Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.
Grains rely on natural bacteria to ferment. Fermented wheat products are easy to digest, and the minerals within are easily absorbed. Commercially available baking powder and yeast do not have this advantage.
Below is a description of how ‘Starter’ is made and used:
- Foster of bacteria:
- Add half a pound of organic raisins to three cups of water. Squeeze the raisins to release their fructose. The water will turn dark. Leave in room temperature for two to three days.
- Add a cup of wheat berries to three cups of water and leave in room temperature for two to three days. Remove any mold that appears; mold and yeast grow under the same environment.
Both raisins and wheat grains possess natural yeast.
- Three days later, measure two cups of raisin or wheat water, and add six cups of flour (1.5 pounds of wheat flour or mixture of wheat and barley flour). Put this mixture into a container (having a capacity three times the volume of the mixture) and put in room temperature for 24 hours. Thereafter, put into a refrigerator for 24 hours. The ‘starter’ has been formed.
- Mix two cups of starter with two cups of water and six cups of flour. Place in room temperature for 24 hours and then in a refrigerator for another 3 days (discard the remainder and use as a compose). This starter can be used to make various kinds of wheat products. Its shelf life (when kept in the refrigerator) is up to three weeks, after which a new mixture should be prepared. The proportion is always two cups of starter to two cups of water and six cups of flour. Ideally, a new starter should be used each time. The longer the starter is kept, the better the flavor, and a one-year-old starter is particularly good. For example, sourdough bread (common in the western countries) is made using this method. Traditionally, people share starters among each other.
When a new starter mixture is needed, simply put the starter overnight in room temperature or in a refrigerator for three days.
Natural Fermented Flat Bread
- Half a cup of starter
- 1 cup of warm water
- 3 to 3.5 cups of flour (choose one to three of the following: wheat, buckwheat or barley)
- Half a tablespoon of sea salt
Mix starter and water and add flour and sea salt. Knead for ten minutes and then leave it in a covered pot (capacity at least three times that of the mixture) overnight. The next day, separate the dough into two or three portions. Roll the portions into same size as a flat pan, with thickness varying according to your liking (¼ to ½ inch thick). Add some sesame seeds if desired. Then, put the dough onto a plate coated with a layer of oil, and cover with cloth or a plate. Place in room temperature for two to three hours. Warm the flat pan to medium heat, add some oil if necessary. Place the dough on the pan and cover it. Five minutes later, turn the dough over after observing that the bottom surface has turned to a golden hew.
The method for preparing buns is similar to that described above. Leave the dough overnight and then knead into long strips and cut into pieces. Ingredients may be inserted into the bun if desired. Place the dough into a steamer for two to three hours. Then steam it for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Ensure that the steamer has a coat of oil or a piece of moist cloth before placing the dough. Remove the buns immediately after steaming and place them onto a plate to allow the heat to dissipate.
To make steam bread, just steam the long strip dough.
As before, the preparation method for pizza is similar to that for making flat bread. After left overnight for fermentation, flatten the dough into strips 1/8 inch thick, and place onto a baking pan coated with oil for two to three hours. Thereafter, heat the oven till it is about 500oF, and bake the dough for about eight minutes. After this, add some toppings before resuming the baking for another five minutes. Below are some suggestions for toppings:
- Put some strips of tomato, mushrooms, green or red pepper, Italian gourd, olive on the surface of the pizza. Sprinkle some organic cheese (e.g., cheddar, mozzarella etc) and cold-pressed olive oil.
- Add some 5-minute boiled or steamed spinach. Shreds of parsley and Chinese herb Zisu, as well as some crushed pieces of pine nuts. Sprinkle some organic cheese.
- Soak some dried bean curd strips and then steam them (may use fresh bean curd strips). Cut into small strips. Soak some mushrooms, cut them into small strips, and then fry them. Mix the mushroom and the bean curd strips with sesame oil, soy sauce, small pieces of water chestnut, and boiled napa cabbage strips. Spread this topping on the pizza.
Waffle and Pancake
- 2 cups of flour (two-third buckwheat flour, one-third other kinds)
- 3 cups of water
- 1/3 cup of starter
- A little sea salt
Mix all the ingredients and leave in room temperature for eight hours or more. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil on the waffle iron or a flat pan, pour the mixture into it and bake until golden brown. A layer of maple syrup or some sweet fruits can also be placed on top of the waffle or pancake.
- 1 cup of starter
- 2 cups of warm water
- 6 cups of flour (wheat, buckwheat or barley as desired; the combination of wheat and barley is most common)
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
Add water to the starter, and then add two cups of flour and salt. Mix well, and then add another two cups of flour. Again, mix well and then add the final two cups of flour. Knead the dough until soft and leave overnight. The next day, separate the dough into two portions, and knead them into long strips. Place these strips onto an oiled plate and leave in room temperature for two to three hours. Pre-heat the oven to 450oF. Put a dish of water in the oven (to bring the oven temperature down to about 400oF) and bake the dough for 30 to 40 minutes. Take out the bread and leave it on an airy rack. If the bread is kept frozen in a paper bag, it can retain its freshness for a long time. If the bread becomes dry and hard, steam it for a while before eating. In Europe, dried bread can be kept up to a year. To eat the bread, soak it in water and then bake it in an oven.
Among all the items described above, the baking time of the flat bread is shortest and therefore least susceptible to damage to its nutrients. The steamed bun or bread also has good nutrition. Baked bread is prone to more damage to its nutrients, but because it is naturally fermented, its nutrition is still higher than that from commercially available bread. Its energy level is also higher.