Slow Bread

June 8, 2015 · 4 comments

I’m one of the many people interested in slowing down the pace of their lives. If I were walking around and literally following Jesus while he was going from place to place teaching, he wouldn’t be asking me to hurry and keep up. Oh no, rather, he’d be constantly saying, “Whoa, Keri Mae! Not so fast!”

One thing that’s helped me to slow down to a more comfortable pace is to get in my own way. For example, if I want to decrease the time I spend on the Internet, I turn off the router each and every time I log off. That way, it’s kind of a pain to “just” Google something, or “just” check my email. In essence, I make it harder to do the things I don’t really want to do, in order to change the habit.


I’ve learned to appreciate slow food, with its slow preparation and even its slow availability. I just don’t like to buy my apples in June or my asparagus in October. Rather, I try to wait for the proper season, and then enjoy the slow pace of preparing foods from scratch. If I want to slow down my day’s tempo, it helps that I’m not *quickly* opening a jar of spaghetti sauce, but rather taking the time to chop the onions, brown the sausage, simmer the sauce. It means I have to be home. It means I have to be present. So I get in my own way to slow myself, and forgo buying the much-faster, far-quicker, ready-made jar. Does that make sense?


Here are some pictures of how we bake bread around here. You may find it insanely slow. But it’s pretty good at fostering a meandering sort of lifestyle. Baking bread around here takes a few days, so I can’t just decide on Monday morning for lunch bread that same day. But it also doesn’t take a whole lot of actual time in each step, either. Each day has its short task, but it builds to the finished food.


First, I soak five pounds of wheat berries in a large stainless steel bowl. I use a mix of hard red and soft white spring wheat berries. I don’t bother draining them until I see teeny tails sprouting, usually 24-36 hours later. Can you see that here? You can see how much plumper the berries are, too. You can read about *why* to soak and sprout your grains here.



After the soaking is finished, I drain and rinse the berries and spread them onto the dehydrator sheets. Five pounds of wheat berries takes up all five trays in my dehydrator.



I dehydrate them at 100 degrees for about 24-36 hours.



When the berries are dry, I grind them into flour. My Vitamix does a good job, but I can only work with two cups at a time, and it does warm the flour a bit. I’m not real interested in owning another appliance, so this suits me.



I use my sifter to make sure there aren’t any stray berries in the flour, and also to catch up any excess bran. I was happy to learn that sprouted flour does not go rancid like the unsprouted variety. Here is some more information about how to make flour from a great website on culturing foods. Into the bin the flour goes, on my countertop at room temperature.



Meanwhile, I am getting my sourdough starter fed. It takes me a couple of days to feed it and to get the amount I want to use. I get my sourdough starters and directions on how to use them from Sourdoughs International. My favorite starter is the Russian one; it works well with the heavier whole wheat flour, and rises quicker, too (by “quicker” I mean 3-4 hours rather than 8-10 hours). Plus, it has good sourdough flavor, which we all appreciate around here.




Then, it’s finally time for the bread bucket! I love using our bread bucket. It’s so easy, and my children love taking turns to crank for the three minutes after the ingredients are in it. Here is our recipe for four loaves of sourdough, whole wheat bread (which I’m sure you could make without a bread bucket!):


2 cups sourdough starter

5 cups water

1/2 cup sunflower oil

1/2 cup honey

2 TB salt

13 cups whole wheat flour (which, by the way, is almost all five pounds)


making slow sourdough bread


After the three-minute crank, it’s time to let the dough rise. Many things are dependent on how long it takes to rise, such as the specific starter used and the ambient temperature. Lately we’ve been letting our dough rise overnight, and we love the extra tang of sourdough we get from the longer time.




Finally, we plop the dough out onto the counter, let it rest for 30 minutes, and then divide it into four parts. It doesn’t take very much kneading at all to get it smooth and ready to put into the loaf pans to rise. Anyone can do it :)


making slow bread


Once the bread has risen in the pans, it’s ready for the oven! We bake our loaves at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. It’s real important to remove the breads from the pans rather quickly afterwards (within a few minutes), as the sourdough really wants to adhere to the pan as it cools. Then, just let the loaves cool until you can’t stand it any longer and have to slice a bit and melt butter all over it. Eat on the porch swing in the lazy languishing late morning sunlight :)




It’s really not that bad, this slow cooking, slow bread baking. Once a rhythm is established, fresh-baked bread can be another part of making a house a very comfortable, healthy, and a slower paced relaxing sort of home.





Do you like homemade granola? I do, but I can’t seem to find time to make it. The bowls, the pans, the stirring, the oven…blah. Half the time I make a mess in the oven as granola spills when I try to stir it up. So now I make up a batch of quick granola, on the stove top, whenever I want it. It takes about five minutes, and I don’t measure any part of it.


First, I drop into my hot pan a heaping few tablespoons of coconut oil and then a glob of honey. After it’s all melted, I throw in a small bowl of rolled oats and whatever nuts I have on hand. I stir it up here and there, and when it gets as toasty as I want, I take it off the heat and put in whatever dried fruits I have on hand. Done.




The only real mess to clean up is the stove top, after the kids finish serving themselves up a topping for their yogurt.




I started to make some coffee this morning and I had to laugh. No time to make granola (“No time!” she says), but I make my coffee in probably the slowest way possible. Why? Well…I enjoy the process. It makes me putter when the clock is yelling at me to hurry. I tossed my wristwatch about 15 years ago because I wanted to arrange my days–my life–to follow my own tempo the best I could. So…some things I hurry along (like granola) and some things I make more difficult, in order to force me to slow down (like making coffee).


It takes me five minutes to stare out the window and grind the coffee. In the background, you can see my husband’s personal coffee-grinding tempo :)




In the cup goes a pat of unsalted butter and a spoonful of coconut oil. And then I make the coffee. We both love using our Aeropress Coffee maker. It’s inexpensive, really makes the most delicious coffee, and the only power required is your own hands.




While that’s steeping for a minute, I begin heating up some milk. I press my coffee, which melts the butter and oil, and then I whip up my milk. We both like the Aerolatte Milk Frother for that. I gently pour the milk into my coffee and top it all off with a sprinkle of vanilla powder.




I don’t feel like I need to rush the process. It’s about ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how often I need to stop for a child’s needs. But when it’s done, yum.




Any kind of handwork is a slow tempo. I haven’t even used my sewing machine at all for about a year, but I have gotten some embroidery and a quilt binding finished. I’m working to finish this lacey scarf before spring, and I have an apron with yet more embroidery to finish afterwards.




Using a camera is a way I slow down my tempo, to take the time to really look and see, but drawing and art journaling take me even longer. I find the process meditative. Sort of like grinding coffee. They are just little ways to slow my tempo to where I crave it to be.




How is your own life tempo? Are you traveling at a speed comfortable for you?


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