June 2012Monthly Archives

Baking Bread

I was inspired by the information about the Loetschental Valley to try making my own bread from freshly ground flour.  Dr. Price recommended that each city should have its own mill to provide freshly ground flour to bakeries.  Since that isn’t likely to happen any time soon, I will have to grind my own.  Fortunately, I already have a KGM Grain-Mill Attachment for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  The mixer is also capable of kneading small amounts of dough, so I am all set with my equipment, at least for now.  I understand from reviews that if I continue to grind grain or knead 100% whole grain dough with my current mixer, I will kill it within a couple of years.

Some time ago, I bought No More Bricks! Successful Whole Grain Bread Made Quick & Easy by Lori Viets.  The author has a website at BreadClass.com where she also offers a video class.  I bought the book during my vegan phase, but I never made any bread using that information up until now.  I was intrigued by the title because when I was young, my mother tried making bread from home-ground flour.  It turned out very dense.  We called it “brick bread.”  I wanted to avoid the same outcome.  So I pulled out the book yesterday and read it.  Not only does the author claim that you can make 100% whole grain bread that isn’t a brick, but you can do it in 90 minutes.  Wow!  Even people with fulltime jobs have enough time for that, if that were true.  My own batch of two loaves took three and a half hours from the beginning of grinding until the loaves came out of the oven.  I bought the grain at Whole Foods Market from their bulk department.  They have an amazing selection of grains to choose from.  Whole Foods Market is a good source for an occasional baker, but someone who bakes bread often will want to find a source that can supply larger quantities.  I found a one-pound bag Saf-Instant yeast at Smart & Final for only $3.59.  That will make a lot of bread.  I was pleased with the results of my first attempt.  The loaves were definitely not bricks!  I recommend the book.

The author recommends using a Nutrimill Home Grain Mill and a Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine.  There are people who have been using Bosch machines for kneading dough for 20 years with no problems.  The old model had an average life of 17 years.  The newer model is rated for twice the life.  When my KitchenAid fails, that is what I will get.  Cookie Paddles with Metal Whip Drive, Universal Slicer Shredder Attachment, and a Blender can be purchased for the Bosch machine, making it a truly versatile appliance.

There’s a chapter in the book about why it is important to grind one’s own flour.  To begin with, white flour should be avoided because so much nutrition has been removed from it that legally it must be enriched with four vitamins and iron.  There are some 30 different known nutrients in whole grain wheat, so that means a great deal of nutrition has been lost in white flour.  Buying whole grain flour at the store is not a good option, either.  Whole grain flour loses much of its nutrition quickly after grinding.  Plus, it also spoils quickly.  Whole grain flour should be kept refrigerated after grinding, but when was the last time you saw bags of flour in the refrigerator section at the supermarket?  If that were not enough to dissuade you, whole grain flour sold in the store isn’t as whole as you might think.  Many manufactures simply add enough bran and germ back into white flour to make it brown.  Manufacturers also put additives into the flour, and many of these do not even need to be listed on the ingredients label because they are considered standard.  The only way to know for sure that you are getting true unadulterated whole grain flour with its complete nutrition is to grind it yourself.

Nutrition in the Loetschental Valley

I am currently reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price.  Dr. Price was concerned about the degeneration of dental health that he was seeing in his practice.  He decided to go out and find populations where dental health was still good.  He traveled the world looking for people still eating traditional diets.  This book was first published in 1939, but it would be very difficult to write such a book today because virtually all populations now include modern foods in their diet.  What Dr. Price found was that those still eating their traditional diets did indeed have healthier teeth and facial bone structure.  He did explore to some extent other health issues, but these were not his primary interest or expertise.  It is unfortunate that researchers from other medical specialties did not likewise engage in similar studies.

So far, I have read through the chapter in which Dr. Price describes the differences he found in the traditional Swiss and their modern counterparts.  When Dr. Price inquired as to where he could find populations in Switzerland still eating a traditional diet, he was directed in Switzerland to the Loetschental Valley that had only just recently been reached by rail service.  They were still producing all of their own food and clothing in the valley.  This population had very few caries (decayed teeth)—only 2.3 out of every 100 teeth.  That’s less than one per mouth.  Meanwhile, severely rotten teeth were common in the modern population.  The traditional population had wide dental arches with no crowding.  Their facial bones were well-formed.  The teeth of the modern population were crowded, and there were some deformities of other facial structures causing some to be mouth breathers.  Also, tuberculosis was a major health problem in Switzerland, and yet not one case had been recorded in the Loetschental Valley.  These traditional people were very healthy.

The daily diet in the Loetschental Valley included 100% whole grain rye bread and large slices of cheese.  They ate meat once a week and would use the scraps to make soups the rest of the week.  I assume this means they were eating bone broth, but this was not specifically mentioned in the book.  They ate some vegetables in the summer when they could grow them.  There were no fruits in the diet.  There was no sugar and no white flour.  Their dairy and meat was pasture raised and highly nutritious.

The modern population ate less dairy.  Much of the milk they produced went into the production of chocolate.  They were eating white bread with jams and jellies.  Their cattle were kept in barns.  The quality of the nutrition in the dairy and meat suffered for it.

The traditional diet in the Loetschental Valley was distinctly not Paleo since it was mainly grain and dairy, and yet they enjoyed superb health.  The secret to their health appears to be in the superior quality of the foods they did eat.  They were eating pasture raised animal products and freshly ground whole grains.  Those modern-day populations who have gone Paleo in their eating may be enjoying improved health because they are eating whole fresh foods more like these traditional peoples.  The secret may not necessarily be in the elimination of dairy or grains.  If doing so helps them, it may be because the quality of modern dairy or grains is inferior and in some way deleterious.  Dr. Price recommended in the introduction that all bread should be made from freshly ground whole grain flour.  The fats in flour that has been stored for any length of time tend to go rancid, possibly contributing to ill health.  And, of course, white flour has had most of its nutrition removed to the extent that the law requires that it be enriched with vitamins to prevent malnutrition in the populations eating it.