I dream of Ginkgo…

Imagine walking into a space where you are filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread, the sound of silence (or maybe some great, chill tune), smiling and kind people welcoming you, and the opportunity to feel your best in both body and spirit.

That is my dream for you at Ginkgo.

I dreamt Ginkgo up about a year ago and am slowly watching her come to fruition. I wanted a place where I could do the three things I love the most: bake bread, practice eastern medicine, and welcome community. For many years, Bread Culture was separate from my Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine practice. I would do farmer’s markets and then see patients separately throughout the week. When I got pregnant with Theo and during his first few months earth-bound, I quickly realized that I could not sustain my health, Theo’s health, nor the sanity of my family if I kept baking 50 loaves of bread in our home oven every Saturday morning and then went and sold it at the market. I would also teach off-site once or twice a month as well. In its time, it was wonderful, but I knew I had to make a change. Our bodies give us little clues, you know?

So I started asking the universe “how can I combine these two businesses that I love and spend more time with my boys at home?” And that’s when Ginkgo was born. Or I should say, the seed was planted. I want to create a space for the community to gather and break bread and other nutritious treats, but also bring Theo along and have a space for him and his toddling friends to feel comfortable.

I don’t know when we will open. My friend Andrea is on board with me. She is an Acupuncturist/Baker too. An incredibly good one. She infuses herbs into her whole grain baked goods and pastries, and does not use any refined sugars. She is an artist in the kitchen and a healing one at that. I am so happy she wants to be a part of it all.

Food is Medicine. Hippocrates was first to say this, or inspirit this belief. I try to live this way too. For so many years I struggled, not knowing why I wasn’t feeling right. Was it the gluten? Was it just that a bad digestion ran in my family? Was it stress? Or celiac or another auto-immune disease?

The list went on…

Once I began to understand that I could use food as a source for healing, everything just started opening up. I started adding different herbs to my home-cooked meals. I stopped eating any food that’s ingredient list had one-word or more that I did not understand on it. I started baking bread and experimenting with other fermented foods. I started eating a ‘plant-rich’ diet, and the little meat I did eat lived a healthy life. When I started feeling better, I wanted to start helping other people feel better too. That’s when Bread Culture started.

Ginkgo will take it a few steps further, by providing an integrative approach to food and its powerful capabilities to heal through nutritional programs, Acupuncture, herbs, and classes.

I look forward to breaking bread with you there.

Ginkgo Pic 1

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Babies Come With a Loaf of Bread

That’s what Greg said. A dear friend of my husband Kevin’s. Thank God for him. It was a challenge getting my hubby to agree to starting a family. I was just finishing grad school, we were newly married, artists, independent contractors. He is always the more practical one: fiscally responsible. A beautiful and respectable trait. His yang to my yin. My spirit is more carefree, perhaps whimsically irresponsible. I definitely just made that up. Being the responsible one he was concerned for us. He wanted to have babies but how would we do it?

But Greg’s phrase always meant a lot to us. Especially me being a bread baker, of course. So when it came time to try, we tucked that phrase in our proverbial positivity pockets and started trying.

I got pregnant right away. Trust me, I didn’t think that would happen. After years of Chinese Medical school where “advanced maternal age” was thrown around daily and a year into a practice where I focused on helping couples who could not get pregnant with Acupuncture and herbs, I figured it would take some time. But low and behold, my little boule baby was ready and waiting to be born.

So you all probably wondered what happened to me. Why did I stop baking? Why write one blog post announcing your pregnancy and then drop off the face of the earth? Let’s just say I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. I was sick throughout most of it, so sick in fact that I had to stop baking for a while. That was by far the hardest part. But I knew at some point I would get back to it. After all, it is part of my mission in life. Spreading the word that Bread can actually be healthy for us, that gluten is not an enemy, and that baking bread one loaf at a time may just be the answer to many issues in our country. Even an answer to world peace, from my perspective. It forces us to slow down, to reflect, to share. Baking with whole grains brings us closer to recognizing the process by which bread is made, from Farmer to Miller to Baker to Consumer. I capitalize them all to emphasize their importance in my life. It is a magical process that I hope to continue teaching people about.

And more about my baby boule. Theodore James Parr. Theo for short, “God’s gift.” He was born at 37 weeks. I had to be induced because of complications, so you can imagine how stressed Kevin and I were. How can I love someone so much already? Theo was 8 lbs. 15 oz. at birth. Lord knows if I had gone to term I may have been looking at a 10 pounder or more. I laugh just thinking about that now.

I have spent most of my adult life wanting to be a mother. But in my wildest dreams, nothing could have prepared me for this. For this love. It is as if time has stopped and each moment is so filled with every joy-filled yet worry-inducing emotion that breathing often becomes secondary. That sounds so dramatic, re-reading it, but it really isn’t far from the truth. What else becomes secondary? Bathing, brushing ones teeth, cleaning house, the lot. Some days this love is buried under layers of spit up and crusted hair. But trust me, it is there like nothing I have ever experienced. A buried treasure that brings tears to my eyes on a daily basis.

I am mixing my first loaves in months as I type this. Teaching my boy Theo how to measure the water, the importance of grams vs cups, the smell of whole grain flour and why it is imperative to use it. Sure, he is asleep in his Ergo carrier on my chest, but it is getting in there, no doubt. Settling deep into his subconscious, where it will make the most impact.

It feels so good to be back. And with even greater purpose — With the love of a mother for her son. To share this newfound archetype with the greater community. To start teaching again. Wow. I forgot how good my hands feel; mixing the flour with water, then starter, and salt. So much to be Thankful for. Especially now with Thanksgiving around the corner and a difficult/jarring election bringing out all kinds of emotion in people. Look towards the light. Do what you love. Bring people together that way. Find your center that way. It will always lead to love. And boules of prosperity.

Happy 2016 Bread Lovers!

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Organic whole grain rye and spelt bread with a 28 hour fermentation. And a few Klamath olives for good measure. Savory, nutty, and nutritious!

Hello Fellow Bakers! And Happy (almost) New Year!!

It is this time of year that I try to take deeper breaths amidst the often chaos, and I become more aware of the importance of this. What it does accomplish — is it turns my gratitude practice inward and more solid, as the clarity of what is most important in life becomes beautifully more prominent. That is — more family, more love, more nature, more pausing. And unmistakenly now, more writing is part of this. Yes.  And thus, here I am again. Twice in one month. Somebody give me a cookie.

Or a loaf of bread. Sure it is my mission to teach people to make their own, and I’ve seen dozens and dozens of wonderful pictures, but it would be nice if perhaps one of my students happened to make an extra one week, or even dropped off a few slices one day…

Hint hint. Just kidding…Or am I? 😉 😉 😉

Perhaps it will help if I answered more questions. Afterall, I am well aware of how daunting baking bread can be in the beginning. I remember my crazy first loaves. Not the prettiest. Certainly the densest. Maybe  “brick” is the most appropriate word to describe them. But you just have to keep at it. As Yoda says, “There is no try. Only do.”

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Some bread vocabulary explained (in laymen’s or laywomen’s terms)

autolyse: the time after your initial mix of flour and water, before you mix in the wild yeast (starter) and salt. It is between 30 and 60 minutes usually, and is essential for the initial enzymatic activity of the grains.

‘air’ kneading: a phrase that Andrew Whitley (an amazing British baker who wrote Bread Matters) uses to explain the belief that sourdough bread does not need to be kneaded. Ooo, a pun! And Chad Robertson also exemplifies in his book //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=breadculture-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0811870413&asins=0811870413&linkId=A37J2IZDYLLQPJRS&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>Tartine Bread that dough can simply be given ‘folds’ every 30 minutes or so during the initial rise.

retard: aka ‘bulk fermentation’: this step occurs in your refrigerator. After your initial rise and shaping (after 3-4 hours), you place the dough in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours to a max of 28. I have found that my sweet spot tends to be around 16-24 hours, but everyone’s fridge will have a slightly different temp, so find what is best for you. It is during this stage that the wild yeast interacts slowly with the enzymatic activity of the whole grain flour, water, and salt. In my opinion, this is where the bread develops the ability to be considered probiotic and more easily digested, so please don’t shorter this process. 24 hours is ideal — 8 is the minimum and over 28, your bread may be overproofed or spoiled.

proofing: the ‘final rise’ of your dough after it has spent time ‘retarding’ or ‘fermenting’ in the fridge. This is the hour or two when the dough sits on the counter, rising, getting closer to room temp, before it is placed in a Dutch oven or on a pizza stone for baking.

over-proofing: oh, if I had a nickel for every time I overproofed a loaf when I first started baking, well…Let’s just say it happens to the best of us  especially when we are just beginning to learn how to bake bread. There is a particular test that many bakers use to determine if their bread is over- or under-proofed.

  1. Poke the dough after it’s finished its bulk fermentation or retarding in the fridge. If the dough leaps back at your finger, it is likely underproofed (meaning it didn’t have enough counter time during the initial rise.
  2. Poke the dough: if it stays indented and doesn’t bounce back, it is likely overproofed. Meaning — you let it go too long on the counter initially or in the fridge. You can still try to bake it, but it probably won’t have any oven spring.
  3. Poke the dough: perfectly proofed: you poke the dough and it slowly and steadily rises back to meet your finger. Well done, baker!

I sincerely hope that these vocab terms and tips were helpful. Thank you for reading my blog this past year. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below. You know I always love hearing from you! I am greatly looking forward to seeing what Bread Culture has in store for 2016!

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This is me outside of the famous Amy’s Bread in NYC. She is a great inspiration to me and I am thrilled I was finally able to try her bread!

 

 

 

 

Organic Farming, Iowa-Style

early morning harvest

About 6 months ago my husband Kevin and I went to visit his family in the midwest. Lucky enough for me he grew up in farm country. He was born in Nebraska and spent most of his growing years in southwestern Iowa. My father-in-law bought two farms in his 70’s….something he had always dreamed to do, but wasn’t able to achieve until later in life. I really admire his spirit. One is never too old (or young, for that matter) to make their dreams come true.

A few days into the trip, we were headed to visit my mother-in-law, Ann, in Minnesota, and as we were driving past all the corn and soybean fields, I thought to myself: “there has got to be an organic grain farmer out here somewhere!” So I googled just that; and low and behold I came upon Early Morning Harvest: Iowa’s Premier Aquaponic Produce Farm and Grain Mill. I gasped, Kevin swerved a bit at the wheel, and then I immediately called them. Jeff answered the phone. “Hi there,” I said, obviously excited, “my husband and I happen to be driving through Iowa right now, on our way towards Minnesota. Where exactly are you located?”  A few explanations and directions later, we realized that we would be driving straight through Panora, IA. No such thing as coincidence!

We spent a few hours with Jeff. I asked him a lot of questions about farming. I am totally green, verrrrrrryyyyy green when it comes to this. It is only something in the last 6 months that I have grown more interested in, to be honest. Now, after spending time with Jeff and Kevin’s Dad, and other farmer’s recently, I dream of having my own organic grain farm one day…Jeff was very patient with my seemingly dozens of questions. Farmer’s tend to live in a different time zone of their own. I envy this. And then he showed us his Aquaponic green house. This is a whole post in and of itself, but let’s just say that I was amazed at the sheer possibility of marrying aquaculture (raising of fish) and hydroponics (soil-less growing of plants). Totally blew my mind!

As did their flour. I get it now. The freshly milled flour I get here in CA, still yielding utterly delicious and complex breads, well, let’s just say it doesn’t quite have the spunk that Iowa grains have.  And I am pretty sure it has to do with the water — or lack thereof. Iowa gets a lot more rain than we do and therefore, its soil is more rich in nitrogen; yielding healthier plants and grains. When I first opened a bag of the flour I purchased from Jeff that day, I had to take a step back. I couldn’t believe the smell. This was the Earth’s Flour. It smelled like rain, soil, insects, wheat, sunshine — all of the things you want your grains to smell like. All of the healthy things you want your family to eat, your kids, yourself.

I must admit, I was a little afraid at what the end result may be. I thought “Is my bread going to taste like dirt now?” I laughed at the possibility. I made a few test loaves and was amazed at the complexity of flavor. It is definitely distinct, so I mix a little rye and sprouted sonora berries in there to vary its taste and texture.

I call it Farmer’s Bread. Kevin came up with that one, of course. There is a definite history to the feel of this particular grain. It’s hard-working. You can feel the effort that was given by both the earth itself, and the farmer’s who spent many an hour growing it, sweat, exhaustion, and all. I admire that.

For more info on Jeff and Early Morning Harvest, take a look at their website. He does ship nationally, and in fact, I just order 50 pounds of his whole wheat flour for the upcoming Bread Festival at Grand Central Market this coming weekend.

Hope to see you there!

Love,

Mary

aquaponics

bread festival pic

 

A More Scientific Look at Bread

The more I bake, the more I realize that each loaf has a personality unto it’s own and no two loaves are alike.  No matter what the process I use is; no matter how exact the grams I use, they always seem to come out just slightly different.  One may be more dense, another more sour.  Some bakers would argue that temperature has to do with it — that there is no controlling mother nature in that way.  I can recall a friend saying about a loaf I made, “this bread isn’t for a side of soup…this bread is a meal from the earth.”  There is my goal. Simplify bread for nutrition sake and for social consciousness. Bring nature to the forefront.  And not in a hippy-dippy sort of way, but in a “we have the power to take control of the foods we eat and we can do so with Love!”

I think of bread as I think of people — constantly changing, evolving, with their own set of unique characteristics that make them who they are.  It is this diversity which makes the world go round. Or might I say, the boule go round!

I came across an article of a group of grad students who seem to feel the same way I do about bread.  It made me so happy to hear their take on the whole “gluten-free” epidemic.  And yes, I realize the term epidemic may seem dramatic to some of you, but in reality, the word doesn’t have numbers attached to it and it is pretty darn appropriate.  An epidemic is symbolic of something that is occurring in the now, at present.  I’m super into the etiology of words, and epidemic happens to have a greek origin, meaning “upon or above people.”  And to me, the thousands of people who feel the side effects from eating processed gluten have the right to call it an epidemic.  I know that there is an attachment for many to believe that going “gluten free” is a fad diet, or a restriction that some use just to lose weight, or because “everybody’s doing it.”  But trust me when I say, a gluten allergy is not fun for a person who really has one.  It can be debilitating for many, but also a saving grace for those of us who feel the importance to raise awareness and find ways to break bread with eachother once again, gluten-free, slowly fermented, or otherwise.

Please click on the link to read all about how Washington State University is trying to come up with some scientific explanations for why bread has lost it’s way and how we can bring it back for the healthful sake of ourselves, our families, and society as a whole.

Jonathan McDowell of the Bread Lab says it best: “If you look at gluten as what holds bread together, and you look at bread as what holds our society together, what is ‘gluten-free bread,’ then? Is it not a symbol of our times?”

Yes, Mr. McDowell, Amen!

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/02/toms-kitchen-100-whole-wheat-bread-doesnt-suck-and-pretty-easy

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