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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, Amazon.com and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Secrets of sourdough bread

By Alice Bailey

February 19, 2009 | Making breads with natural leaven yeasts as opposed to commercial yeasts is a dying art, partly because of the speed at which commercial yeast rises. So with the death of natural leaven yeasts, what are we losing really?

According to Dave Oblock, sales manager at Crumb Brothers, we're losing a lot. He says the slow fermentation of the slow rise process is the appropriate environment for good bacteria, and that's where the creation of better nutrients comes into the bread.

"White flour and quick yeast breads tend to break down in your digestive and blood system much quicker," Oblock said, "which changes your blood sugar, and really you prefer to have a more gradual change of that. So by converting these and breaking them down with the natural yeast and those good bacteria, that's part of the reason that makes it more healthy, besides tasting so great."

Oblock said many people who have yeast intolerance tend to have no adverse reactions to bread made by this process.

Commercial yeasts can go from the mixing bowl to the shelf in a matter of hours and that's why they're so popular, but the nutritional value is depleted. So, though it sometimes takes days to create a loaf of bread by this process, it may just be worth it to those who enjoy bread, but can't eat much of it for health reasons.

The flavor is also an obvious factor in the importance of sourdough bread. Sourdough bread is known for its amazing and distinct flavor. The interesting thing is that the term "sourdough" is used more specifically than it was originally intended to. Olbock said sourdough is a word that should be used when describing almost any naturally leavened dough.

Melissa Dean said a common example of a sourdough bread that goes by another name is Amish Friendship Bread. This bread is created by essentially the same fermentation process and is made with natural leaven yeast. The "starter" that is created by this bread-making process needs to be fed just like any other type of sourdough, and that is why the starter gets passes around so much.

Oblock shared his theory on the process of feeding starters. "Starters are like children. You feed them regularly, you watch after them, you do everything you can do with them, and maybe, just maybe if you're lucky, they turn out great."

So getting a good starter is essential to making a really good tasting bread. How does one get a good start? There are a couple of ways. You can get a starter from someone else, or you can make your own.

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