Baking with Wild Caught Sourdough is …

  • MAGICAL because you are capturing these invisible creatures, feeding and caring for them, and then asking them to work for you to make something delicious
  • INSPIRING because it allows your imagination to take flight, creating new and different breads, muffins, biscuits, cookies, pizzas, tamales, noodles, hush puppies, cakes, crackers, pancakes and pie crust
  • HEALTHY because Wild Caught Sourdough Starter is made from natural yeast which requires a long fermentation to rise and this is what creates the immune enhancing, macro-biome promoting, and nutrient rich properties
  • ECONOMICAL because of its long shelf life … it has natural preservative qualities so you don’t waste and don’t need to refrigerate
  • MUCH MORE FLAVORFUL — compared to commercial yeast breads which taste like kleenex tissue, natural sourdough is tangy, rich, deeply delicious and actually becomes more so the longer it sits out
  • MOOD ALTERING — not only because of the different kind of candida that it produces, but also just the slow, rhythmic kneading, the waiting, anticipation and reward that baking with sourdough provides. It can enrich your life!

Each time I bake with my wonderful Sourdough Starter which I named Audrey II (after the insatiable plant in Little Shop of Horrors) it is an adventure. There are so many things I can do with it. This past week I made a delicious pizza. This weekend I will be baking Challah for my Church’s Fellowship Hour. I’ll be baking two loaves — just as is done for Shabbat, representing the double portion of mannah given to the Israelites in the wilderness so they would not have to forage on Shabbat. The braided form which we now associate with Challah, was not used until Medievil Times. Challah made with Wild Caught Sourdough Starter seems to me somehow more traditional, as it is natural yeast, as opposed to commercial yeast, which wasn’t available until the 20th Century. The recipes and form vary, but always incorporate eggs, giving the bread full flavor, fine grain and a golden hue.

New Year’s Challah with 6 Braids

Why Organic Seeds? It really IS so important!

Is it really important to buy organic seeds, rather than non-organic? Are non-GMO seeds also organic? And what about organic hybrid varieties? And can an organic seed be treated? Is that so bad? These questions confound even experienced gardeners these days.

Conventional commercial seed propagation methods utilize chemicals and other treatments that can leech into the soil, migrate to other plants, drain off into the ground water and eventually water supply, affect pollinators in a very profound way and, affect your health as well.

Using conventional non-organic seed, even if it is non-GMO or untreated, is a poor start to an organic garden and can have lasting effects. This is why organic certification takes so long and is so expensive — the soil has to be redeemed from conventional assaults, and that typically takes 3-5 years, depending on the history of the growing area, surrounding areas, and type of soil and rainfall.

More and more, people are recognizing that organic produce not only tastes better … it is better — healthier, with more vitamins, nutrients and protein than conventional produce. But it is also important to grow your herbs and flowers organically, and for that you also need organic seed.

Hybrids, by the way, are not genetically modified. They are simply produced using natural methods. Many heirloom varieties began as hybrids that have been “stabilized” so that they are now “open-pollinated” — in other words seed gathered from them will grow true to the parent as long as no cross-pollination has occurred. So hybrids are not wrong, they just are not yet of the stability that you can save the seed. Also, most modern hybrid varieties are created for the convenience of growers and grocers, not for superior flavor or other characteristics that home gardeners value.

Certified organic seed cannot be genetically modified, so anytime you purchase certified organic seed you are also purchasing non-GMO seed. But that seed might be treated to ward off fungal diseases when sown in cold wet soils. The “fungicides” most commonly used by such commercial growers are Thiram, which has been around for decades, and Apron and Maxim, newer brands. You should know a seed has been treated if it is brightly and unnaturally colored — hot pink, for example. You should not handle such seed with bare hands. These chemical coatings can cause kidney and liver damage when used over time, and they are acutely toxic to fish, so runoff can be poisonous to the environment. And since their purpose is to protect vast growing fields, a home gardener does not need them, and an organic gardener should never use them.

But more recently, systemic pesticides have become common among commercial growers. Known by their scientific name as Neonicotinoids, they are pushed by Bayer, Sygenta and Monsanto and have now unquestionably been linked to bee death. You see, this type of systemic poison not only affects the plant it produces, it leaches and migrates in the soil to surrounding plants. So importing just one beautiful flower from your local nursery can create a toxic zone in your otherwise organic garden. Some commercial nurseries have pledged to, or stopped altogether, offering plants that are grown with neonicotinoids. We encourage you to ask your local nurseries what their practice is.

So, that brings us full circle as to why Organics matter. They are healthier and safer for you and the planet and all God’s creatures. This is why CherryGal Heirloom Seeds has gone ALL ORGANIC for the 2017 season, and we never offer treated seeds. In fact, we are signatories of The Safe Seed Pledge. Happy Gardening!

 

Nature’s Pharmacy … Turmeric

turmeric

I recently went face down on some wet leaves chasing my dogs. Not fun for a 67 year old. I was actually very lucky – nothing broken. But I was in tremendous pain in my face, shoulders, knees, ankles — basically everywhere. I was concerned about inflammation so my friend and neighbor who is a nurse gave me an aspirin (haven’t had any in the house for over ten years). Turns out I don’t tolerate aspirin – it gave me tremendous gerd all night long (oh yeah, that’s why I stopped having it in the house). So I turned to my spice cabinet.

Turmeric, which is the leading spice in curry (which I love and eat lots of) is a pain and inflammation reducer. So, in addition to my beloved curries, I am now including turmeric in everything I can, even if only an insignificant dash that doesn’t add to the flavor. In so doing, I am building up the curcumin (the active component) in my system.

Just a few delicious ways you can easily incorporate turmeric in your diet (aside from yummy curries):

  • Toasted/grilled cheese on bread with turmeric sprinkled on top
  • Squash or carrot soup with a healthy (literally) dose of turmeric
  • Scrambled eggs with turmeric
  • Dips for vegetable crudites
  • Smoothies and lattes (recipes abound on the Internet)
  • Yogurt based sauces for vegetables, fish, chicken, beef and pork
  • Cooked rice of any type is improved with turmeric added
  • Marinades or rubs for meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Add to cooked/roasted vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, potatoes
  • Add to the spice brine for homemade pickles

I encourage you to start incorporating this incredible spice in your diet on a daily basis. Also research for yourself the many peer-reviewed studies of its effects on cancer, diabetes, depression and many other illnesses and be amazed. And if you have a special way to use turmeric, let me know!

Just Treats … No High Fructose Corn Syrup

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Chocolate Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ever since an isolated incident back in the early 70’s gave us all a fright, the commercial candy industry has been aggressively persuading us not to give out apples, popcorn balls or other home made treats on Halloween. So for years, especially when I had a young son, I dutifully purchased commercial candies in miniature form each year (and ate a fair share of them myself). However, I have long questioned this practice.

I live in a small community with a very high incidence of diabetes and obesity … even among children. So for the past few years I have resisted giving out candy, choosing instead to buy expensive organic cheese crackers in little boxes from Annie’s, which the kids have loved. But since I get 100 or more Trick Or Treaters each year, this adds up! Then there came this report from the Cornucopia Institute … detailing the problem with most treats passed out this time of year and suggesting solutions. As a professional baker (at least for dogs) I decided to go the cookie route instead. It is an economical way to put a little love in each colorful treat bag (bought on ebay for just a few dollars).

I started out with some vintage cookie cutters of a bat and a scaredy cat (tail straight up). This quickly became unworkable with the tender cookie dough. So I switched forms to Acorns and Pumpkins. I added easy decorations of chocolate sprinkles on the acorn caps and chocolate covered dots to make jack-o-lanterns of the pumpkins. Each bag gets two large cookies, one of each kind, and is tied with a string of raffia (also from ebay, also very inexpensive). The cookies are delicious! Here are the recipes, in case anyone wants to try them.

Triple Threat Chocolate Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies (makes 2-4 dozen cookies, depending on size)

Preheat oven to 400F

  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter (softened to room temp)
  • 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 Cup Peanut Butter (smooth)
  • 1/4 Cup Melted and Cooled Chocolate (I used chocolate chips with 60% Cocoa)
  • 2 T Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 t Baking Powder (Double Acting)
  • 1 t Salt
  1. Cream the butter & sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add Peanut Butter and Chocolate
  3. Add Egg and Vanilla
  4. Add Flour, Baking Powder and Salt
  5. Keep dough cold while not working, but no need to pre-chill before rolling
  6. Roll out between parchment to 1/4″ thickness and cut shapes.
  7. Decorate
  8. Bake on parchment, keeping 1″ or more between cookies, about 12 minutes.
  9. Remove to wire racks to cook completely. You can store in zip locks until packaging in treat bags.

Pumpkin Spice Cut Out Cookies

Preheat oven to 350F

  • 3/4 Cups Unsalted Butter (softened to room temp)
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 T Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 t Double Acting Baking Powder
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1-1/2 t Cinnamon
  • 3/4 t Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 t Ground or Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/4 t Ground Allspice
  • 1/8 t Ground Cloves
  1. Cream Butter and Sugars together until light and fluffy
  2. Add Pumpkin, Vanilla and Egg
  3. Add dry ingredients
  4. Chill dough for 15 – 20 minutes before rolling
  5. Roll out between parchment to 1/4″ thick and cut shapes
  6. Decorate and put on parchment to bake
  7. Bake 12 minutes
  8. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely before packing in treat bags
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Cut shapes close together & then remove xtra before lifting shapes with spatula

Enjoy! And have a safe and Happy Halloween!

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Give Us This Day …

Our daily bread!

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It is actually true, that bread — at least healthy fermented bread — comes pretty close to supplying what we need on a daily basis to live.

But bread has come under fire from dieters and dieticians alike ever since the bastardization of the baking art in the mid-20th Century. Done to achieve shorter baking times, long shelf life and enhance profits, commercially made bread relied on wheat stripped of all nutrition. When that created a nation of sick people (true), companies like Wonder Bread began adding the “health” back into the bread and using that as an advertising tool. But in reality, even with nutrients added, the process and ingredients of most commercial breads to this day do nothing to promote your health, and may in fact be unhealthy. The type of flour used, additives (some of which are known carcinogens, un-fermented gluten and commercial yeast have produced many celiac disease sufferers, but also many more who react to the lack of fermentation, experiencing bloating and other gut problems. Lack of fermentation in bread has also contributed to an epidemic of diabetes and may be responsible for the spike in Candida diseases and allergic reactions that may contribute to cancer. Fermentation actually pre-digests those elements of the bread that produce such discomforts. It releases nutrients in the bread so that your body can absorb them. It helps control candida albicans, where commercial yeast encourages it. And it contributes to a healthy microbiome, slowly recreating the friendly lactobacillus digestive bacteria in your gastrointestinal system, which in turn boosts your immune system.

In generations past, bread fermentation was the ONLY way bread was made. But it took time (at least overnight and sometimes days) to produce delicious healthy loaves. Now, however, the pendulum has begun to swing back. Consumers are starting to realize the health benefits of fermented sourdough bread. Now, please don’t run out and buy a loaf of sourdough bread from your local grocer. It is likely to have no fermentation in it and may not even have any real sourdough in it … just vinegar to produce a “sour” flavor. Real sourdough bread is so easy to make. Even making your own wild caught sourdough starter is easy. And the flavor … I can never go back to store bought bread again.

I bake bread a couple of times a week. I live alone so 2 loaves a week is usually all I need unless I have company. What I don’t eat before it begins to go stale goes to the chickens (who love it) or I make croutons or bread crumbs with it. So there is no waste. Just deliciousness.

I encourage everyone to read my previous posts how to make a sourdough starter, and various approaches and recipes for creating healthy bread. Again, they are not difficult and require little hands-on time, mostly just waiting for the magic to happen.

Nothing better than Wild Caught Sourdough!

With a few tweaks gleaned from Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” I am now routinely able to produce truly wonderful bread from my wild caught sourdough starter Audrey. The two most important changes are (1) testing the starter for readiness by dropping a spoonful in a glass of water and if it floats it’s ready, and (2) doing the bulk fermentation overnight in the fridge. Still one achievement left to go (we are never completely satisfied) and that is a good “ear” as they call it. I need to get a “lame” lol! But this bread is wonderful. Easy to slice, chewy inside with good “crumb” with bubbles (not too big or too many) and crispy bottom crust. And stays fresh (though it doesn’t stick around very long … it is that good)! Great for sandwiches!

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My Wild Caught Sourdough Bread

Fermented Wild Caught Sourdough is so easy to make on your own. My “Audrey” (we sourdough fanatics name our starters) was caught by soaking some golden raisins in water for a week then using the drained off water mixed with flour until the wild yeasts and lacto-bacteria (they are everywhere) colonized. Once you have that wonderful starter, it is a “pet” in the sense that you are going to be responsible for the care and feeding of it, but that’s not hard, and it yields such wonderful results. Most important of all, the health benefits of fermented bread (and not all sourdough you buy is truly fermented) are just so great! If you think you cannot digest gluten, the slow fermentation of sourdough may just solve that problem. There are true celeriacs, but there are many more who are actually just responding to the lack of fermentation in commercial bread. As Michael Pollan so eloquently catalogues, fermentation is a form of digestion, so sourdough actually pre-digests the gluten! And then there are the pro-biotic advantages of fermentation. We are vessels for a whole community of millions and millions of microbes known as the “microbiome” the genes of which actually outnumber our own cells by a factor of 100 to 1! Maintaining a healthy microbiome keeps the bad microbes in check, protects us from toxins and influences our digestion, immune function, even our personality! Much research is ongoing. Baking a sourdough loaf takes so little hands-on time – no kneading, just a few stretch & pulls. It does take time to re-activate your starter, and ferment your dough, but that is not time that involves you directly, other than as an observer. I hope you will give it a try!

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How to Fight a SuperBug!

Microbiome

The Centers for Disease Control has just sounded the alarm that the end of the era of antibiotics is at hand. How did we get here? Simple. The inappropriate use of antibiotics that flood your body’s immune system rendering it weak or helpless, and flush into the water supply feeding bacteria rendering them stronger and more dangerous. A lethal combination for us. There are 3 things that we can all be doing now to protect ourselves from such superbugs:

  1. Stop using antibiotics inappropriately or even at all. When you flood your system with antibiotics for every physical complaint, especially ones where they can’t be effective or are even counter-productive (colds, yeast infections, etc.) you reduce your body’s natural immune system and kill the bacteria that you need for a strong immune system. Overuse of antibiotics, that are flushed into the ground water, is the primary reason bacteria have become resistant.
  2. Change your diet to promote a stronger microbiome, which comprises 2/3 of your body’s immune system and is responsible for promoting your physical AND mental health. Did you know that “feel-good” seratonin is primarily created in the gut, not the brain? Stop eating the things that feed the bad bacteria in your gut, sugar primarily, but processed foods generally. GMO grains contain glyphosates (a component of Monsanto’s “Roundup”) which have been shown to cause severe irritation to the gut (in pigs) and are antimicrobial, killing all gut bacteria, even the good ones, like antibiotics do.  Start eating more fermented foods (wild caught sourdough, home made sauerkraut and pickles, apple cider vinegar with the mother, to name a few). Those who already have gut issues should know that your gut lining replaces itself every couple of days, so changing your bad habits and adopting a gut friendly diet will change your life.
  3. Stock natural herbs and plants that can come to your aid if you do need assistance fighting off a bug. One such good choice is berberine, the yellow substance found inside the bark of many plants found growing naturally — nandina, oregon grape, barberry and many more. Berberine is an adaptogen, meaning it backstops your immune system and adapts to what your body needs when it is stressed. There are many other plants that do this. They should always be your FIRST choice, not antibiotics.

These steps are important not just for YOUR health, but for the health of everyone around you! We are all in this together!

Wild Caught Sourdough Biscuits

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Wild Caught Sourdough Biscuits

Today I threw out an old jar of commercial yeast that I had occasionally used before starting my wild caught sourdough starter “Audrey.” I did so because I just can never go back to the tasteless, stomach bloating, unhealthy baked goods that commercial “yeast” produces.Yesterday I baked a truly marvelous loaf of bread for a neighbor. You could smell the “sour” and she called later to confirm that the taste was true sourdough and wonderful! Slowly I am making converts. It is tough here in the South where cooking and baking reside in a different part of the mind than health. I refer you to Paula Deen or Southern Living recipes to make my point.

And nothing could be as quintessentially Southern as the biscuit. So producing a healthier, better-tasting, and better-looking biscuit should set off an earthquake here in North Carolina. We’ll see. There is little that is different in this recipe aside from other biscuit recipes, except the inclusion of a good wild-caught sourdough starter. And you do not need to “prove” the starter before using. Thus, the end result has wonderful rich flavor, but not the tangyness of a sourdough loaf which relies on the long-rise to produce that character. I should also note that wild caught sourdough is, in my opinion, a completely different animal (it is alive after all) from other “sourdoughs” which may even rely on commercial yeast as a base for the starter. Hah! What’s the point?

Wild caught sourdough breads will stay fresher longer. Because it pre-digests the gluten, you do not get the same physical reaction when you eat it. Making wild-caught sourdough biscuits is almost as fast as an ordinary biscuit recipe, but produces the richest, most satisfying biscuit you will ever eat. And they keep. And reheat wonderfully. Here it is!

WILD CAUGHT SOURDOUGH BISCUITS

Have all ingredients at room temperature — don’t want to give your starter a chill do we? Pre-set your oven to 425 degrees.

Mix 2 Cups Bread Flour (higher protein than regular flour), 1 Teaspoon Salt, 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder with a wire whisk to aerate (the equivalent of sifting, and a lot easier) in a large bowl.

In your food processor, or by hand, combine 1/2 Cup Butter (I prefer using it straight from the freezer) cut into little bits with the flour mixture and then process to the texture of cornmeal.

In a separate separate bowl or large measuring cup combine 1 C Wild Caught Sourdough Starter and 1/2 Cup Buttermilk. Mix into the flour/butter mix and combine quickly until you have a nice soft dough that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a floured board, knead for a half a minute (you don’t want to overwork) and roll to 1/2″ thickness. Cut out your biscuits using a large size biscuit cutter or a wine glass dipped in flour.  Place biscuits on parchment paper on a baking sheet so that their sides are touching (that is really important). Cover with plastic wrap (not tight, just laid over) and put in warm protected spot for a 1/2 hour rise. Set your timer – more is not better at this point.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch the bottoms closely – when they are golden and there is a slight gold to the tops, they are done. Ovens are individual things, so in my oven they need the full 20 minutes.

Can be reheated easily placing directly on the wire of your toaster oven set to “Warm/350” for a few minutes. They will taste every bit as good as when they first came out of the oven! Enjoy!

The Story of Lucky and Buster

Lucky and Buster

Lucky and Buster

Lucky found me on a very cold winter day. He was about 5 weeks old, abandoned, hungry and very eager to be rescued, bounding up to me as I walked to the store. I couldn’t resist. On the way home a friend remarked that he was “one lucky dog” and the name stuck. Lucky needed more than a good home and love, he needed a best buddy, and so a year later I found Buster at the local shelter. His mother had been killed by a car and the whole litter had just been brought in. Buster took to Lucky immediately and Lucky now had his “pack.” They have been as close as two dogs can be ever since.

This is why a portion of the profits from sales of LuckyLike Dog Treats go to support animal rescue and no kill shelter organizations.

LuckyLike Treats for Dogs are now available at CherryGal. They are made in small batches to maintain maximum freshness. Each bag is dated as to when it was baked. We use only the freshest, most natural (and preferably organic) ingredients. We do NOT add any sugar, salt, colorings, artificial ingredients or preservatives. LOVE and GOODNESS go into every bag of LuckyLike Dog Treats! Hand Made in the USA.

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LUCKY LIKE! TREATS FOR DOGS

Lucky Like! Premium Dog Treats

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A couple of months ago I got tired of the quality and price of good, safe dog treats for my two fellas, Lucky and Buster. So I started baking my own for them, and they loved them! The recipes evolved and perfected to the point that I decided to market to others. What my boys enjoy — wholesome, natural and organic ingredients, with no added sugars, salts or artificial anything — will soon be available at CherryGal.com. Stay tuned!