Monday, July 12, 2010

baking bread

Where I am this week:

Last year, my wonderful husband gifted me with a class at the Steiner Institute. I so enjoyed that class but didn't necessarily plan to return...until the class list for this summer was published. Almost from the minute I saw The Art of Baking Bread on the class list, I knew I needed to attend this class.

But the class is about so much more than the baking of bread. It's about the evolution of bread and grains in society, from the most simple ancient grain foodstuffs to the processed Wonderbread of today. We began the class with a table full of foods and a challenge to organize the foods as a group in the order we thought they appeared in society (we began world-wide, then moved to Western civilization). We began talking about the milk and honey description of land in the Bible and the apple (representative of the forbidden fruit of Eden); moved through the ancient grains of spelt, wheat, barley, rice, millet, rye, and oats; to spices acquired when people began to explore, to the mediterranean diets including red wine vinegar, olive oil, fish; to older vegetables in our society, including potatoes, corn, onions, green beans; to more recent imports of our country, including soy sauce and tropical fruits; to vitamins and shelf-stable white breads.

What a trip to consciously explore those times in history and foods of those cultures.

How fascinating to learn from Foodwise, that after the fall of the Roman Empire, most people, rich and poor alike, subsisted on a diet of bread, water, ale and "companaticum" which was vegetables and other pulses that simmered together constantly and were added to daily with the pot never emptied in between. Hence the saying "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old".

Our first experience with bread during this class was with a sourdough starter that the teacher has used for many, many years, we added some flour to the starter, each took a turn kneading, then rolled out small flat spheres for making sourdough pita.

We also each took a turn grinding sprouted wheatberries with a mortar and pestle to make little wheatberry cakes on a skillet, but they didn't stay together very well. (All part of the experience of trying to figure out how ancient civilizations might have baked their breads.) Despite the crumbling, the wheatberries were delicious, and I can definitely see myself making some at home to add to granola or cereal.

The perfect sourdough pita!

*new post up over on The Book Children*


  1. You'll have to borrow our copy of Bread Alone when you return, master of the art of sourdough!

  2. i'd love to hear more. a wonderful topic. any books to suggest? thanks for sharing your knowledge..(that pita looks scrumptious).

  3. Wooo hooo! I have been lokingforward to your posts about this week <3 I know you're going to have so much fun!! Wish I was with you. Say hi to Luciana for me :)

  4. How inspiring :) We haven't baked bread in awhile because of the heat but I think we will get back in the kitchen after we return from our little school's break. xoxo

  5. Wow, looks equal parts yummy and fascinating. What a treat!

  6. What a wonderful experience Joy!

  7. Wow! Looks like such a comprehensive class! Fun.

  8. Wow, what a fantastic experience, Joy!

  9. How lucky you are to be able to take such a wonderful class! I have read all 3 of your bread posts now, finding much inspiration, your photographs are beautiful!


I love to hear what you think!