Revisiting No-Knead Bread, This Time With More Whole Grain Flour

I’ve been playing around with making a quick, whole grain, no-knead bread which is an oxymoron given that it ferments for about 20 hours. It’s the whole wheat flour that’s throwing me off. Some of my experiments weren’t even edible … too dry, not enough salt, crust like rock. To reduce waste I’ve been making smaller loaves. I’m down to just a cup of flour for my experiments.

1 cup flour (3/4 whole wheat, 1/4 white)
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

You can view the no-knead technique here. There are three essential steps: 1. Mix the ingredients. 2. After 18-20 hours, shape dough. 3. After 1-2 hours, bake.

Some rules-of-thumb I’m learning:

  • Use about half the amount of water to flour, a 1:2 ratio. If you’re using whole wheat flour, you’ll need more water. That little bit of white flour does make a holier, chewier loaf.
  • Use about 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of flour.
  • It’s the long, slow fermentation that creates flavor. By long I mean a minimum of 12 hours. By slow I mean a room temperature in the upper 60s or low 70s. If I make this in the summer I may put it in the fridge overnight.
  • This exact (1 cup flour) dough makes a great pizza crust. I rolled it out and baked it on a hot pizza stone – no topping but it made a great flatbread!
  • The hotter the oven, the better. You get better spring. I’m now using 520 degrees.
  • Letting the dough proof on parchment and gently lowering it into the hot pot is easier but it doesn’t produce a high, fissured loaf. Plopping it over into the pot is better, albeit messier.
  • Don’t cut into it when it comes out of the oven. Wait at least 30 minutes for the crust flavor to develop, preferably one hour. (It’s hard!)

This is one of my one-cup-flour loaves. It’s small, maybe 4 inches across, like a kaiser roll. I’m happy with the taste and the texture: moist and chewy. Now I have to work on scaling it up. Some of my 3-cup-flour loaves formed great fissures. I’m hoping to get there again. Will post more as I experiment.

Plastics, Which Contain Endocrine Disruptors, Found In Bottled Water

A new analysis found that nearly all bottled water contains tiny, and sometimes not-so-tiny pieces of plastic.

Plastic Particles Found In Bottled Water, BBC, 15 March 2018

Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at the university, conducted the analysis and told BBC News: “We found [plastic] in bottle after bottle and brand after brand.

“It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society, and it’s pervading water – all of these products that we consume at a very basic level.”

The BBC article said:

Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm.

This is not true. Of course there is evidence of harm. This was either sloppy journalism or deliberate. When big companies control media, media have to be careful what they say, who they criticize. This is one reason I don’t accept ads. I want to be able to speak freely.

From NPR: Study: Most Plastics Leach Hormone-Like Chemicals. Hormone-like chemicals are also called endocrine disruptors (EDs). EDs are a problem, even at very small doses. I wrote about this back in 2015 when the Endocrine Society came out with their watershed report:

Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement On Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, The Endocrine Society, 28 September 2015

The full Scientific Statement represents a comprehensive review of the literature on seven topics for which there is strong mechanistic, experimental, animal, and epidemiological evidence for endocrine disruption, namely: obesity and diabetes, female reproduction, male reproduction, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer, thyroid, and neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems. EDCs such as bisphenol A, phthalates, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diethyl ethers, and dioxins were emphasized because these chemicals had the greatest depth and breadth of available information.

Their bibliography includes over 1300 articles.

They said:

Like hormones, [endocrine disrupting chemicals] exhibit complex dose-response curves, and they can act at extremely low concentrations.

From the NPR article:

Concerns about plastics can’t be solved by worried consumers at the checkout counter. It’s a problem for government.

I want to say I’m glad we have an EPA to study and regulate this.

Sarcopenia. It’s complex.

Just a quick comment about this article, since I’ve been reading about it – age-related muscle loss.
Muscle Loss In Old Age Linked To Fewer Nerve Signals, BBC, 12 March 2018

The article says that people lose muscle as they age. Check. And it says that people lose nerves in their legs as they age. Interesting. But it does not say that being fit or exercising prevents that nerve loss, only that it can help, after-the-fact:

“Surviving nerves can send out new branches to rescue muscles.”

So, we’re back to losing muscle (and nerves) as we age and not fully understanding why.

As people get older, their leg muscles become smaller and weaker, leading to problems with everyday movements such as walking up stairs or getting out of a chair.

It is something that affects everyone eventually, but why it happens is not fully understood.

Although it is not known why connections between muscles and nerves break down with age, finding out more about muscle loss could help scientists find ways of reversing the condition in the future.

Exercise is just one part of the equation. As I’ve discovered, exercise cannot by itself stem muscle loss. There are other variables:

1. People have to consume enough calories, and enough nutrients (this becomes more difficult with age).
2. Contrary to popular belief, studies show that eating more protein doesn’t seem to help.
3. There has to be the right mix of hormones … growth, sex.
4. A state of low-level metabolic acidosis (the result of a diet that is net acid-forming) contributes to muscle and bone loss.

This BBC article raises the issue of nerves. Sarcopenia, it’s complex.

What Is Sarcopenia?

I ran across this overview of sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. In one short paragraph (I broke it up into 5 paragraphs to isolate the kernels) Evans describes what the aging body is up against.

What Is Sarcopenia?, William J. Evans, Journals of Gerontology, November 1995

Here’s the Abstract:

Advancing adult age is associated with profound changes in body composition, the principal component of which is a decrease in skeletal muscle mass. This age-related loss in skeletal muscle has been referred to as sarcopenia.

Age-related reduction in muscle is a direct cause of the age-related decrease in muscle strength. Muscle mass (not function) appears to be the major determinant of the age- and sex-related differences in strength. This relationship is independent of muscle location (upper vs lower extremities) and function (extension vs flexion).

Reduced muscle strength in the elderly is a major cause for their increased prevalence of disability. With advancing age and extremely low activity levels seen in the very old, muscle strength is a critical component of walking ability. The high prevalence of falls among the institutionalized elderly may be a consequence of their lower muscle strength.

Daily energy expenditure declines progressively throughout adult life. In sedentary individuals, the main determinant of energy expenditure is fat-free mass, which declines by about 15% between the third and eighth decade of life, contributing to a lower basal metabolic rate in the elderly. Data indicate that preservation of muscle mass and prevention of sarcopenia can help prevent the decrease in metabolic rate.

In addition to its role in energy metabolism, skeletal muscle and its age-related decline may contribute to such age-associated changes as reduction in bone density, insulin sensitivity, and aerobic capacity. For these reasons, strategies for preservation of muscle mass with advancing age and for increasing muscle mass and strength in the previously sedentary elderly may be an important way to increase functional independence and decrease the prevalence of many age-associated chronic diseases.

People with sarcopenia have a higher risk of falls. That reminded me of this… Hillary Clinton is in India promoting her book, “What Happened”. Yahoo News included this video of Clinton stumbling on stairs while there. I’m not saying she has sarcopenia. I don’t know. But this is the kind of fall (or would have been) that lands people in the hospital with a broken hip. That’s what sarcopenia can do. She is fortunate she had a helper.

We Should Stop Promoting Two Food Systems

If you can’t see the tweet below, go to the Cleveland Clinic’s article at When Going Organic Matters Most For You, Pesticide Problems And Personal Preferences.

I just want to point out, again, the danger of creating a parallel food system, a “clean” one (to use the Cleveland Clinic’s words) for the elite and a “dirty” one for everyone else. The Cleveland Clinic says you don’t want to eat the “dirty” food because it contains “unwanted pesticides.” Right. So people in hospitals and care homes and schools; people who depend on food stamps and meals-on-wheels; people who live in food deserts or who cannot afford the premium cost of “clean” food … they all get to eat the dirty food. Who cares?

No two food systems. No “organic” and “conventional” food. One food for everyone. If we did this, you can believe all food would be clean!

Too Much Protein Contributes To Muscle And Bone Loss

Some great information here:

Diet, Evolution And Aging–the Pathophysiologic Effects Of The Post-Agricultural Inversion Of The Potassium-To-Sodium And Base-To-Chloride Ratios In The Human Diet, European Journal of Nutrition, November 2001

From the Abstract:

Theoretically, we humans should be better adapted physiologically to the diet our ancestors were exposed to during millions of years of hominid evolution than to the diet we have been eating since the agricultural revolution a mere 10,000 years ago, and since industrialization only 200 years ago. Among the many health problems resulting from this mismatch between our genetically determined nutritional requirements and our current diet, some might be a consequence in part of the deficiency of potassium alkali salts (K-base), which are amply present in the plant foods that our ancestors ate in abundance, and the exchange of those salts for sodium chloride (NaCl), which has been incorporated copiously into the contemporary diet, which at the same time is meager in K-base-rich plant foods.

Deficiency of K-base in the diet increases the net systemic acid load imposed by the diet. We know that clinically-recognized chronic metabolic acidosis has deleterious effects on the body, including growth retardation in children, decreased muscle and bone mass in adults, and kidney stone formation, and that correction of acidosis can ameliorate those conditions. Is it possible that a lifetime of eating diets that deliver evolutionarily superphysiologic loads of acid to the body contribute to the decrease in bone and muscle mass, and growth hormone secretion, which occur normally with age? That is, are contemporary humans suffering from the consequences of chronic, diet-induced low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis?

Our group has shown that contemporary net acid-producing diets do indeed characteristically produce a low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis in otherwise healthy adult subjects, and that the degree of acidosis increases with age, in relation to the normally occurring age-related decline in renal functional capacity.

Earlier studies estimated dietary acid load from the amount of animal protein in the diet, inasmuch as protein metabolism yields sulfuric acid as an end-product. In cross-cultural epidemiologic studies, Abelow found that hip fracture incidence in older women correlated with animal protein intake, and they suggested a causal relation to the acid load from protein. Those studies did not consider the effect of potential sources of base in the diet. We considered that estimating the net acid load of the diet (i. e., acid minus base) would require considering also the intake of plant foods, many of which are rich sources of K-base, or more precisely base precursors, substances like organic anions that the body metabolizes to bicarbonate.

In following up the findings of Abelow et al., we found that plant food intake tended to be protective against hip fracture, and that hip fracture incidence among countries correlated inversely with the ratio of plant-to-animal food intake.

These findings support affirmative answers to the questions we asked above. … A more difficult question is what level of acidosis is acceptable. We argue that any level of acidosis may be unacceptable from an evolutionarily perspective, and indeed, that a low-grade metabolic alkalosis may be the optimal acid-base state for humans.

So … Too much animal protein and not enough plant food result in a low-grade metabolic acidosis which contributes to osteoporosis, decline in muscle mass, kidney stones, reduction in growth hormone, and possibly decline in renal function – all of these being more profound as we age (because the kidney becomes less effective at buffering).

Using bone as an example … Look at this graph. People with the lowest veg/animal protein ratio (low veg intake, high animal intake) had the most fractures. People with the highest ratio (high veg intake, low animal intake) had fracture rates approaching zero.

And this about muscle loss:

Metabolic acidosis induces nitrogen wasting in part by directly increasing the rate of protein degradation in skeletal muscle, without commensurately increasing the rate of protein synthesis [75,76].

I liked this next part. Your physician might say, “What? No, your acid-base is fine. Within range.” But these authors say if you’re at the acid end of a normal range, you’re still doing harm:

Although the degree of diet-induced, age-amplified metabolic acidosis may be mild as judged by the degree of perturbation of blood acid-base equilibrium from currently accepted norms, its pathophysiologic significance cannot be judged exclusively from the degree of that perturbation. Adaptations of the skeleton, skeletal muscle,kidney and endocrine systems that serve to mitigate the degree of that perturbation impose a cost in cumulative organ damage that the body pays out over decades of adult life [89,90].

I don’t think this article will appeal to many people. It’s not just the language; it’s that it’s not intuitive. People ask … “How can it be that high-protein diets lead to muscle loss, and not muscle gain?” It can. And these authors did a great job of explaining.

Making Bread On A Snow Day

A shot from yesterday morning. We did get a few more inches, but the power stayed on. I baked bread.

This was the recipe I followed, for technique, not for amounts. For that I returned to Jim Lahey’s original recipe. I used 3 cups of whole wheat flour instead of Lahey’s white flour.

I appreciated that she was slower and more methodical than Lahey. Granted, she wasn’t running a bakery.

I didn’t care for the result. Too dry and not enough salt. I used to make no-knead bread a lot about 10 years ago, so I’m rusty. Next time I’ll substitute some white flour for the whole wheat and add more salt. I also think our house was too cold for good yeast growth. Maybe I’ll put it in the oven overnight.