Although bread is among man’s oldest prepared foods, the stuff that most of us buy in the supermarket today is less healthy than the loaves our ancestors baked. Contrary to the Canada Food Guide, 3 – 5 servings of cereals and foods made from grain especially gluten grains like wheat, barley, and rye should perhaps NOT be included in our daily diet today. Or rather, the consumer needs to know more about what happens inside their bodies when they eat bread made from bleached white flour. Most white breads are made from pulverized wheat, and this flour is too easily digested and rapidly spikes blood sugar and insulin levels, which can lead to the notorious blood sugar “roller coaster” (and stimulate overeating).
Commercial grain processing today strips out bran, germ, B vitamins and vitamin E, chromium, magnesium, manganese and zinc from flour. After twenty minutes of oxidation most of the vitamins are lost, yet its common to store white flour for a few weeks to allow oxygen into it for better baking. Storage costs, spoilage, and losses due to insects cause commercial processors to use chemical additives.
Chemical oxidizing agents or bleaches are used for two reasons:
1) they produce the same conditioning effects of oxygen in a shorter time;
2) they bleach the flour to a whiter colour. Currently the Health Protection Branch in Canada allows up to thirty different additives. Next we could talk about the yeast, and the quick baking process…
With several studies corroborating the health risks posed by excessive consumption of processed foods, Canadians are turning to cereal alternatives, ancient grains and slow cooked sourdough breads from artisan bakeries. 2012 Canadian bread sales statistics as reported in Financial Post show many health conscious shoppers have stopped buying bread at the supermarket because there are alternatives rising up in local markets.
Improving our daily bread, Shasha Shaun Navazesh bakes bread from sprouted grains
On a cold December morning, Shasha Shaun Navazesh gave me a tour of the Shasha Bread Company organic food store and bakery in Etobicoke Ontario to show me how he does things differently.
We began in the sprouted grains dept of Shasha’s large bakery facility. ShaSha Bread Co.has been sprouting organic, vegan and non-genetically modified grains, and pods since 1999. They collect and dry these activated grains and grind them into flour right here in the facility, and they use that flour to bake the most nutrient dense, digestible bread possible.
In this section of the ShaSha Bread co facility, workers remove freshly sprouted lentils from a high moisture germination chamber to a dehydration room where large fans blow warm air over the trays to begin the drying process. Shasha sprouts Adzuki Beans, Mung Beans Lentils and Brown Rice for baking and these products are dried and sold separately as BIO-Bud baking ingredients in the organic food store on the premises.
The sprouted lentils now contain more Vitamin C than than before they were sprouted, and the sprouting neutralizes the phytic acid in lentils which means more vitamins and minerals can be absorbed by the human body in the digestion process. When Shasha’s team sprouts lentils, they’re actually starting the germination process, which changes the composition of the seed. Sprouting dramatically increases the amounts of vitamins and minerals in the lentils, especially B vitamins and carotene because its a mini biological launch sequence.
When sprouting grains to make sprouted grain flour, you must be mindful of the time it takes to sprout while not allowing your sprouts to grow too large. Certainly, once that little speck of a root appears at the end of the grain, it’s tempting to let it continue growing. Yet, by allowing the sprout to continue to grow, you run the risk of malting the grains. Malt, in small amounts, adds great depth of flavour to baked goods; however, when used exclusively or in large amounts it will produce an overly sweet, gooey bread that never cooks through. Because they’re using sprouted grains for flour, Shasha’s team is mindful to begin dehydrating the grains shortly after the root tip appears. See how the sprouted lentils are dried at a relatively low temperature in a dehydrator to preserve the vitamins and nutrients in the grain meal..
Shasha Bread Company Makes Flour from Sprouted Grains
The grinder is a relatively small machine that occupies a distant corner of the facility. The dried lentils are feed into the hopper and the powdered flour emerges from the other end into large brown paper bags upon which the machine operator writes its type and date for the bakers in the next room. Here is Raj the master bread maker with his finger on the button.
Whole-grain stone ground flour doesn’t need to be enriched. The advantages of grinding the flour on site using this grinder means,
1) The endosperm, bran, and germ are in their natural, original proportions allowing for higher and better nutrient absorption.
2) Stone grinding is slower so the germ is not exposed to high temperatures. Heat causes the fat from the germ portion to oxidize and become rancid, destroying many of the vitamins (fat soluble ones such as vitamin E).
3) Stone ground flour is usually coarser, reducing the loss of nutrients due to oxygen exposure.
Ezekiel bread is composed of over a dozen different types of flour including flour made from sprouted grains, so the grinder has a busy job.
Making Sourdough Bread is a More Natural Baking Process
Most commercial breads are heavily processed for maximum profit; the finished product is baked, sliced and bagged and ready for retail markets in less than an hour after mixing the ingredients. This doesn’t give the grain flour the time it needs to release valuable nutrients, or enough time to sufficiently break down gluten. Excess gluten often gives consumers digestive difficulties and may result in Celiac disease.
Shasha Bread Company proves the best way to effectively break down gluten is by employing the sourdough method of baking. Sourdough baking utilizes an extended fermentation period. This method also allows for the phytic acid in grains to be 90% neutralized so that our digestive systems can effectively process the minerals in grains.
Sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of the principal means of biological leavening in bread baking, the others using cultivated forms of yeast. Compared to breads made with baker’s yeast, it produces a mildly sour taste because of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli. One commonly used yeast species in the production of sourdough is Kazanchastania exigua (Saccharomyces exiguous), however Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida Milleri, and Candida humilis can and are often employed as yeasts.
The starter is mixed with eleven different types of flour including the flour from the sprouted grains that was prepared in the room next door. Raj mixes it together in a large mixer and adds water to make a final dough of the desired consistency. The starter weight is usually a quarter of the total flour weight, though different bread formulas may vary the amount of starter used. The dough is shaped into loaves, left to rise in a warm chamber, and then baked.
Here is Raj loading the stove with properly leavened loaves of the popular Ezekiel bread.
The loaves have been left in a warm room to quietly rise for hours, before Raj takes them out to be baked for about 35 minutes. Now the distinctive aroma of fresh baked bread fills the bakery.
Sourdough bread is never cheap because it takes too long, and demands specialized skills and small batches. Baked in smaller round loaves, Shasha’s Ezekiel bread has a chewiness, and offers terrific flavour, and a satisfying depth with every bite. Knowing its incredibly healthy makes it taste even better.