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Friday, May 30, 2008

Diabetes, Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat

If you wanted to lower your blood sugar and insulin, what would you do? Eat less sugar and starch? Sounds logical. That would mean you'd be getting more of your calories from protein and fat, since you wouldn't be getting as many of them from carbohydrates.

The interesting thing is that "Fish, beef, chicken, and eggs had larger insulin responses per gram than did many of the foods consisting predominantly of carbohydrate."1. I was surprised when I read about this in the FanaticCook blog, written by an actual nutritionist. In later posts, she dug up more references to studies done on how eating fat affects insulin levels. Turns out, a high-carbohydrate diet was better for insulin levels than a high-fat diet.2 And, as the FanaticCook pointed out, a low-fat vegan diet was better than the AHA-recommended diet for the blood glucose and blood lipids in a 100-patient study.3

The Atkins diet has also been shown to improve blood glucose compared to the average American diet. But studies indicate that the "good carb" diet might do an even better job.2 It would be interesting to see the comparison in a long-term study.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No-knead Bread Fifth Attempt -- qualified success

Last Thursday, following my Fourth Attempt, which I'll call a qualified success (it had considerable sourdoughy character but was as heavy as a rock), I saved a 2-oz lump of the dough to try again. Based on my experience and that of others, I decided my dough was simply overproofed and overhandled. I'm a bit rough on the dough, and I don't think these slack doughs take particularly well to that. So I decided to make a less wet dough. I started with:

2 oz leftover from the fourth attempt
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

and let it sit until it was bubbly, after which I added

3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Bread Flour
1 1/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

That's a total of 4 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water, for a dough that was still quite slack but not nearly as wet as the no-kneads I have made so far. A bit later, I realized I had forgotten the salt..., so I added

1 teaspoon salt

And I had to knead that in. I did the kneading with a silicon spatula in the tupperware "rising bowl".

I IMMEDIATELY put the dough in a sealed tupperware in the refrigerator and ignored it until Sunday evening. By the time I had time to think about it, it was 8pm. The dough looked somewhat risen and bubbly, with a slightly leather skin. When I tipped it, it slid a little, displaying the strings in all of its bubbles. I used a tea towel in a bowl as a bread form, gently pulled the leather top skin of the dough all the way around the ball of dough, and formed a kind of seam at the bottom, which I gently nestled in the oat-strewn, tea towel-lined bottom of my bread form bowl, and covered it with a damp tea towel. By 10:30, the ball had risen, though it hadn't quite doubled. But I had to bake this thing so I could get to bed. Following Jim Lahey's advice, I dumped the thing into the preheated casserole (500F), seam side up, covered the casserole, baked, covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered and baked for 30 minutes more at 425F. I used a thermometer to tell me when the center was 205F, at which time I took it out and went to bed. I didn't stay around to listen to it crackling. And I didn't take any pictures.

This loaf was a success. In the oven it rose up in the casserole, pulled away from the sides, and developed a nice rustic crust. Monday morning, I used it for sandwiches. It had a nice sourdough flavor and a crunchy, chewy crust. I thought the interior was a little on the damp side, though the crust had gone slightly past medium brown.

I recrisped the bread in a 350F oven for 15 minutes to serve with soup Monday night, after which it was pretty much gone. Monday night, I made a loaf of my standby bread with buttermilk for the rest of the week.

What went well:

  • The slightly drier dough was easier to handle and harder to deflate
  • The cold, stiff dough was also less delicate than a warmer, softer dough
  • I saved a piece of the fragrant but over-proofed dough for its sourdough organisms.
  • I did all of the first rising in the refrigerator
  • I didn't try to make fiddly little rolls out of it

What I want to do differently next time

  • Add the salt before the final addition of flour
  • Allow more time for the dough to warm up so it can rise before baking
  • Remember to turn the oven down to 425 as soon as the bread goes in

Did you notice the part where I saved 2 oz of dough to start the next batch? Neither did I. So I started over, substituting a spoonful of plain yogurt for part of 3/4 cup of water, and a couple spoonfuls of rye flour for part of 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, and adding just a pinch of yeast. After that began to bubble, I added 3/4 cup each of water and flour and put the starter in the fridge to fool with later. Next time, I might feel bold enough to try rolls again

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Friday, May 09, 2008

No-Knead Bread Fourth Attempt: PostScript

No-knead, no-rise bread
I finally baked this bread after a 7-hour rise. If you can call it a rise when the dough just sort of spreads sideways, wets its tea towel, and produces just one blistery bubble under the crust. And no oven spring. See those slash marks? No expansion at all. My verdict is: over-proofed and overworked.

When I started the dough Tuesday a week ago, with only 1 teaspoon of yeast to 6 1/2 cups of flour, fermentation took off like a shot. I should have put that thing right in the refrigerator instead of letting it sit out on the counter for so long. Only 3 days later, the yeast did not have the strength to raise the rolls I made from half of the dough. I figured it was just a case of over handling while I formed the rolls, and not having the time to wait for them to rise.

When I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator yesterday, though, the yeast had had it. The dough had started to separate, and had produced a watery goo at the bottom. I ignored the warning signs, however, and pressed ahead, remixing the dough and pressing out any remaining gas in the process. Which is what lead up to the seven-hour non-rise. Or was it nine hours? I don't recall.

So I saved 2 ounces of that dough, which had a very sour-doughy aroma, mixed it with 3/4 cup each of flour and water and let it sit until it was bubbly. Then I added the rest of my ingredients and I'm going to try it again. Only this time, I forgot the salt. I'll figure it out, and let the dough sit in my refrigerator until Monday at the earliest. Tune in next week for my fifth attempt at "so simple a 4-year old could do it" no-knead bread.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

No-knead Bread Fourth Attempt

I had been burping a Tupperware bowl in my refrigerator for the last 10 days. It's the dough left over from my previous attempt. After considering the advice of an anonymous commenter, I figured I'd minimize handling the dough this time, making a longish loaf instead of rolls. I opened the bowl, noting an appetizingly sourdough-ish aroma, and prepared to quickly and gently get it into a makeshift couche. But I could see that the dough had separated. Even though I'd kept it in a sealed Tupperware, the top was dried and leathery. Below that was a dough-like dough. At the bottom was a gooey batter. ...

I folded and kneaded the sticky mass in the bowl until it seemed homogeneous. So much for gentle handling. I quickly formed two loaves, putting one in a makeshift couche and the other on a teatowel on the counter. I covered them and left them to rise. Here's the one on the counter.

Before the RiseAfter a 4-hour rise

As far as I can tell, the loaf has spread a bit in the middle, swallowed the oats, and wet the teatowel. I know the yeast is not completely dead -- the 2-ounce scrap of dough I saved to start my next batch is making the Tupperware lid bow up. At one time, the yeast was strong and active. That dough once bubbled up and tried to rise out of the bowl. Now, the yeast is feeble. And I squashed all the gas out of the dough just mixing it back together. Should I let it go another couple hours and hope, or put it out of my misery now?

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No-Knead Bread Third Attempt

This time, I decided to try the "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes". The dough is not as wet, so it should be easier to handle. And I wanted to try their approach to creating a more sour dough. After all, it was lacto-fermentation that got me interested in the no-knead breads. What I really wanted was crusty sandwich rolls. And, since my last attempt at sandwich rolls was not exactly what I wanted (extra-dense mini-rolls), I decided to try a different recipe.

So, based on the Artisan Bread In 5 minutes recipe, I tried this:
3 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon granulated yeast
2 teaspoons table salt
4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour

I mixed the ingredients on a Tuesday morning, let the dough sit out all day in a loosely-covered Tupperware bowl, then refrigerated until Friday morning, when I let it warm up a bit.

Then I removed about half, which I then cut into 12 pieces, each just under 2.5 oz, and formed into little 5" loaves on a cornmeal-strewn cookie sheet that I intended to use as a peel, and let them rise for 2 hours.

Only, then didn't turn out looking much like the little loaves I expected. Instead of rising up, they spread out. They looked more like coccodrillo loaves. Only flatter. And, when it came time to slide them off the peel onto the baking stone, they wouldn't slide at all. So I put the entire cookie sheet on top of the baking stone, poured hot water in the brownie pan in the bottom of the oven, and baked them for 15 or 20 minutes, during which time they did not spring up....

They were even more stuck to the cookie sheet afterwards than they had been before. It was quite a job getting them off the cookie sheet. They did not crackle as they cooled. They were on the menu Saturday, when they disappeared quickly, as 2 rolls were required for every sandwich . That's 5 ounces of bread for every sandwich. Which is almost my entire RDA of grain, so it seems a bit inconvenient to eat it all in one meal. Especially after I've already eaten 2 slices of bread for breakfast.

Why don't my no-knead breads rise enough? Here are several possible reasons:

  1. Not enough gluten in my flour mixture -- Unlikely. I use 2/3 King Arthur White Whole Wheat (13.2% protein) and 1/3 King Arthur bread flour (12.8%)
  2. Gluten not well-enough developed. That goopy dough gets very stringy when I tip it. Doesn't that mean the gluten developed?
  3. The slack dough is too soft and fragile. Sounds likely
  4. I drive all the gas out while forming the loaf -- likely
  5. The yeast has used up its food source and doesn't give me much during the final rise
  6. The oven is too hot, preventing a good oven spring -- likely

I started with this comment from Alecto, who has taken to adding wheat gluten to Jim Lahy's no-knead recipe. But I wasn't paying attention. I read some comments at the Chocolate and Zucchini posting on no-knead bread, followed on to another discussion at chowhound, and looked up a lot of facts by searching for dough conditioners, rise, and oven spring. I found out:

  1. People have widely-varying ideas of how heavy to make a cup of flour and
  2. Some bakers like to use a dough enhancer like ascorbic acid
  3. Too little kneading gives a weak and sticky dough, while overworking gives a strong but inelastic dough (Dough and Bread Conditioners); ascorbic acid causes oxidation, leading to more disulfide bonds between gluten molecules (Chemistry and Technology of Cereals )
  4. Prevent sourdough from rising horizontally by kneading more, adding more flour, or adding ascorbic acid (baking911 bread problems)
  5. lauralmay's blog pointed me to a "clarified" recipe for the Jim Lahey bread, in which the water weighs about 80% what the flour weighs, instead of the nearly 95% I had figured. That means that Jim Lahey's one cup of all-purpose flour weighs about 140g, not the 125g given in the USDA database
  6. I figured out that I make a cup of flour a pretty consistent 5.3 oz -- 150g. So my really loose dough must be firmer than Jim Lahey intended.

I have a hard time beleiving I am using TOO MUCH flour. I can believe that I am not stirring enough to start the glutens developing.

Here's my plan for the next loaf (to be baked from the "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes" dough in my fridge)

  • Allow the dough to warm up before shaping it
  • Shape very gently
  • Try a loaf or boule, not rolls (too much handling!)
  • Bake at 425F
  • Slash the loaf

I haven't decided whether I'll bake in a casserole, on the stone, or in a bread pan in a large casserole.

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