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My dear friend, Leslie, has battled Lyme disease most of her life. It has led to other health issues that baffle regular doctors. Her constant, insatiable quest to learn more about her own body has led to a wealth of information that is helpful for anyone wanting to live more healthfully. Much of it is diet-related, so of course, you never know what she’ll be cooking and serving. The one thing you do know, is that it will be delicious, nutritious and appealing enough to photograph. You also know that you’ll be invited to sample her wares. Sugar-free for years, she’s passed on her passion for all things healthy and outstanding to many, including her three daughters who now have a popular blog and book with naturally sweet desserts and recipes. (The link is below.)
A recent visit to her home found us gathered around her cozy kitchen table enjoying delicious soft, whole wheat rolls. “We’re always baking bread around here!” she announced with a laugh, and it’s true.
When I asked about the recipe for the rolls, she whipped out an amazing book: “The Art of Baking Bread with Natural Yeast” by Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson, published by Cedar Fort in Utah. Spiral bound (don’t you just love a recipe book that’s spiral bound???) and filled with large, beautiful photos of both the mouth-watering breads and techniques, it was the book’s introduction and the science behind this unusual recipe book that grabbed me first.
Did you know commercial yeast is so foreign to our bodies that many people are allergic to it? But natural yeast converts dough into a digestible, vitamin-rich food that’s free from harmful enzymes and won’t spike your body’s defenses. This ground breaking book shows you how to prepare the wholesome delicious bread our ancestors enjoyed.
Author Melissa Richardson, who first took on baking bread to save money as a thrifty homemaker, has evolved into baking as the pioneers did with natural yeast after learning that commercially produced yeast in store-bought bread causes many common intestinal diseases and problems familiar to many of us. Now known as “the bread geek” at her website and through the classes she teaches, here are some very helpful directions for those who want to enjoy bread, “the staff of life,” without restriction and the way God intends us to.
According to Melissa, intestinal distress, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, acid-reflux, diabetes and wheat allergies have been on the rise since World War II and have especially spiked since the early 80’s. These problems were much less common for our ancestors with their diets that included more home grown and made-from-scratch foods. A clue to this drastic decline in overall gut health is that until the 19th century, homemade, natural yeast was used for baking bread. As the food industry was industrialized, artificial quick-rise yeasts were created and employed to speed up the process in order to bake more bread in less time.
“Without commercial yeast, our ancestors had no choice,” says the author. “What they didn’t know was that these longer rise (also known as pre-ferment, sponge, or pre-digestion) periods were protecting them from the harmful enzymes causing all the trouble in the research I had found. Natural yeasts created a soil-like acidity in dough that broke down gluten to safe levels and turned nutrient-leaching phytic acid into a cancer-fighting anti-oxidant. This meant maximum nutrition without the nasty side effects, just as God had intended.
What had seemed like a time-consuming chore was really the key to whole grain health. So what happened? Food had gone industrial, commercial and synthetic in the span of a few short decades. Quick-rise yeasts cut bread making into a couple of hours. Commercial and domestic bakers could make more bread in less time than ever before.
What the vast majority of America didn’t realize then (and still doesn’t realize now) is that this modern method of bread making bypasses a process designed and used over thousands of years to keep us healthy and thriving.” (“The Art of Baking, p. xi)
The section of the book entitled “A Natural History of Yeast and Why It Matters” is fascinating and explains in greater detail why so many of us cannot eat bread without experiencing problems.
“The slow-rising process of natural yeast has many critically important health benefits: Here is what science can prove:
1. Natural yeast slows digestion to help you feel full longer, making it a natural way to eat less.
2. The organic acids produced during natural yeast fermentation lower the glycemic index of bread.
3. Best of all, natural yeast lowers the body’s response to all carbohydrates!
So what is natural yeast??? “Yeast is a single-celled fungus, and it’s the first domesticated living creature in history. Yeast is used to make both bread and beer. The yeast we now buy at the grocery store and what is used in commercial baking is a man-made synthetic. It has been used in ever growing quantities since 1900 and especially since 1984. Natural yeast requires a starter, and is most easily obtained from someone else’s starter. The best strains of yeast can be passed down through generations!” The author has a number of other sources for acquiring an excellent start.
While all of her recipes also include wheat flour, that is a topic for another article on why wheat is the premier ingredient for the best bread for both health and taste, and can be found in Meridian author Jane Birch’s article: “Discovering The Word of Wisdom: Wheat for Man”
I truly believe the Lord wants us to love and enjoy bread! It is mentioned 361 times in the King James Bible. The Savior Himself refers to Himself declaring in John 6:3-5, that He is the “Bread of Life” meaning that it is fundamental to survival and growth.
Are there any among us who don’t want to sit down to enjoy a slice of homemade bread? “The Art of Baking With Natural Yeast” may make that possible for those with health issues that require excluding bread.
As an interesting personal side note, after enjoying my friend Leslie’s tasty rolls made with natural yeast, another friend who is prone to migraines after eating bread reported that she did not experience even a hint of a headache.
Melissa’s tantalizing recipes include, of course, the natural yeast and whole wheat flour, and other ingredients that you can purchase at any store including nuts, fruit, veggies and olive oil. There are large photos from her friend’s gorgeous kitchen, and simple, careful instructions on using the yeast, mixing and forming the bread so that friends will think you’ve become an artisan baker. There are recipes for artisan bread and recipes for truly getting to the roots of bread baking entitled “Eve’s Bread” (that Melissa delightfully calls “Crisis Bread” because it has so few ingredients that all store well , and bakes up delicious and nutritious) and “Adam’s Bread” that is equally tasty but faster to make. She moves on to Honey Molasses Sandwich Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Walnut Date Bread, and Apricot Nut Bread. (It’s getting harder to write this article without calling Leslie for another roll ….)
While a few of the recipes call for eggs, milk or a little oil (that those of us who are now Whole Food Plant Based eaters are no longer consuming significantly,) they are in minimal amounts and she has a list of substitutes in the back of the book, including rice, soy and almond milk.
Knowing that bread baking is more challenging than buying bread at the store, Melissa has a great chapter on edible options for what to do if your bread fails that goes beyond feeding the ducks at your local pond.
Woven into this fascinating, pertinent information and hearty recipes is Melissa’s delightful humor that is laugh-out-loud adorable. In her explanation of why wheat is still alive after baking in the oven, she concludes with “So now, when you take your bread out of the oven, you can hold it in the air and cackle “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Or you can just eat it, but where’s the excitement in that?” Her chapter on what to do with failed bread has had me giggling all day: “If there’s one thing we all know about life, it is that where there are living things, there are variables. Your natural yeast start may have a slump, or your oven too hot or cold, or a butterfly has flapped its wings in Africa and upset the balance of the universe and has flattened your bread simultaneously.”
The book concludes with her sources for the science, research and clinical tests that support this information.
The long and short of this delightful and important book is that Bob and I will be eating a lot more bread! What’s not to love? Though bread is never a no-no with whole food plant based eating, as described in Jane Birch’s articles here in Meridian, this book provides a wonderful new source for recipes and health. I’ve ordered my copy and getting my yeast start from Leslie.
Anyone want to join us for some fresh homemade bread? Oh, life IS good!
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where she is the Primary chorister and they team-teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program.
Click HERE to learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!
Jane Birch, Discovering the Word of Wisdom Meridian Magazine, All articles
Melissa’s blog: www.thebreadgeek.com
Melissa’s Book: “The Art of Baking Bread With Natural Yeast” by Melissa Richardson and Caleb Warnock
“The Everything Naturally Sweet Cookbook” by Annie and Holly Forsyth
Forsyth Sisters blog: http://www.naturalsweetrecipes.com