The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Made with Acorns - Acorn Levain à la Tartine

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Made with Acorns - Acorn Levain à la Tartine

During my childhood, we kids used to gather acorns and chestnuts (not the edible kind) to make funny little gnomes from them. Nice and shiny as they looked, I knew that only pigs and squirrels could eat them, they were much too bitter for human consumption.

When I read a facebook post ("Bread History & Practice") about the possibility to use acorns in bread baking, I was intrigued - the huge European oaks in our neighborhood had produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.

To remove the bitter tannins from the acorns they have to be leached. This process, described in "Acorns: The Inside Story", takes a bit of time, but is pretty easy. Repeated soaking of the ground acorns in cold water (instead of boiling the kernels) works best for bread making, since this gentler method preserves the binding qualities of the acorn meal.

My resident bread tester (aka husband), helped me to gather a bag full of acorns, and I left them to dry for several weeks on our porch - the kernels shrink a bit, and are then easier to remove from the shells.

Cracking acorns is no more difficult than cracking hazelnuts

With a nutcracker, the acorns could be cracked like hazelnuts, and I ended up with about half a pound of kernels.

First the acorns have to be ground with water in the food processor (water prevents them from turning into greasy nut butter). The meal has to be rinsed in a fine-mesh strainer, before transferring it to a bowl, and soaking it in a lot of cold water. I rinsed, drained and soaked the acorn meal three times a day.

Grinding the acorns with water in the food processor

After two days I started testing the meal for bitterness, and finally, after three days of leaching, the tannins had been washed out, and the meal tasted similar to walnuts, but a bit milder.

The wet acorn meal had to be dried, either spread out on a baking sheet in the oven at very low heat, or, if you own one, in a dehydrator (lowest setting).

Now I had my acorn meal, ready to use. But what kind of bread could I bake with it? A simple, skillet bread wouldn't do it for me, I wanted a real loaf with a nice rise. My usual to-go bread (if I'm not trying out a specific recipe) is based on Tartine breads, and this is what I ended up with:

Acorn Levain à la Tartine

 

To continue reading (and see the recipe), please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread"

 

Comments

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

Thanks for posting this! Danke!

hanseata's picture
hanseata

And good luck with your ongoing experiments with sourdough laminating.

Karin

dosco's picture
dosco

I always enjoy learning new things, and this was certainly new.

As I have several large oaks in my yard, all of which yield prodigious amounts of acorns (the last 2 years have been particularly "productive"), I am going to have to give this a try.

-Dave

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Please, do try it.

I like the idea of foraging for food, especially when there is such an abundance around. I will definitely do it again in fall.

Karin

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

walnuts but still a labor of love.to make such a unique loaf of bread.  Seems bakers will jump through all kinds of hoops to get what they want but, when they turn out this nice, then all they need to put it over the top are massive amounts of hemp seeds:-)  Hamp and Acorn sounds great and they have to well together since hemp is a bit of a floozy and goes with just about anything no questions asked.   The crumb is really amazing and so open for such a heavy loaf of squirrel bread.  Well done and

Happy baking Karin.   

hanseata's picture
hanseata

and you are right - I haven't baked a hemp seed bread for a long time. Maybe I need one now :)

Happy baking,

Karin

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Karin,

I remember trying to eat California Oak Acorns when I was young. They were God Awful sour! I wondered how in the world indigenous people ever survived off the stuff. Wasn't until years later that I learned about the gathering and processing by the indigenous tribes - essentially the same process that you describe above so well. There's a State Park in Sacramento that preserves some of this tradition with the name "Indian Grinding Rock" though there is some difference in opinion with grinding - the indigenous tradition used the word "pounding" instead. The holes in the rock were the result of the "rock mortar and rock pestle" approach to making the mash (your blender) followed by placing the mash in specially purpose made baskets with stream water running through them to leach the tannins out. I have found sites deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where "pounding rocks" are evident - always near a stream and generally with a good view but devoid of Oak Trees indicating that Acorns were packed for trips deep into the Sierra.

Wild-Yeast

 P.S. Those sites deep in the Sierra likely were not for oak acorns packed in but were probably for making nut mash from Digger Pine nuts prevalent in the areas where the grinding holes were found...,

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I would assume, the indigenous people cooked the acorn meal into some kind of porridge, or made pancakes with it. Leached in cold water, it obviously has more binding properties than if the tannins were removed by boiling the meal.

Thanks for sharing,

Karin

 

isand66's picture
isand66

Fascinating bake Karen!

You've certainly outdone yourself on this one.  Usually when I have a failure I say I'm going to throw it on the compost heap for the squirrels but I'm sure they would really love this one!

Love the way this one looks as well.  Not sure I could bring myself to gather enough acorns and steal them from the backyard squirrels.  Max and Lexi would be heartbroken if all the squirrels left due to a shortage of food :).  They already managed to actually catch one this summer which did not end well for Mr. Squirrel :(.

Thanks for sharing this great recipe and bake.

I'm off to your home country on Thursday.  First to Frankfurt for Paper World which is a big stationary trade show and then to Nuremberg for the worlds largest craft and hobby show.  We're going to visit Munich for a day in between to sight see as well.  My colleagues sister lives in Austria and she is friends with a famous chef in Munich so we are going to have a special dinner at one of his restaurants.  I will let you the details upon my return.

Regards,
Ian

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Our fat neighborhood squirrels couldn't eat or hoard all those acorns - they are way too many!

I hope you have an enjoyable stay in Germany, especially the special dinner in Munich. And, please, eat a Nürnberger Bratwurst for me - they are the best!

Take care,

Karin

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

recipe for these sausages.  Got  one Karin?  One of my bucket list is to make at least 100 different German sausages.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I do! I have a little book on German sausages, written by a butcher for hobby sausage makers, but never got around to making one. The butcher mentions that for Bratwurst you can use all kind of meat, preferably from younger animals, since meat from older ones has too long fibers that make the sausages tough. The pork should always be 70%, otherwise the sausages are not moist enough.

Nürnberger Bratwurst is made of 30% beef and 70% pork belly

Seasoning per kg sausage mixture: 20 g salt, 2 g ground white pepper, 0.5 g ground mace, 0.5 g ground ginger, 1 g dried marjoram

Mix together meat and spices, then pass through meat grinder (disc with 3-mm holes). Knead well, then fill in casings. Twist and divide filled casings to 8 - 10 cm long sausages.

Good luck, and let me know how they turn out. (And you can always ask me for my other favorites: Thüringer and Schinkenwurst!)

Karin