In part of the Fertile Crescent in Iraq, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, the first civilizations of Acadia, Sumeria and Babylon developed. These civilizations arose only because the conditions for the development of agriculture were favorable, without it population growth could not have been sustained. Although humans must be perceptive and organized enough to cultivate plants, the main prerequisite of agriculture lies not with them, although they may like to believe so, but in the natural resources available to them. As Vavilov observed, this area contains the highest percentage of edible wild grains such as wheat, barley and other plants from which the budding farmer could cultivate. The four most important domesticated animals, namely, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs were also domesticated in the same area.
Surplus food allowed the development of communities, large building projects and complex irrigation schemes. This era displayed advancement in mathematics and astronomy that even surpassed the understandings of the ancient Greeks, which were to come thousands of years afterwards. Some of the foods eaten even before biblical times, such as bulgur, still exist today. Even after three thousand years, the basic staple of the world remains unchanged. Because of its proximity to many regions of the world and its highly developed agricultural society many battles were waged to gain control of the area.
Today bread is an important part of the diet throughout much of the world, most notably the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, Inner Asia, the United States and Europe. Each area has developed a unique way of baking bread which is an inseparable part of their identity and culture. At the Ramla shuk a few weeks ago I came upon the most colorful display of breads from around the world (despite tasting pretty much the same). Luckily the merchant was more than happy to be photographed, unlike others (who, I joked with Miriam from Israeli Kitchen, are afraid we come from the IRS and are investigating tax evasion). Because the shuk caters to people from diverse backgrounds, the breads the Afghan merchant sells with his Bukhara helper reflect this.
During most of history commercial fast rising yeast was not available and every baker cultured natural yeast to produce sourdough bread. The flavor of sourdough bread is what makes the bread unique and is caused by the symbiosis between lactobacillis bacteria and yeast. In addition, research by a group in Ontario has discovered that blood sugar levels do not rise as high after eating soughdough bread compared to commercial white bread or even whole wheat or barley bread. This has important implications in controlling diabetes.
Before I begin, I should point out that I am an amateur sourdough baker and I am still learning. Sites such as the Fresh Loaf and Sourdoughcan give you more information. I need to thank Paul Nurflus for soudough baking tips.
350 grams white bread flour
50 grams whole-wheat flour
100 grams sourdough mixture (made from 1:1 flour to dough, although I don’t usually bother with measurements)
450 ml water
After first rise:
Add 500 grams of white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Mix together all the ingredients for the first rise. Cover and place in a warm place until it bubbles happily. Add the remaining 500 grams flour and salt. The additional flour should be enough to create pliable dough. In a mixer (or by hand if you like) knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until a piece of dough can be stretched between two figures to form a window. If it is too wet add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each one, making sure to pull surface tight and place on a piece of parchment paper. Leave in a warm place covered with a damp towel (otherwise the dough will dry out). When the dough doubles in size it is time to bake. A little before it is time to bake turn on the oven to 260 C with a baking stone in place at the bottom (I use a caste iron tray instead). Slash a deep cut down the middle of the bread to allow bread to expand in the oven. Spritz the surface of the bread with water. Using a large flat tool, gently lift below the parchment paper and glide the dough onto the baking stone. Add one or two ice cubes where they can evaporate without touching the bread (Steam allows for better oven rise and crust). Bake until the internal temperature reaches of 210 C or the bottom part of the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread immediately and transfer to a rack cooler and wait and additional 20 minutes before eating. When you take the bread from the oven, listen to it, when it cools it starts to crackle like rice krispies, a sign of a well made loaf.
The acute impact of ingestion of breads of varying composition on blood glucose, insulin and incretins following first and second meals., British Journal of Nutrition, 2009 Feb;101(3):391-8.f
Guns Germs and Steal, Jared Diamond
And now for something a little bit different: The Kreativ Blogger Award
A few weeks ago Jennifer Greco of the lovely French food blog Chez Loulou tagged me (thank you!), now it’s time to have some fun. Rules are simple, if I am tagged I have to write 7 random and interesting things about myself and then list 7 other bloggers who will do the same. For more information on the origin and details of this award see Simon’s food blog. Here is my list:
1 I took a two star scuba diving course but was scared I would be eaten by a shark
2 I regularly have to throw my makeup away because it passes the expiration date.
3 I love looking at photographs, even of people I have never met
4 Don’t really like the taste of liver or egg yolks
5 I collect heart shaped stones and love real rainbows (doesn’t rain often in Israel)
6 I used to play flute in high school but wished I picked the cello
7 I don’t really get molecular gastronomy (and all the foams)
Now it’s your turn:
Miriam from Israeli Kitchen
Lisa from Lisa is Cooking
Michael from Herbivoracious
Christie from Fig and Cherry
Elle from Elle’s New England Kitchen
Maryam from My Marrakesh
Sabera from One Life to Eat