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In Paris with an eye-phone

Farine - November 18, 2015 - 7:43am
Today I am taking you for a stroll in Paris with a few pictures from our last trip there back in May. The young woman in the headscarf is Ilham the Baker. She is from Morocco. She bakes all her goods herself at home on the day and night before the market. We bought bread and chatted for a while. She gave us sweet mint tea and cornes de gazelle, cookies baked in the shape of horns. I am keeping her in my thoughts.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed


Brot & Bread - November 17, 2015 - 3:48pm

Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)

When I started my little home based bakery, I wanted to offer a typical German Schwarzbrot. Though "schwarz" means "black", a Schwarzbrot doesn't have to be a 100% rye bread, only most of the flour should be rye.

With Peter Reinhart's pre-dough method from "Whole Grain Breads" in mind, I cobbled together different recipes into one I could work with. Baking this bread often (my customers love it!) I played with the formula around, and, over the years, tweaked it so much, that it became entirely my own.

It contains whole rye berries, has a little bit of sweetener, but, also, a pleasant natural sweetness, and it is not artificially colored with large amounts of molasses, cocoa, coffee or other additives.

People familiar with my blog know that I'm very much in favor of long fermentation. Breads that are allowed to ripen slowly are much better digestible, and long fermentation reduces the discomfort that gluten may cause for some.

We enjoy Schwarzbrot with ham or other cold cuts, but also with honey
But most important for me - the taste of most breads improves significantly if flavors have more time to develop.

Scarred by my father's strict enforcement of daily Schwarzbrot consumption as a child - "Schwarzbrot macht Wangen rot!" (black bread makes your cheeks red!) was his motto - I never cared too much for dark ryes.

But, overcoming my early Schwarzbrot trauma, I love this hearty, crunchy bread and always bake an extra one for my family, when I make it for my customers.


Rye Berries
150 g rye berries
water, for soaking

150 g whole rye flour
5 g salt
113 g water

40 g whole wheat mother starter (75% hydration)
116 g whole wheat flour
83 g water, lukewarm

Final dough
all cooked rye berries
all soaker and starter
37 g whole wheat flour
3 g instant yeast
11 g salt
15 g molasses
3 g honey
 rolled rye or sunflower seeds, for topping

DAY 1 (afternoon)
In a bowl, cover rye berries with at least 1 inch/2.5 cm cold water and let them soak for 24 hours.

Drain rye berries -  reserve the soaking water to water your plants!
In the morning, stir together soaker ingredients until all flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature.

Combine all starter ingredients until all flour is hydrated, then knead (using stand mixer or wet hands) for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature.

Cook soaked rye berries in fresh water for half an hour
In the afternoon, drain soaked rye berries and discard water (I use it to water my plants, it contains a lot of nutrients). Place berries in a saucepan, well covered with fresh water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Place berries in strainer to drain, cover, and let cool to room temperature. (Cooked berries can be kept at room temperature for 24 hours.)

Schwarzbrot is made with a whole wheat starter
In the evening, combine all final dough ingredients in mixer bowl and mix at low speed with paddle for 2 minutes. Continue kneading (paddle or dough hook) at medium-low speed for 4 minutes. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 1 minute more. The dough will still be somewhat sticky. Transfer dough to lightly oiled container. Mist with oil, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The dough has risen overnight in the fridge
Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using, to warm up.

Preheat oven to 450ºF/230ºC. Spray loaf pan (8 1/2" by 4"/22 cm x 10 cm) with oil.

Loosening the slightly sticky dough with a spatula
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. (If you used a square container, it is already pre-shaped.)

Practically pre-shaped (from the container)...
....rolling it into a sandwich loaf is easy
Roll dough into a sandwich loaf and place it into the pan, seam side down. Mist with water, sprinkle with rolled rye or sunflower seeds, pressing them a bit down with your hands to attach, then spray with oil.

Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil, don't let the bread rise anymore!

Covered loosely with foil, the bread is ready for the oven (no second rise!)
Place pan in oven, reduce temperature to 425ºF/220ºC and bake it for 35 minutes. Take loaf out of the oven, remove aluminum foil, loosen the sides from pan with a spatula, and turn the half-baked bread out onto a baking sheet.

Remove foil from half-baked bread, and turn it out onto a baking sheet
Return bread to the oven to bake for about 30 minutes longer. It should be crisp, and register at least 200ºF in the center.

Transfer bread to cooling rack, mist with water while hot, and let it cool. For the first 24 hours, keep it in a brown paper bag to allow it to continue drying out and developing flavor. After that, it can be wrapped in aluminum foil. (Don't keep it in the refrigerator!).

A very popular bread in my bakery
 BreadStorm users (also the free version) can download the formula:

Karin's German Schwarzbrot with Whole Rye Berries
Categories: The Bread Feed

Paris, attacked

Farine - November 17, 2015 - 8:48am
The sun was pouring in through the windows, bluejays were noisily scolding each other in the neighbor's trees, our little rescue was happily chewing on her favorite squeaky. I was catching up on some reading that had piled up when my phone beeped with the notification that Paris was under attack. One of the shootings had been at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge in the 10th arrondissement not far from Place de la République.
My hands were shaking as I called up Google Maps on my phone. We have very close friends right around the corner from Le Petit Cambodge. The place is actually their six-year old's favorite hangout. We have had lunch with them there. Never having seen my American grandkids go for soup with such passion, I can still picture the lust with which the little girl had attacked her bobun (a kind of brothy soup) and her dexterity with the chopsticks.
It couldn't be that very place, right? There had to be another Cambodge somewhere else.
I managed to center the map.
My heart fell. It was their hangout. Their quartier. Their blessed little corner of Paris.
On the map, I could see rue Bichat, a street that we know well for having walked the length of it many times. One I remember fondly for the kindly face and bright smile of the Arab grocer from whom we used to buy fruit in the evening on our way back to our rented apartment.
On the map, I could see Théâtre Laurette where we have seen several plays over the years. Including one in which another friend's youngest daughter once made her stage debut. The theater is minuscule, so tiny you almost walk straight from the street onto the stage and the actors hang out in front while waiting for the doors to open.
On the map, I could see the canal. Gorgeous but at times very dirty (at night, after a few drinks too many, some find it entertaining to upend garbage cans into its dark and silent water).
An urban village. Shabby chic, as they will later say in the news.
On that bright California afternoon, the sun suddenly went from the sky.
I remembered another Friday, thirty-five months ago almost to the day.
I had to make sure our friends were safe. I knew they had been out for the evening. I also knew they would be walking home from the métro. I tried calling: land line, cell phones. Nobody picked up. I left voice mails. I texted. No reply. More than an hour passed. I couldn't stop shaking.
I heard from them the minute they got home later that evening. They had been confined behind police barriers, then stuck in the métro with no signal on their cell phones. Their only thought had been to get the six-year old safely back home.
Some families are still waiting to hear, the lack of news both a blessing (there is still hope) and a torture (wouldn't they have heard if s/he was still alive?). With love and longing, I look at the faces of the victims. They look like all of us. They are all of us. In our wonderful diversity.
A couple of days before the attacks, I met two women who lost their sister in a mass shooting three years ago. Like ours, their grief hasn't abated. Like us, they still can't bring themselves to believe their loss is for real and forever.
Last Friday so many new families have joined our fellowship of despair.
And yes, I write about the Paris attacks because Paris is and will forever remain my hometown. When I open my mouth to speak, my voice is the voice of the city, the accent of home. Both in French and in English. On the night of the attacks, I fell asleep listening to a France-Inter podcast, a literary one, unrelated to terrorism. I couldn't tell you what it was about to save my life. I just listened to the accent. As soothing as a lullaby, it took me back home.
I woke up in the middle of the night, my heart too heavy for my chest. The memory of what had just happened came back in a flash. I tried to fall back to sleep but my thoughts wouldn't let me. I put my earbuds back on. But this time it was painful. As if I were listening to the waning echoes of an age of innocence. I switched to a mainstream American podcast. The voice of home too.
And don't think that because I only write about what happened in Paris, I have no feeling for the victims in Beirut, Baghdad, Kunduz or elsewhere. Whatever the weapon of choice, each and every attack on civilians is a monstrosity and a crime against humanity. A few months after we lost Noah, I remember reading about an entire family wiped out in the Middle East, an entire family save one member. I don't recall whether it was the mom or the dad who survived. The loss was so horrifying I blocked out the details. But I remember thinking: how does one survive with such pain?
Looking at the faces of the victims, I remember commuting to work through Grand Central Terminal in post-9/11 New York City. Flyers everywhere. People searching for loved ones. I remember being awed by the courage and dignity of my fellow New Yorkers.
Now it is the turn of my people in Paris. Please watch this conversation between a father and his little boy.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed


Brot & Bread - November 7, 2015 - 7:00pm

Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

After a rather underwhelming bread experience in an - otherwise nice - hotel last year, I challenged my co-bloggers, facebook friends and hobby bakers from The Fresh Loaf to help fill a basket with "Bread for Götz von Berlichingen", to provide Schlosshotel Götzenburg with a better breakfast choice.

I was so happy with the interesting contributions that I promised myself to bake as many of the 30 breads as possible, and, also, to showcase some of them on my blog - like  Khalid's Götzenburg Bread from Dubai, und Britta's Double Potato Loaf for Götz from the Lower Rhine.

Just in time for Zorra's World Bread Day 2015 I'm happy to present Fresh Loaf blogger Dabrownman and his Swabian Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist.

Dabrownman lives and bakes in Arizona
Dabrownman - "everybody calls me Brownman" (or DBM for short) - resides with his wife, college age daughter, and dachshund Lucy in Arizona.

An architect by schooling, he designed and supervised worldwide the construction, and ran the operation of distribution centers for the food industry. "Food and Facilities is what I did the last 23 years".
Dabrownman with "Apprentice" LucyMeanwhile retired, he threw himself wholeheartedly into bread baking. With 429 posts since 2012, he is one of the most productive hobby bakers and bloggers that I know.

But not only his recipes with their abundance of  grains and seeds are interesting - his posts are also often very funny!

It's hard to believe, but he is proud owner of just one single baking book: Clayton's Complete Book of Breads. ("With a title like that you only need the one.")

Instead of buildings he is now designing and constructing breads, with help of his four legged "apprentice" Lucy, who obviously has a preference for hearty, crusty loaves, and loves being busy in the kitchen.

Just like her "master", Lucy can't stand the idea of baking the same old loaf twice. "It's like designing and building the same building all the time - much too boring!"

With every bread he bakes, Dabrownman feels inspired to try a new, even better loaf. He doesn't really want to waste his time "to bake over old bread. and hope to get the new bread baked!"

According to Lucy, bread baking, also, keeps the retiree too busy to hang out too often in motorcycle bars!!!

DBM's Breakfast Rolls with Snockered Fruit & Chocolate 
As you can see from the gorgeous photos on his blog (food porn alert!), the passionate baker also creates scrumptious pies and other pastries, like Whole Grain Breakfast Rolls with Snockered Fruit & Chocolate;

DBM swears by freshly milled flour: "It has a more complex flavor, a better, deeper, and more earthy taste. It also is more active in starters and levains".

Resting after a busy baking day!For his levain he typically takes only a small amount of starter, feeding it in three steps, and then places it for 24 hours in the fridge.

He prefers yeast water over commercial yeast, and often mixes it with his starter.

DBM sifts his whole grain flour, and adds the extracted mineral-rich, coarser parts to his starter - to expedite the fermentation of the levain, and to ensure the hard bits are sufficiently soaked.

"Seems to work well - I have very active levains, and the rise and open crumb are pretty good".

Dabrownman likes Bertinet's dough processing workout, slapping the dough several times forcefully on the countertop. I prefer a gentler approach, and the - less strenous - stretch & fold à la Reinhart that I use for many of my doughs.

Though sifting and extracting the whole grain flour is a bit of an effort, the result is well worth it!

After making it twice, the crusty, hearty bread became one of my favorites (even though my crumb is darker, and not quite as open as DBM's - his extraction might be more efficient.)

An especially hearty wheat-rye bread -worthy of a knight!
DABROWNMAN'S SWABIAN POTATO BREAD FOR GÖTZ OF THE IRON FIST (adapted from DBM's blog post in The Fresh Loaf) Starter 
8 g mother starter (rye, wheat, spelt, 100%)
50 g old bread, crumbled (I toasted it)
20 g freshly milled, sifted whole rye flour (85% extraction) (*see preparation)
20 g freshly milled, sifted whole wheat flour (85% extraction) (*see preparation)
35 g extracted coarser rye- and wheat parts (*see preparation )
75 g bread flour
203 g potato cooking water, cooled

Final Dough
50 g freshly milled, sifted whole rye flour (85% extraction) (*see preparation)
150 g bread flour
8 g salt
2 g instant yeast
25 g potato cooking water (more as needed - I added an extra 15 g)
100 g cooked, mashed potatoes
25 g softened butter or vegetable oil (I used sunflower seed oil)

Potatoes with thin skins don't have to be peeled
PREPARATION  (85% flour extraction)
Mill about 135 g rye (not too finely - Nutrimill setting exactly between "Finer" and "Coarser"). Sift flour several times through a fine mesh strainer, to extract 15% of the coarser parts (about 18 g will be needed). Set aside both extractions separately.

Repeat this extraction procedure with the wheat. Mix the coarser, extracted wheat bits with the same amount of rye bits (a total amount of 35 g are needed for the starter.)

Boil unpeeled potatoes. Reserve potato cooking water, and let it cool (you will need about 250 ml/1 cup.) Potatoes with thin skins don't have to be peeled.

Mix all starter ingredients in a bowl. Cover, and leave overnight at room temperature (9 - 12 hours). It should double.

The starter should double overnight
Stir starter, and let double again (3 - 4 hours).

Add starter to the other dough ingredients
Mix all dough ingredients. Leave for 30 minutes, then knead at low speed for 8 minutes, adding more water as needed (dough should clear sides, but stick to bottom of bowl).

Transfer dough to a work surface lightly misted with oil or water. With oiled hands, pull and press dough into a rough square, then fold it from top and bottom like a business letter in 3 parts. Fold the same way from both sides.

Stretching and folding the dough

Gather dough package into a ball, and place, seam side down, in an oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 20 minutes, then repeat S & F four more times at 20 minute intervals.

Leave for about 1 hour (dough should look puffed). Generously sprinkle a rising basket with a mixture of wheat and rice flours (to prevent sticking.) For an attractive, rustic look, sprinkle the bottom of the basket with coarse ground or rolled rye or wheat.

Instead of flour, you can sprinkle the work surface with chopped rye 
Pre-shape dough into a round, then shape it into a boule. Place, seam-side up, in the prepared basket.

Dust the surface with flour, then put the basket in a large plastic bag. Refrigerate for 12 hours (overnight).

If you want to score the loaf, place it seam side up in the basket
Remove bread from refrigerator about 2 hours before baking, it should have almost doubled. If not, allow it to sit longer on the counter.

Overnight the bread should almost double
Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, including baking stone and steaming device.

Don't be too timid when you score it!

When the bread is sufficiently proofed (finger poke test: a dimple should not fill completely up again, but remain visible), place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Score, as desired.

Place bread in the oven, steaming with a cup of boiling water. Reduce temperature to 450ºF/ 230ºC After 15 minutes, remove steam pan, and reduce temperature to 430ºF/ 220ºC - switch to convection mode, if your oven has that feature).

Bake for another 20 - 25 minutes, until bread is nice and brown (the crust shouldn't be to light!) and it registers at least 205ºF/96ºC.

Let bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

A rolled rye topping gives the bread an attractive rustic look

BreadStorm users (also the  free version) can download the formula:

<a href="">DBM's Swabian Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist</a>
Categories: The Bread Feed


Brot & Bread - October 31, 2015 - 5:24pm

Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)

I found the Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, October project of the ABC-Bakers, very intriguing. Topped with apples, sautéed in butter with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg - that sounds delicious!

A coffee cake is a bit of a strange concept for a German - aren't all cakes meant to be enjoyed with coffee? And what is a non-coffee cake? To gain more insight, I checked Wikipedia:

A one layer bundt coffee cake: Red Wine Cake "Coffee cake is a common cake or sweet is generally intended to be eaten with coffee or tea..... ". 

Hm! I can't really say I see any sense in singling out some cakes as suitable pairing for coffee or tea, and others - pies, tortes, bars? - are not.

But wait - here's more: "They are typically single layer cakes.....square, round or ring shaped.... flavored with cinnamon or other spices, nuts, and fruits. These cakes sometimes have a crumb topping called streusel".

Gotcha! This coffee cake is an impostor! Flavored with cinnamon and other spices, yes, but not one, but fancy three layers! 

My curiosity satisfied (and feeling good about myself) I went ahead and baked the cake, but couldn't resist the temptation to righteously call it a Not a Coffee Cake :)

Legitimate or not - we loved the cake with its spiced apple topping, soft, but not mushy, resting on a delicately flavored cream cheese layer that kept the cake from getting soggy - even after three days.

Legitimate coffee cake or not - we enjoyed it with coffee!
Changes & Comments:
  • My husband likes cinnamon, but not too much - I reduced it by half in the cake batter.
  • I don't like it too sweet - I took less of the overall sugar.
  • Substituting some of the white flour with whole grain (spelt)
  • I found small local tart apples, and did not peel them - unless the skin is very thick and tough, it's really not necessary, and, more important, most of the vitamins are in the skin
  • Trying to "lightly swirl" the cream cheese batter with the cake batter in order "to sort of fuse the two batters together" proved very awkward - I would just spread the cream cheese batter over the cake bottom.

I used small, tart, local apples, and did not peel them

SPICED APPLE CREAM CHEESE CAKE  (adapted from Christina Marsigliese's blog "Scientifically Sweet"
(8-10 servings)

163 g/1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 120 g AP + 43 g spelt flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I used only 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
85 g butter, softened
66 g/1/3 cup sugar (I used only 40 g)
71 g/1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (I used 35 g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g/1 large egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 package (250 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
50 g/1/4 cup sugar (I used 37 g)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 large egg yolk
3 g/1 tsp all-purpose flour

28 g/2 tbsp butter
3 whole cloves
1 kg/1 1/4 lbs tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Northern Spy (ca. 4 apples), cored, peeled and chopped into 1/3-inch/1-cm cubes (I used small local tart apples and didn't peel them)
26 g/2 tbsp sugar (I used 18 g/1 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Cook apple pieces "al dente"
For the topping, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl.

Heat butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add whole cloves (to infuse butter) and then add apple mixture. Cook, stirring often, until they just begin to soften (they shouldn't be mushy), about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer apples back to bowl, discard cloves, and leave to cool.

Mixing the cream cheese batter
For the cheesecake layer, beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth and creamy (I used a handheld mixer). Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until sugar is mostly dissolved, about 1 minute.

Mix in cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until combined. Add egg yolk and flour and beat just until incorporated and batter is smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325°F/165ºC. Lightly grease 20-cm/8-inch round springform pan with butter, and line bottom with parchment paper.

Whisking the dry ingredients is easier than sifting them
In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Set aside.

In mixer bowl, beat butter with both sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla until blended. Add egg, and beat until well incorporated, and batter is fluffy, about 30 seconds.

Fold the last portion of the flour with a rubber spatula into the batter
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until mostly combined, then add 1/2 of the evaporated milk, and mix until just blended. Repeat this step by adding another 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by remaining milk (beat only 15 seconds between additions).

After all milk has been added, beat on medium speed a few seconds to make sure batter is smooth. Then fold in last of the flour mixture with a rubber spatula, until combined.

Spoon dollops of cream cheese mixture over the cake bottom
Transfer cake batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Spoon dollops of cream cheese mixture over cake batter, then gently distribute it with a wet rubber spatula.

Finally, scatter cooled apples in even layer over cream cheese.

Top cream cheese layer evenly with the cooked apples
Bake until cake is still a bit wobbly in the center, 45-50 minutes.

Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool completely in pan, before removing the ring.

It's a keeper! 
Categories: The Bread Feed

Andrew Ross: The Skinny on Gluten (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - October 22, 2015 - 6:02pm

Picture of a gluten window taken in 2013 during Didier Rosada's All about Ciabatta class I am probably the least science-minded person you and I have ever met. Which is kind of silly if you think about it because my own mother had been studying for her doctorate in organic chemistry when she met my father and even though in the end she chose to be a stay-at-home mom, she always kept a warm spot in her heart for the sciences. Not me. Never a fan. Sorry, Mom!
So you won't be surprised to read that I felt a bit nervous reporting on Professor Andrew Ross's lecture on gluten at the Grain Gathering 2015. I listened to his talk. I dutifully looked at the slides. I took notes.
But I wasn't comfortable with what I had jotted down. Not comfortable enough to make a blog post out of it. So I wrote to Andrew Ross, a cereal scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon (as well as a passionate and accomplished baker) and asked him if he would agree to share his talking points. He very kindly forwarded me the text of his whole talk. All direct quotations from his text are in green and between quotation marks. The rest comes from my notes (I am keeping my fingers crossed!).

Gluten has unique functional properties: it traps gas. That's why when bread is baked, you don't get a solid brick. How come?

  • "Gluten is a group of proteins found in the endosperm (floury interior part) of wheat grains. Gluten-like proteins are also found in barely and rye. Wheat includes all types: common hard- grained bread wheats, common soft-grained wheats, einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, and Khorasan, among others." 
  • "The gluten-forming proteins of wheat are made up of two types: gliadins and glutenins."
  • "After the addition of water and mechanical energy to wheat flour to form a dough these proteins combine to form functional gluten. Functional gluten is what gives wheat flour doughs their unique gas holding and viscoelastic properties that lead to leavened breads. Gliadins contribute the flow and glutenins the elastic characteristic of wheat-flour dough." 
  • Gliadin contains amino-acid sequences that are particularly toxic to celiacs.

What are the potential problems related to wheat?
  • Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease): definite
  • Specific wheat allergies: definite
  • Non-celiac wheat sensitivity: fairly certain
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): under challenge
"Although a fairly large segment of the population appears to be avoiding, reducing, or wanting to avoid gluten, even the most ardent science-based advocates of the reality of non-celiac gluten sensitivity estimate its prevalence at 0.63 to 6% of the population."  "Questions arise as to why there has been a documented increase in celiac disease in the last say 50 years, still estimated at about 1% of the population. Some blame has been laid at perceived changes in wheat grain composition independent of changes in other factors in the environment of the western world in the same time period."

Are we eating more gluten?

  • Not really. "US wheat consumption per head was maximum in the years around 1870 to 1900 at around 225 lbs per person per year."

For more info see Consumer Preferences Change Wheat Flour Use

Has gluten concentration increased?
I look at my notes. They read "Nonsense" underlined three times!
  • In this 2012 article, Sapone et al write: "“One possible explanation is that the selection of wheat varieties with higher gluten content has been a continuous process during the last 10,000 years, with changes dictated more by technological rather than nutritional reasons.” According to Andrew Ross, "this piece of speculation" can be challenged by data showing that it is simply not true: Research does not "support the likelihood that wheat breeding has increased the protein content (proportional to gluten content) of wheat in the United States." (Donald Kansarda, Can an Increase in Celiac Disease Be Attributed to an Increase in the Gluten Content of Wheat as a Consequence of Wheat Breeding?, J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Feb 13; 61(6): 1155–1159.) For more info, read Kansarda's whole article.
  • Also, ancient hulled wheats often had a high protein content. 
Is it possible that, as a population, we haven't had enough time to adapt to gluten?
  • It is often asserted that, as a species, we haven't had a chance to adapt to wheat because it has only be introduced in the human diet 10,000 years ago.
  • But then, what to make of milk? "Caucasian humans have adapted to life-long dairy consumption within about the last 7500 years."
    For more info, see Archaeology: The milk revolution, by Andrew Currie
  • Also, cereal grains have been part of our diet for an estimated 23,000 years (wild wheat and barley), and 105,000 years (sorghum).
    For more info, read Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History by H.E. Jacob.
So how did we get to Wheat Belly? 
  • "In Wheat Belly Davis states “[wheat is] an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the '60s and '70s, this thing has many new features nobody told you about, such as there's a new protein in this thing called gliadin. It's not gluten”. This statement is so categorically wrong that it does not dignify a response. However, it has swayed many people."
  • "Others have insisted that the “problems with wheat” stem from the introduction of the short stature wheats in the 1960s." It is true that wheat breeders have thought more about functionality than nutrition for the last 30 years. But coincidence isn't causation as you can easily verify yourself if you google "spurious correlations." Do it, it is hilarious! I just did and discovered for instance that "divorce rate in Florida correlates with per capita consumption of 1% and skim milk (US)". Ha! 
  • Short stature wheats are not new. They have been around for years in Asia and Australia. And kernel composition and straw height are not associated with each other.
If there is a problem with non-celiac wheat sensitivity, is it even gluten?
  • That question is still open to debate. Some researchers think that wheat sensitivity is caused by wheat components other than gluten. Others insist it is gluten. But even the latter say that added together celiac disease, true wheat allergies, and non-celiac wheat (or gluten) affect about 10% of the general population.
 "That leaves 90% of us who might benefit greatly from the consumption of well-fermented mostly whole-wheat products."
  • Non-celiac wheat sensitivity is a more appropriate label than gluten sensitivity.
Are there wheats that function well for bakers and are less likely to trigger celiac disease in susceptible individuals?
  • Einkorn and emmer have a much lower reactivity to celiac disease. 
  • New varieties could be developed with the quality traits we desire but with a lower potential to trigger celiac disease in susceptible people.
  • Strongly recommended reading (open-source download): Kucek, L. K., Veenstra, L. D., Amnuaycheewa, P., & Sorrells, M. E. (2015). A Grounded Guide to Gluten: How Modern Genotypes and Processing Impact Wheat Sensitivity. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14(3), 285-302. 
Kucek (in above article) proposes that long fermentations are beneficial. "However," Andrew Ross says, "I am personally skeptical that the advent of fast-fermented machine-made bread is the culprit leading to the increase in celiac disease. Other factors may be at play. Allergies and many auto-immune diseases not all related to wheat also appear to be increasing. The so-called 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests other factors are primary in the relative increase in auto-immune disorders in the western world."
  • Fructans -which are present in wheat- are part of the fiber composition. For most of us, increased fiber is a good thing, but not for people with low tolerance to fermentation in their gut. Why do people with NCGS report feeling better when eating long-fermented bread
  • Lack of exercise
  • Changes in infant feeding practices
  • Processing techniques
  • Hygiene (too much of it)
  • Light pollution/sleep deprivation
  • Nitrogen content of soil (best driver of protein content in wheat)
In answer to a question, Andrew Ross explains that, as a baker, he too favors long fermentations: he preferments 15% of his flour in the starter for 12 to 16 hours, adds the other 85% of the flour, mixes the dough and lets it proof for 3.5 hours, then divides and shapes and let it proof again for 1 to 2 hours. And to conclude he adds: "Despite my interpretation of the literature that modern wheats are perfectly safe for the grand majority of the population, it may a defendable hypothesis that older heritage varieties do have advantages over more recent high yielding wheats in terms of mineral nutrition and aspects of flavor and aroma. That is a whole other argument."

My most heartfelt thanks to Professor Ross for sharing his talking points. I have only included a few of his sources but I will gladly email the others to whomever requests them. Most of them are very technical and not necessarily available outside research libraries. A picture of gluten strands kindly contributed by my facebook friend Yohan Ferranta talented baker and baking consultant who lives and works in Spain. This is actually a picture of his levain. Thank you, Yohan!
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

The rope bridge

Farine - October 14, 2015 - 10:13am
Have you ever seen the humongous Ikea poster representing an empty rope bridge over what appears to be a mist-shrouded river? The first time I saw it, I thought it was beautiful. But it soon became so ubiquitous that I now find it too much "in your face" and in fact rather annoying. (The only rope bridge I ever saw and walked myself is the one pictured above during a visit to British Columbia back when we lived in the Northwest.)
Well, yesterday I attended a CASA meeting during which, unexpectedly, the moderator used a lovely little Tibetan bell to call us all to a few minutes of meditation. We were asked to let go of all thoughts, to note and dismiss those which still came up, to pay attention to the muffled sounds of traffic, the creaking of wood floors, the whoosh of water in the pipes, then to let go and mostly focus on our breathing.
The minute I started focusing on my breath, coming in, going out, I felt the sway of the Ikea rope bridge. It had stretched almost to infinity and I couldn't see the end.
Gone were the river and the tree. Gone as well was the mist.
The rope bridge swayed over a bright landscape of stones and sand. The sky was at its most luminous over the horizon where the ropes narrowed to very thin parallel lines and I knew with absolute certainty that Noah and other people I love were on the other side. Not necessarily waiting. But connected. By the rope bridge. By my breathing. By our collective breathing.
I tried to let go of the idea but I couldn't.
I thought of Noah, of breathing. Of how a wretched boy had taken it upon himself to put a stop to the breathing of twenty-six persons who had been very much alive on the morning of December 14, 2012. I felt I was breathing for them. For all the Americans who stop breathing everyday because of gun violence.
I tried to let go of the idea but I couldn't.
The rope bridge kept swaying.
Last week a presidential candidate reportedly said: ""There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking, but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."
Yes, this senseless violence is breathtaking. Literally.
Heartbreaking too. Literally.
I know the candidate has children, I don't know whether or not he has grandkids. If he has, I doubt any of them has been murdered. If it were the case, the media would likely have taken up the story and I strongly doubt that he would have found it in his broken heart to say what he said.
Thankfully most of us don't need to see a once exuberant child forever stilled to feel sorrow and compassion. Most of us have enough imagination to figure out the horror of it.
Whatever our political views, most of us have enough kindness in our hearts to accept the idea that something needs to be done to try and prevent as many senseless deaths as humanly possible.
But guns have become so prevalent that unless the United States as a whole decides to follow Australia's example, gun control may remain an elusive goal for a long time to come. We also know that "fewer than 5 percent of gun crimes are committed by people with mental illness." So what can be done?

Could we agree that reporting what we hear and see could be a start? That prevention could the beginning of an answer? An answer that both proponents and opponents of gun control might accept as middle ground?

Sit comfortably, hold your head straight and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Can you feel the sway of the rope bridge? Now let one thought come your way: would you rather have your child or grandchild on the other side or breathing alongside with you?

Don't dismiss the thought. Let it swell and ebb as you breathe. Let it take hold of you. You can be an agent of change. You can try and change other people's minds and hearts. You can register to vote, show up at the booth and cast your ballot. 

And meanwhile if you see or hear something, please say something, hopeful that some stranger may one day do the same for your kid or grandkid.

The silver bell rang again. I stopped focusing on my breathing. I opened my eyes. The rope bridge was no longer swaying. But I have seen it and I know it is here and I am walking it. So are you.

Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Hazelnut cookies

Farine - October 9, 2015 - 5:26pm
You know how sometimes you set out to make whipped cream and you go for it with such enthusiasm that you get butter? Well, the same thing just happened to me with hazelnuts.
I wanted to make Chocolate and Zucchini's excellent cauliflower soup with hazelnuts and turmeric which I have made several times in the past. It is the perfect soup for a fall evening. Fragrant, exotic and yet low-key: spices, chicken stock, one onion, a humble cauliflower and a handful of hazelnuts.
When we were kids, hazelnuts abounded in my grandparents's yard in Normandy and in memory of the halcyon days of childhood, I bring back a bag each time I travel to the Northwest. Why, when I lived there, I sometimes even treated myself to hazelnut meal. Which is probably why I have lost my grinding touch.
Anyway I was trying to grind some Northwest hazelnuts into a fine powder as per Clotilde's instructions when, pff! they turned to butter. And chunky butter at that. Not good for my soup!
I tried another batch and this time I got an approximation of what I was looking for. I didn't dare grind the hazelnuts as fine as I would have liked. Still, the soup worked out. But I was left with hazelnut butter.
Too fancy for a weekday breakfast. Instead I made cookies for my one and only, using some of the soft winter wheat flour I buy at my local farmers' market whenever it is available. Butter by mistake, cookies by design! It could have been worse.

Ingredients: (for 18 cookies)
  • 85 g chunky hazelnut butter (any other chunky nut butter would probably do)
  • 80 g Jammu soft winter wheat flour (from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista). I asked the farmer's dad whom I see at the market every week what Jammu refers to and he said it was the place in India the wheat variety originates from. Any whole-wheat pastry flour would work though
  • 40 g honey
  • 6 g hazelnut oil (optional, I think)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Put everything into a bowl
  2. Mix with electric mixer until combined
  3. Roll into a roll
  4. Refrigerate until firm
  5. Slice and bake in 310°F convection oven for 15 minutes.

Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Grain Gathering 2015: Josey Baker and Jonathan Bethany on whole-grain artisan bread for the home baker

Farine - October 8, 2015 - 2:50pm

Bread made with 100% Sonora wheat grown within two hours from San Francisco Unlike many of the classes and demos at the Grain Gathering, the whole-grain for the home baker workshop took place in the lobby kitchen of WSU Extension, a place well-suited for a demo but hardly the perfect stage for a dance. Yet a choreographed performance is what Josey and Jonathan opened with, arguing that were no better introduction to the five golden principles of whole-grain baking than the W.W.W. S. B. pas de deux. Keep in mind the dancing bakers when you bake at home and you'll get a loaf that tastes good, looks beautiful, nourishes the body and consists of sustainable ingredients :
  1. Whole grain
  2. Wild yeast
  3. Wet dough
  4. Slow fermentation
  5. Bold bake

According to the two Js, baking is a subtle thing; the more you do it, the more fulfilling and interesting it becomes. "Even when we practice a lot, it is hard to get exactly the loaf we dream of but it isn't hard to make a very good loaf of bread."
  • Josey Baker started baking in his San Francisco Mission apartment about five years ago when a friend gave him a sourdough starter. Two and a half years later, he opened his own bakery, The Mill. Today he works with a team of ten people and bakes about 350 loaves a day. He is also the author of Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking - Make Awesome Bread - Share the Loaves, a book for novice bakers. Cool writing (surfer dude style), great recipes and lots of useful tips. A great learning tool!
  • Jonathan Bethony is the resident baker at the Bread Lab in Mt Vernon, Washington. He too started as a home baker. He later attended the Professional Training Program at the San Francisco Baking Institute. After graduating he baked with local and legendary bakers in the Bay Area and was introduced by Craig Ponsford to the latest and greatest trends in whole-grain milling and baking. Today he is at the forefront of research and testing and continues to bake with the stars. What a job!
Note: Josey kindly gave me permission to quote directly from his blog for more details about the W.W.W. S. B.  principles. What isn't in green and between quotation marks comes from my notes. Thank you, Josey!

Whole grain
 "i’m definitely not tied to all breads being all whole grain (there’s a different bread for every occasion, and many of our breads are 50% whole grain), but the more bread i make, the more bread that i eat, the more i am drawn to breads that are mostly whole grain. i find these breads both more interesting to make, and more interesting to eat. we’ve been working with a bunch of different grains lately (einkorn, rye, spelt, khorasan, corn, oats, buckwheat, a bunch of different wheats such as Sonora, Cabernet, Cristalo, Bolero, Merica, etc) and i’ve been elated by how much i’ve grown as a baker, and all of the flavors, textures and aromas we’re getting. and we’re just scratching the surface. we’ve got a stone mill in the bakery so that we can control the granulation and then use the flour immediately in whatever fashion we dream up – mixing it directly into dough, or soaking it overnight, or toasting it and mixing with boiling water, or cooking it into a porridge… new possibilities present themselves everyday."

Camas Country Mill whole wheat flour Milling is a subtle process which Josey learned from Dave Miller. Whole-grain flour has the potential for more flavor and aroma. At the bakery, he has baked loaves with flours milled at different dates: all flours performed almost exactly the same but the aromas were much stronger with the freshly milled flours (they drop after two days). He buys Sonora grain at $1.20 lb. Buying the flour would be more affordable. But the quality wouldn't be the same.

Wild yeast
"a sourdough starter is a magical little beast. it’s a combination of flour and water, along with wild yeast and bacteria that are naturally found on flour and in the environment. starters can be tricky to work with, as you need to constantly monitor their development and characteristics in order to make the bread you’re after. in order to keep your sourdough starter alive, you have to “feed” it regularly with flour and water, and by doing this you can coax the wild yeast and bacteria into the proportions that are good for bread baking. most bread is made with yeast that’s made in a factory, and this yeast is created in order to make bread rise quickly and dependably. but it wasn’t always this way – the first breads ever were most definitely “sourdough” – made with a mixture of flour and water that was allowed to ferment by the power of the wild yeast that was lucky enough to find its way into the mixture. the best breads that i’ve ever had have been made using a sourdough culture. if used properly, a sourdough culture yields bread that tastes better, lasts longer, and is healthier for you."
A sourdough starter is very easy to keep alive: leave behind a spoonful, mix in half-a-cup of water, half-a-cup of flour and leave it alone. The starter Josey and Joanathan are using for the demo has sat at room temperature for 16 hours. It has a strong funky aroma.

  • levain is a sourdough preferment. 
  • Josey's levain is at 100% hydration.
  • Take ripe starter, mix in  mix in half-a-cup of water and half-a-cup of flour and leave it sit for 8 to 12 hours. It will show visible signs of activity but it will be very young.
  • When taking the starter straight out of the fridge, it is safer to do two feedings. 
  • If you keep your starter out on the counter, feed it everyday.
Final dough
  • Take some of the levain (size of a big orange), fold in some water at 75 or 80°F to break it up, add whole wheat flour and salt
  • Percentage of levain in final dough: for most whole-wheat doughs, between 8 and 10% by flour weight is good. For rye breads, 30 to 40% levain is what works best (the dough needs to be way more prefermented because you need much more acidity in rye doughs).
  • If you want to cut down on bulk fermentation, adding more preferment is the way to go. That's where a skilled baker can make bread work into his or her schedule.
  • You can do an autolyse (they always do at the bakery).  It helps minimize oxidation by reducing dough manipulation. To do an autolyse, mix flour and water. No salt. Reserve some of the water. Let sit a while. The autolyse can be done overnight. (Beginning home bakers can skip this step if they find it confusing).
  • Twenty minutes after mixing by hand, dip your hands in water and stretch and fold inside the bowl. Rotate the bowl and do it again. Make sure you go all around. Repeat twice at 20-minute intervals.
  • At this stage you can also stick the dough in the fridge overnight.
Wet dough "it’s a lot easier to end up with moist bread if you start out with moist dough. why don’t more people put more water in their bread doughs? because it makes for a dough that is very sticky and tricky to handle, and well, that’s a pain in the ass now isn’t it? this is especially true if machines are dividing the dough, or shaping it into loaves. only the sensitive human hand can handle dough like this, and even then, it takes hundreds, thousands of loaves to get the hang of shaping “high hydration” dough consistently. most breads out there have 60-70g of water for every 100g of flour. our breads have between 75-125g of water for every 100g of flour, and this totally depends on the particular flour of a given bread. we aim for a dough that is fully hydrated and yields a bread that has a moist and supple crumb."
Fully hydrating the flour is the goal: not using much water makes the dough easier to handle but it doesn't make for good bread. You have to try and find for yourself how much water to use. At the bakery, they hydrate the Sonora flour at 110%. They started off hydrating the einkorn at 85% but it was too much. They now hydrate it at 75%. Hydration varies for every gain. Trial and error is key!
  • A wet dough is going to be tricky and sticky, difficult to work with. A very wet dough wants to spread out. Sometimes it needs the support of a pan. 
  • If using heavily chlorinated water, let the water sit a bit before mixing so that the chlorine has a chance to evaporate.
Slow fermentation "good things take time, didn’t your gramma teach you that? the flavors and textures of a long-fermented loaf are just flat out better than those of a short-fermented one. the life cycle for most of our breads goes something like this: our sourdough culture hangs out for 20-24 hours before being mixed into dough, our dough relaxes for 3-4 hours before being shaped into loaves, our loaves chill out for 14-18 hours before being baked into bread. so our bread dough has matured over a couple of days before it’s baked into bread, which gives the yeast and bacteria of our sourdough culture time to perform their magic: producing the perfect mix of acid, alcohol and gas to make good bread."
With rye bread you can go faster (there is more preferment in the dough). All other breads at the ferment for a total of 36 to 48 hours (most of that time in the fridge): at the bakery, they don't use a starter but old dough kept in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • With commercial yeast, it is even more important to slow down the fermentation: use a tiny pinch of yeast and let the douhg sit at room temperature
  • Rye flour has a higher enzymatic activity: if you add 5 to 10% of rye to your dough, it speeds up things.
Bold bake "when a loaf goes into the oven it is the moment of truth – did we make the right decisions over the last 48 hours? and so begins the waiting game for that loaf to complete its transformation. you can’t rush this phase of the process, just like every other one. we bake our breads anywhere from 30-120 minutes, depending on the size and type. regardless, we bake each loaf till it’s crust is dark and substantial and its insides are fully cooked. folks occasionally point out that we burnt our bread. while i admit that our loaves are significantly darker than those from most bakeries, i also stand by the flavors and textures created by the bold bake, and encourage critics to employ their taste buds."
  • It is best for the home baker to bake in a Dutch oven
  • Pre-heat the Dutch oven at 475°F for 45 minutes
  • Slash the loaf
  • Bake for 20 min with the lid on. If you leave the lid on for too long, you won't get the same color and crust and the crust might be leathery.
  • Bake uncovered for another 25 minutes. Check the bread and if not dark enough, give it another few minutes.
  • The best spot in the oven is usually the middle.
Further tips for the home baker:

  • Go nice and gentle on the shaping (go for air-shaping if there is no space to work).
  • Let the bulk-fermented dough sit 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature. If cold, let it rest one hour.
  • Lightly flour the top of the dough so that it isn't sticky and dust the bench (at the bakery, Josey uses only water on the bench because the dough is a really nice mixture of flour and water and all that flour has fermented and he doesn't want unfermented flour in his dough.)
  • Flip the dough upside down. Gently grab the side nearest to you, lift the dough off the table. You are not pulling, just lengthening. Put it back on the table and fold the dough in your hands two-thirds of the way up the loaf. Grab the top, stretch it upward and fold it about two thirds down the loaf.
  • Rotate 90° and fold the dough down half-way, then fold it half-way again. 
  • Seal with the heel of your hands.
  • Flour the basket. If the basket isn't lined, dredge the bread in rice flour. 
  • At this point, you can stick the bread in the fridge after one hour and let it sit there for 6 hours, then bake it straight out of the fridge.
  • If you don't need to use the fridge, let it rest about 3 hours at room temperature.
  • If the dough is over-hydrated or over-fermented, then slashing is challenging. It feels violent. You have to commit to it. If not, you are not going to get the loaf's full potential.
That's it, readers! The two Js didn't give out any formula. They know that as long as we bake WHOLE, WILD, WET, SLOW and BOLD, we'll end up with good bread.
After 20 minutes
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Stuff happens.

Farine - October 3, 2015 - 12:50pm
Indeed it does. And when it happens to strangers that's all it is. Stuff. The papers are full of it everyday. In the words of Marcel Proust,  "that abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don't even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait."
Because of the three-hour time difference between Connecticut and Washington State where we then lived, the morning Sandy Hook happened, I was precisely reading the paper and having coffee when my daughter called. It was still dark out but the lamp over the table cast a golden glow all around the kitchen. I don't remember anything of what I read. It was probably just stuff. Happening to strangers. Murders, fights, plane crashes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, hurricanes. Who knows? Regular stuff. Sad but part of life. For other people. Not me.
My daughter was so distraught that I had trouble understanding what she was saying. Finally I got it that there was an active shooter at the elementary school where her three younger kids, my grandkids, were in attendance and that she was rushing back from work to get there. Shock set in.
She said she would call back as soon as she could. I rushed to wake up my husband and went to the computer for live updates. I found still pictures of the school with police cars parked outside. Later I saw a video of kids being evacuated. I thought I saw the twins. I worried about Sophia. The news from my daughter were more and more anguished. The girls had come out but not Noah. It took a long time before they knew for sure. The most horrible hours of their lives. And ours.
Just stuff.
I know we can't be distraught about everything that happens in the world. There has to be a buffer between us and the tragedies the papers are full of and the truth is there are some things we can do nothing about.

But there are some things each of us can do.
  • We can elect people who get it. People with common sense and a conscience. We can establish a list of priorities and make sure we vote for people who share them. In terms of the availability of high-velocity arms, I find it hard to believe that the founding fathers were for unregulated access to 21st-century weapons of war.  Adam Gopnik makes the case that the Second Amendment is in fact a gun-control amendment. Read the article to the end. The last sentence is a call to action.
  • But it might not be enough. According to How they got their guns, an article in today's New York Times, "criminal histories and documented mental health problems did not prevent at least eight of the gunmen in 14 recent mass shootings from obtaining their weapons, after federal background checks led to approval of the purchases of the guns used."
  • Another thing we can do then is act preventively by working towards putting in place a reporting system so that each and everyone of us knows whom to call if we hear or read threatening statements or comments. It might not always be enough and it would need to be thoughtfully put together to filter out pranks and baseless denunciations. But it would be a start.
And as the grandmother of a shooting victim, a start is all I am asking for. The start of a conversation. In each and every neighborhood, each and every county, each and every State and at the national level. Yes, stuff happens. People lose it. But if you lose it and go on a rampage and all you have at your disposal is a bicycle chain, a baseball bat or a knife or even a .22 rifle you cannot kill dozens of people in a couple of minutes.
Some countries have taken drastic measures after carnages such as the ones in Aurora, in Sandy Hook, in Charleston or two days ago at Umpqua College (and many other places I can't possibly list here.) It is hard to believe that our country, the United States, the land of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, finds itself paralyzed and unable to devise ways to better protect its citizens.
I believe that most people are good. I also believe that some are terribly misguided and some are hopeless sociopaths. We can't protect our kids and ourselves against everyone and everything. But if we get together in good faith, linked across the political spectrum by the strong desire to do better than we have done so far, we may make our country a safer place to live.
Stuff happens. Until it happens to someone you love, it remains stuff. Next year we'll be electing our new president. Republican or Democrat, he or she will the president of all of us. I'd like to think that stuff will sometimes keep our president awake at night, tossing and turning and thinking hard about better ways to save us from ourselves.

Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

What will it take for us to actually care?

Farine - October 2, 2015 - 8:09am
That's the central question. Maybe the only one. And maybe the answer is that nothing ever will. If the massacre of twenty little kids and six educators going peacefully about their school day in a quaint New England village wasn't enough, what hope can we reasonably hold that anybody's freedom to survive will one day be more important to us than unfettered access to lethal weapons, important enough that we actually stand up and do something about it?
Today we are in mourning not only for the innocent victims of yesterday's Oregon shooting but for their families and friends. Their world has catapulted into darkness. With time, light may shine again but it will never be the same. A black hole will remain. A pulsating void, expanding and shrinking over and over, but ever present, casting its shadow over every day of their lives.
People ask me how many grandchildren I have and I always want to say "nine." Because Noah is still my grandchild and I still can't accept that he is gone. But I never answer "nine" because if questions are asked (where do they all live? how old are they?), then I have to explain and I can't always. What happened to Noah, to us, can never be the subject of small talk.
So I say "eight" but it feels both like a lie and a betrayal. I don't want to constantly talk about our loss, or rather it is the only thing I really want to talk about but I can't. So I don't. I say "eight" and each time I do, I feel that Noah recedes a little further. Pain is a constant.
Yesterday ten families woke up whole as we did on the morning of December 14, 2012. By night time they had been brutally amputated as we were. I know first-hand how they feel. Why is it that President Obama gets it and Congress doesn't? What will it take for our elected officials to feel enough of our pain to actually take measures to minimize the possibility of such massacres?
Is compassion a word we no longer understand? A word we no longer teach our kids?

A friend just share this on Facebook: Five things you can do about gun violence. Please read and share. Thank you.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed
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