix 60g of flour with 60g of water, and let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature. (Do not sterilize your jar. Your starter uses naturally occurring and varied yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria from your environment.)

Day 2-5: Repeat the flour-water feeding. You should notice bubbles around day 2 or 3 (exciting — your starter is alive!). Once this happens, store your starter in the refrigerator to slow fermentation.

Day 6: At this point you should have an active starter. Give it a name! Throw out half of your starter and give it a hearty meal of 100g flour and 100g water.

To keep your starter alive, you'll need to feed it equal parts water and flour every third day or so. I usually recommend 60g of water and 60g flour. If you're not planning to bake bread at the feeding time, throw out half the starter before feeding to keep your starter at a manageable size. It can take two to three bread-baking cycles before your starter is strong and yields predictable results. Professional bakeries have had their starters for generations.

Step 2: Make Bread With an Ancient Grain

Flour:

I chose einkorn wheat for this recipe. Einkorn was domesticated around 9000 B.C. Little about the grain has changed because it nearly became extinct and was never hybridized for industrial markets. Einkorn is noted for higher protein and nutrient content as well as gluten that is more digestible than that in industrial wheat. Emmer and spelt are also ancient grains that work for bread baking. You can experiment with different types and ratios of flour as long as the total added flour equals 500g. For example, if you're looking for a denser bread try a higher ratio of whole wheat flour.

Tools:

You might want to consider adding a couple of tools to your toolbox. Only the scale is absolutely necessary, but all will make bread-baking considerably easier.

  • A scale
  • A cast-iron Dutch oven with lid
  • A banneton (or an 8-inch bowl with a heavily floured tea towel inside)
  • A lamé (or a razor or sharp serrated knife)

Time:

2.5 hours plus a 12-hour cold bulk fermentation.

Ingredients:

  • 100g mature sourdough starter
  • 350g room temp. water
  • 400g all-purpose einkorn flour
  • 100g whole wheat einkorn flour
  • 11g salt mixed with 20g water

Instructions:

1. Add the starter, water, and flour in a bowl. Mix well so that no dry flour remains. The mixture will be quite sticky — do not worry. Let sit for 10–20 minutes.

2. Add the salt and water mixture to the bread dough. Incorporate, mixing only as much as necessary. Let sit 10–20 minutes.

3. Folding: In the bowl, grab the bottom of the north side of the dough. Stretch until just before it rips and then fold the dough towards you three-quarters of the way. Take the south side of the dough, stretch, and fold all the way over. Repeat this process with the east and west sides. Let the bread rest for 20 minutes. Then repeat this folding and resting step three more times.

4. Shaping: Lightly flour your work surface. Take the dough out of the bowl, and shape it so that it's rectangular, arranging it so that the short side faces you. Take the south side of the dough, stretch it, and fold it up three-quarters of the way. Take the east side of the bread, stretch it, and fold it up and to the left. Repeat this with the west side. Then take the north flap and fold it all the way over the bread. Roll the dough so that the folding seams are underneath, touching your counter.

Use your hands to push the dough away from your body and then tuck it back toward you, creating surface tension along the outside of the dough. Rotate the dough with each push and tuck and continue this motion until the boule is a uniform shape with strong surface tension. This is not kneading, but shaping. Most sourdough, including this one, is actually a no-knead bread. We want the natural yeast to do as much of the work as possible.

5. Place your bread seam-side up in a lightly floured banneton. Cover with a tea towel and place it in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

6. Next day, preheat your oven (with the Dutch oven in it) to 500 degrees. Take out the Dutch oven, and gently roll your bread into it directly from the refrigerator. Sprinkle some flour on the top and score the dough by slashing the top. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and bake the loaf for 25 minutes. Then take the lid off, and bake for another 15–20 minutes.

7. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven, and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing, sharing, and enjoying!

Reposted with permission from YES! Magazine.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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