A Little Bit of Press!

Hi Friends, I am happy to report that Amy Halloran included my name in her most recent article in the LA Times titled “Love Good Bread? Check Out Recommended Baking Books and Bread-Making Classes from LA Bakers.” Amy is an amazing writer and whole grain activist. We connected years ago when she was writing her last book, “The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.” We ended up interviewing eachother by phone, and it was an instant connection. She included my story in one of the chapters of her book. She talked about my Acupuncture practice, and how I found solace in the fermented, whole grain bread that I baked, since it was ultimately what helped heal my digestive issues, and ultimately many other people’s from there on.

I am so grateful to Amy for continuing to boast my efforts by including me in such an incredible lineup of Bread Sages (really, LA is full of Bread Wisdom!). I have been teaching people how to bake bread now for nearly 3 years now, and I feel like I learn more about a deeper message in the grain every time I teach it. I am purely self-taught, having baked thousands of loaves in my home oven, and out of *pure* unadulterated obsession(!), I find it necessary to help my friends and neighbors do the same! It is our right to feed our families and friends wholesome, good, nutritious food.

Really, it is our birthright.

If you would like to read the article, please click here. If you want to find out more about Amy Halloran or purchase her wonderful book, click here. 

Thank You for your support, Everyone! Happy Baking!

Big Love,

Mary

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What if…?? A Kind Compliment and Something to Think About.

A wonderful patient of mine came in today and asked me a question. “What if I told you that you could eat bread everyday of your life and not gain weight or get sick?”

I just looked at her and smiled. She then added, “You can! That is your Bread, Mary! I do it every day!” First of all, it was a humbling exchange. I thanked her and definitely blushed.

 

 

 

But then I realized it was a lot more. It was a reason to get on this site and write more about why she and me and many others feel this way about fermented, sourdough bread. I mean, I’ve been eating it for years and therefore know this, but for those of us who are gluten free and haven’t touched it, that idea feels some sort of dream.

The reality is that you can eat bread again.

You can eat bread that was made with grain that was grown organically, harvested consciously, milled fresh with its entirety intact (whole grain!).

You can eat bread that was then made with loving hands, that was naturally leavenened, and given the proper time it needed to ferment.

You can eat it and feel satiated, and not feel bloated, nor foggy brained, nor have rashes, nor migraines, nor have crazy stomach pain (like I used to have).

I have written a lot about gluten in the past. And sure, that’s a big part of it ~ reducing gluten protein during the bulk fermentation is a big part of what I stand for. It makes the bread more easily digested.

But what about the bulk being the time when the phytic acid that’s naturally present in all grains transforms into lactic acid during the fermentation process, through the assistance of the lactobaccilus and other healthy bacteria in the starter? Thereby making the natural vitamins and minerals present in the whole grains shine forth, presenting an easier way for the body to digest and assimilate these vitamins and minerals, and in addition reducing the amount of gluten in the bread?

This, in turn, Giving the body vital energy via complex carbohydrates that through fermentation yield a lower glycemic index, bioavailable soluble and insoluble fiber (a welcoming digestive aid), keeping the body full and energized for hours.

MIND-BLOWN? I know, me too.

Let me add that I am not a scientist. I cannot prove the theory on this with a three-tiered study. But I can admit that I have used myself as a case study for many years and the proof is in the sourdough. Many people who have taken my Bread class or another similar one and have “gluten intolerance” or a “wheat allergy” report that they are able to digest sourdough without an inflammatory response. I should add that those with celiac or a severe allergy is another story, and I understand that.

That aside, show some respect for the grain and where it comes from — take a 3 hour class on how to learn an easy sourdough method that you can do in the comfort of your own home, and be present with each bite. It will fill you up, it will satiate you, and no it will not make you sick.

You too can eat this bread everyday! Just like my wonderful patient said! Have you found your favorite fermented spot yet? Have you found your class? I’m proud to say that I’ve been included in a recent LA Times article written by a friend of mine, Amy Halloran. And then subsequently, a few days later The NY Times wrote a great article highlighting more LA Restaurants and Bakers who are putting the “G” back in “GLUTEN,” if you know what I mean! Please check out the articles here and here. And please join me for a Bread class. I don’t think anything brings me more joy than to teach people how to bake a loaf of bread. Ahh, it’s just the best. Being of service and getting to talk ad nauseum about my favorite thing in the world!

If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

We can always rely on Maya Angelou for jems like that one. So true, right?

Big Love!!

Mary

What I think about when I think about BREAD…Happy New Year and other things.

Hi Friends, that first part of the title is a Haruki Murakami reference. Have you guys read his book: “What I Talk About when I Talk About Running”? Ahh, so good. Go to your local library and take it out. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Ok, bread. This is me free-stylin’ a little bit. I haven’t written in far too long. So hear me out. Thanks for your patience.

Each week I seem to go back and forth between three worlds. On one hand, there is a world of “yes, I can.” This world tends to be purely optimistic and encouraging, but often ehhh, pretty short-lived. I may say something like “wow, I actually baked this myself. Holy crap. That’s amazing.” Ultimately I may not remember how I actually achieved that bake, but nevertheless.

And then the next bake/next world I fail in some way, usually with over or underproofing, where I curse and am annoyed, and full of blah. After hemming and hawing for a few, I am back to square one again. Luckily enough for me, I am normally a fairly optimistic person, so my time in this world is pretty brief.

Thirdly, there is this really cool zen-like world when I get so into the zone that I forget about judging myself or the situation and I just breathe the dough.

Beeeeeeeeee the doughhhh.

No seriously, though. That is the best feeling in the world. I think this is why I keep baking. Even when I have to pause and take a break for a few months, it still lures me back. And then I feel that dough on my hands and it’s like hugging an old friend.

There you are…Some weeks I feel like crap, others like I don’t have a clue, and then sometimes I actually realize how much fun it is and how much joy it brings me, and I get to sit in that space for a little while. Do you know what I mean? No matter what world I am in, I have made 1,000 plus loaves of bread in my home oven! That’s wild!

But — perhaps, most importantly, when all is said and done…the reality is, it is not about me. If there is anything that 2017 has taught me, it is this:

It is about us. Moving forward. It is about us. It’s about teaching one another, building eachother up, breaking bread with one another. Really looking at one another. Putting our phones down. Having a conversation in present time. Loving one another. And this bread that I make? In the end it is really about being of service to the community.

In the quiet moments, in that rare in-between Zen place, I come to realize: is that not why we are all here? Not to get all existential on ya’ll, but really. Is it not?

Happy New Year, friends. What are you planning on baking more of this year? I for one am going to focus on this “service” aspect of Bread Culture. I hope to combine my holistic practice of Eastern Medicine and herbal medicine with my love for teaching bread workshops. So stay tuned. I cannot promise more writing, especially with a 16 month old (LOVE) and a busy practice. Although I will try.

What about you? Please tell me. I love to hear what you are up to! Big love to you, my bread family!!

xox,

Mary

ps. this image was a free image I found online. It is not my bread. It is not my hands. I think that’s why I like it so much. It speaks volumes to me about sharing circular loaves of nourishment with eachother, with strangers.

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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!

 

 

 

 

The 101 on Baking Bread, Revised

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Hi Fellow Bakers! I write today to share my most updated basic bread recipe with you. Since I have been teaching people how to bake bread in the last month, I am filled with joy, first and foremost, but I am also realizing that your average breadbook can be a bit intimidating for a new baker. So — I hope this helps you to just dive on in! It truly is not as challenging as it seems. As my students say, you just have to get your feet wet. Then you are that much closer to having freshly baked, nutritious bread for you and your family. And this is bringing me one step closer to my ultimate goal: blocks upon block of households oozing with that fresh baked bread smell. That just makes life a little bit sweeter, doesn’t it?

BREAD CULTURE The 101 on Baking Bread

I have tried my darndest to make it as easy as possible. And trust me from many loaves of experience, it is far easier to just dig in and get elbow deep in dough, than to get intimidated by the measurements, percentages, and what not. I mean — do we not find the most JOY when we are in the moment, experiencing things first hand? HAVE FUN! And I am here for you, should you have questions. 😉

There are only four ingredients: FLOUR, WATER, YEAST, and SALT. That’s a beautiful thing. Here’s the abbreviated recipe for two loaves of bread. If you want one, just cut it in half — but really, who wants one loaf when you can give another to a friend, and then they will be inspired to try to bake their own bread and it will change the world!

INGREDIENT                         QUANTITY                    BAKER’S PERCENTAGE

water                                         800 grams                      80% (hydration)

whole grain flour                    1000 grams                     100%

wild yeast                                 200 grams                       20%

salt                                             25-30 grams                   2.5-3%

1. Grab your metal bowl or plastic (BPA-free) Cambro container (Smart & Final, $15), and your digital scale (Amazon, $30). Measure 800 grams of water into the container. Reset scale back to 0 grams and add 1,000 grams of whole grain, organic flour. MIX with your hands until you cannot see any more dry flour. If your grains are extra thirsty, give them a little more water. You will get used to how much water your flour needs after a few test rounds. Cover your container with a cloth or place a lid on top (not airtight). Let the flour and water mingle. This is called the AUTOLYSE. This is when all the enzymes get to know eachother before the yeast and salt are added. Do not skip this step. Real bread takes time. You will have better bread by giving the dough 20-30 mins to hang out.

2. After your 20-30 mins is up, place the container back on the scale and add 200 grams of wild yeast (refer to my website post Wild, Wild Yeast to learn how to make your own yeast/starter/leaven) and 25-30 grams of salt (that’s up to you). Get in there with your paws and mix all together rigorously for up to 5 minutes. This is the only time you will knead the dough. After the 5 minutes is over, massage your tired arms, and place the lid or cloth back on the container. Now, the initial proofing time occurs.

3. Leave the container on the counter for up to 4 hours (if it is over 90 degrees in your house, make it more like 3 hours). If you are home and able to “do folds,” gently lift the sides of the dough up and onto itself on all sides every 30 minutes or so. If you need to run errands, don’t worry about the folds. Just do one before you put it in the fridge for the bulk fermentation.

4. Bulk fermentation: after the proofing stage is over, you can either shape the dough now and place it in your brown-rice lined banneton and into the fridge for up to 24 hours, or you can leave it in the container and shape it when it’s cold hours later. I usually do the later, but every baker has their preference. So — leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. This is where the real magic happens. The dough is allowed to slow down it’s natural enzymatic activity, and this is where the nutritional boost occurs. As I always say, “real bread takes time.” This fermentation allows the bread to become pro-biotic in a sense, since the lactobacillus bacteria in the yeast is interacting with the enzymes and minerals in the flour. Good stuff!

5. After up to 24 hours (but not less than 13 hours), take the dough out of the fridge and let it rise (either in the container or banneton) for up for 2 hours, or until it comes close to room temp. At the same time, PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 485 DEGREES with the Combo Cooker or Dutch Oven inside (Amazon, $40-$60). Every oven is different, so you will have to determine the “sweet spot.”

6. Shaping: You can shape it when it is cold, that can be easier for many of us beginners. Use your dough spatula and bench knife (Amazon, $5 and $8) to cut the dough in half to create to circles with your hands. You can use a little rice flour or non-gmo cornmeal on your hands and sprinkle on the countertop to prevent stickiness. Once you have shaped the two boules into two circles, you are ready to bake!

7. Take the pre-heated Combo Cookers out of the oven (don’t forget your mitts! Those puppies are hot!), sprinkle them with rice flour or cornmeal (prevents dough sticking more than regular flour), place boules into the combo cookers.

8. Score your loaves! Using a bread scorer (Amazon, $8), razor, or sharp knife, slice the top of the dough at a 45 degree angle several times. This allows the dough to breathe, to get the most oven spring,and prevents dough blowout. Sprinkle the dough with brown rice or cornmeal.

9. Place combo cookers in the oven and set timer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, take the lids off the combo cookers, lower the temp to 460 degrees, and place timer for 22 minutes. After the 22 minutes are up, check to see if the crust is browned enough, and if not, give it a few more minutes. Then put those oven mitts on, take those beautiful loaves of bread out of the oven, wait at least an hour to break into those beauties! I know, I know, that is so annoying. But it is important to remember — the bread is still cooking once it comes out of the oven, so it needs time to cool down. Trust
me, I know from experience, that eating hot bread is delicious, but can give you a not-so-fun belly ache. It is worth waiting for! Some professional bakers say it is best to eat leavened bread the next day for the most flavor!

To store your bread: leave it on the counter, wrapped in a cloth or placed in a paper bag. It has a shelf-life of about 3 days, so if you won’t eat it that fast, you can slice it first and then freeze it. Then, take it out, let it thaw for a bit, lightly toast, and ENJOY! There you have it, friends!! I wish you all the success and luck in baking your own bread at home. We deserve to know where our food comes from, to eat the healthiest grains possible, and to have more energy because of it. And the other best part is that you get to share it with your loved ones and community. Isn’t that what life is all about?! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me: cultureyourbread@gmail.com.

Love and Real Bread,

Mary

The Bran, The Germ, The Endosperm

Say that ten times fast! These three properties of the whole grain are essential as a trio, and without the whole seed intact, many nutrients are lost and the bread becomes less healthy.  I know we have all heard of these terms, but many of us are wondering what they really are, and how they act separately and together as a unit.  So let’s break them down…

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THE BRAN: The “Roughage” — makes up about 14% of the whole grain. It is the outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains large amounts of B vitamins, some protein, trace minerals, phytochemicals, and dietary fiber.  This fiber is insoluble, which makes it easier to digest, and helps to prevent constipation by speeding up the digestion process.

THE GERM: The “Nutrients” — makes up only about 2.5% of the kernel weight of the whole grain.  It is the sprouting section of the seed.  It is usually separated during the milling process because it contains the most fat, and therefore has a shorter shelf life.  It also contains a higher protein content, more B-vitamins, such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and iron.  You can also purchase wheat germ separately if you want to add it into your normal flour.  Keep in mind that whole wheat flours already have it in tact, but many other flours do not.

THE ENDOSPERM: The “Energy” — makes up 83% of the whole grain. It is the main source for white flour. It contains the greatest amount of carbohydrates, protein, and iron.  It also contains some of the other B-vitamins as well.  It is a source of soluble fiber, and is therefore more difficult/takes longer to digest, but also makes you feel full faster and can help maintain blood sugar and weight.

Whole grain flour contains all three of these vital parts of the kernal.  In the milling process, usually the bran and germ are removed and only the endosperm remains, depriving our flours of essential vitamins, protein, fiber, and trace minerals.  I know companies add back some of these nutrients after they mill, but keep in mind that this method is artificial and you are not truly eating a “whole food,” or a “whole grain.” Eating foods as you see them in their most natural form is essential to life, vitality, and to your health.

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So the next time you are on a hunt to purchase some flour, please take a moment to study the brand that you purchase.  Does it have the highest nutrition content for you and your family? Is it truly a whole grain flour? Don’t let the language on the bags fool you! Companies verbage on the front, sides, and back are not regulated by the FDA. But the nutrition panel is monitored.  Study it. Or you could pull a Foodbabe (www.foodbabe.com) and pick up that phone and call the company yourself to get the most honest answer. She is so inspiring!

Let’s regain our power when it comes to our food. Educating ourselves is the first step! And then those cookies or pie or bread (mmmmm) you make from that flour will have that much more history to it; that much more knowledge, because you have empowered yourself to eat healthier! Go get ’em!

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