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Still baking bread - using the BBQ over summer

As you know, I decided I wanted to stop buying bread, and back in April I started baking my own.  I dabbled in sourdough in May and then found a great "soaked" flour recipe that worked and I've stuck with it ever since.  We haven't brought any bread since April!  I use a bread maker to mix and rise the bread, and over winter I was using the woodstove to bake the bread.  I had got that method perfected, but now its warmed up too much to light the fire inside, so I had to find another way to cook my bread.

eight acres: baking bread
BBQ bread
I tried the breadmaker again and I just wasn't happy with it.  The bread doesn't seem to cook properly and the tin is such a stupid size, you end up with weird tall slices of bread that don't fit in the toaster!  Next we tried the BBQ (a Weber BBQ that we use all summer to cook everything from sausages to roast, pizza and chocolate pudding).  I say "we" because the BBQ is husband-territory.  Not that I don't know how to use it, but I'm not really allowed to use it, if Peter is home, he likes to be in charge of the BBQ, which is fine, because he does a very good job and we don't make many dishes in summer with everything cooked in the BBQ instead.  I burnt the first loaf of BBQ bread, so Peter took over and got the settings just right for the second loaf.

eight acres: baking bread
A loaf fresh from the BBQ
The main thing that I like about the recipe that I use is that it only uses simple ingredients:
  • flour
  • seeds
  • water
  • honey
  • kefir
  • yeast
  • salt
Most recipes or pre-mixes for the bread machine use "bread improver".  This may sound innocuous, but it is actually a mix of emulsifiers, enzymes and food acids, that speed-up the process of bread-making, so that its more convenient for a factory.  Traditionally, before bread improver, bread making took 12-24 hours, which is the time I use in my recipe for the flour and wet ingredients to "soak" before adding the yeast, but with bread improver you can make bread in just 2-3 hours.  Bread improvers are all different, so you need to check the ingredients list, some are worse for you than others.  Some contain things like sodium metabisulphate (which I use to clean the beer fermenters) and soy flour.  Ascorbic acid (synthetic vitamin C) and citric acid are also common ingredients, see wikipedia.

Its not so much the actual ingredients that I want to avoid, but the fact that they are used to speed up the bread making process worries me.  I wonder if the 2-3 hours + extra ingredients is really enough to process the proteins in the flour to a form that we can digest, or does it just diguise a shortcut by making the bread light without really processing the proteins?  I would rather let my dough have the extra time to soak (plus use kefir to add enzymes).  As long as my dough has at least 12 hours to soak, it always comes out of the tin light and fluffy, as if a bread improver had been used.  I do remember the heavy quick loaves that I used to make without bread improver, the soaking time seems to make all the difference to the bread texture.  

It does require some extra organising to soak the flour, but really no extra time, just more time between steps.  I prepare the flour/water/kefir mix in the bread maker tin in about 10 minutes, either the evening or morning before baking the bread.  Straight after work I add the salt and yeast and start the bread maker program, which takes only a few minutes (I have saved a program that kneeds and rises the bread, but stops before the final rise).  When the bread maker beeps I turn the dough into another tin to rise further for 1 hour, and then into the oven or BBQ, and back out after 1 hour, that's really only another few minutes of work and bread is out of the oven before bedtime.  Overall, its no quicker to add the bread improver and have the bread done in 2-3 hours, as long as you realise 12-24 hours before you need the next loaf!

As far as the yeast goes, I can't find any solid evidence that yeast in cooked bread is bad for you.  The yeast is killed in the baking process, so there's no way it can contribute to intestinal yeast problems.  I think the main problem that people have with yeast bread is the short-cut quick processing time, rather than the yeast, but that is just my theory.  I would love to perfect sourdough, it is far more self-sufficient than buying yeast!  But at the moment I don't have time to experiment and my initial efforts did not taste good, so I will stick with this recipe that works until I have a chance to play around with sourdough.

What do you think?  Is short-cut bread the problem?  Do you make your own?


  1. I stopped baking sourdough because I think I have gluten issues. It certainly slows me down and I get muddled concentration whenever I eat it.

    But I gave it up to see if I was gluten sensitive. Now I realise I have issues, I'm back into making sourdough again for my family. I also like the thought if I ever had a hypo (diabetes) and I have no fruit in the house to counter it, I'd rather eat a slice of homemade bread, than any other convenience carbohydrate.

    I'm totally for slow made bread. It is all about the proteins and what human biology is able to digest. The wrong sorts become toxic to our system. My main concern is the the wheat used nowadays, isn't really natural any more. A lot is genetically modified, so I try to buy organic flour instead.

    Ancient cultures have been eating bread for centuries (without ill effects) yet they all had the process of soaking everything and allowing the dough to leaven over days. Conventional yeast may be cooked out from the baking process, but wouldn't that also be true for the keffir?

    From my very limited understanding of following nutrition, it's what the yeast or keffir does to the proteins in the rest of the ingredients, that determines the digestibility in the final product. I wouldn't know if conventional yeast is good or bad, but I certainly found that I could eat sourdough with less problems.

    It's a very fascinating subject though.

    I've got a few tips with sourdough making if you ever decide to try again. I find when I have a break and come back to it, I learn something new I missed the first time.

    In this case, I've discovered that sourdough starter is more successful the more you bake with it. Making one loaf a week, wasn't keeping my starter fed enough. When I was baking every second day however, my starter would give me good rise every time.

    I used to keep my starter in the fridge, and while it's good if you're going to take a break (and you don't want to kill it) I found unless it was the middle of summer with very warm temps, it was slow to respond to feeding. So my bread was that little bit less fluffy and more like pasty dough.

    I find caring for my starter is like taking care of a baby (or in your case, calves or chicks). There's a routine you always try to maintain, but on the odd occasion the babies or calves needs change, you've got to know how to respond.

    You're right, conventional yeast is more consistent and convenient in that regard, and it's better than eating store bought bread. There's something about sourdough however, that's addictive. I don't just mean the taste, but the process of making it too. There's a mini science to it all. :)

  2. We are supposed to be getting cold weather next week so it may be time to make some bread, too hot this week as we are having summer in fall for the moment. I keep saying that I am going to make one of those dome shaped outdoor wood ovens for cooking bread and pizza in the summer but it hasn't got on my list of things to do.

  3. I got my kefir grains in the mail yesterday - thank you! It is busy growing (hopefully ) on the kitchen counter at home. One of the nicest breads I ever made was based on oatmeal that had been soaked overnight in yoghurt. I really have to get the recipe out again. I dont make bread often enough to keep sourdough alive, but every time I try a long fermenting bread recipe I really like it. It does add something to the flavour and texture.

  4. We go through a large loaf of bread a day, I bake sourdough bread daily for our family.
    It's a matter of finding a routine that works for you, I would like to share mine.
    Around 7am around breakfast time, I combine: 1tsp salt, 500ml cold water, 250gr starter, 400gr wholemeal or rye flour and 250gr bread flour.
    Put all in the bread maker to knead, without using the rising function. Don't forget to feed the starter. Around 3.30pm the dough has doubled in size, just a quick punch back in the bread maker, then I put it in a bread tin. By the time I start making dinner I put on the oven on 180degrees and bake the bread (starting in a cold oven) in 50minutes.
    Over Summer I keep the starter in the fridge, just feed it every day. In Winter I keep it on the kitchen bench, I will also use warm water for the dough.
    It won't take more then twice 5 minutes to make it,sourdough is a lot more forgiving then yeast, if your an hour or two late the bread is still fine. While the ingredient list is a lot shorter, you can add and replace to suit the day.
    Adding sultanas and cinnamon, or mashed pumpkin with cumin seeds, or just a mixture of seeds (pepitas, sunflower, sesame,...) or adding some yoghurt.

  5. My lack of organisational skills is that we have sour dough sporadically until I kill it. I do all my bread baking with spelt bread as we have members of the family who can't tolerate wheat. We also do lots of slow rising and this really does combat any yeast problems.The stuff in the supermarket doesn't come any where near the goodness and nutrition you get from baking your own bread. Well done in baking bread so long without a break .

  6. Chris I'm with you, making sour dough is addictive! I also find that if I eat my "normal" bread (home made with yeast, but not the long ferment) I have tummy issues, so I'm obviously reactive to gluten. Kim ( hubby) doesn't like sourdough, so I have to make 2 loaves! Sourdough is all about creating a habit I think but it's hard for me to look after my starter when one loaf lasts 2weeks, so I find I have varying results.

  7. Thanks for all the comments! I'll get back to sourdough one day... probably when I run out of yeast!

  8. I really need to try this soaked recipe of yours. I'm sure I have that ebook somewhere. TIme to look it up!

  9. let me know what you think Emma...

  10. Someone else that bakes bread in the bbq! We, too, have a woodstove that we use over Tassies long winter and we cook on a gas stovetop and we use the gas bbq for summer. I bake our bread in the bbq and have done for a while now. I love your recipe and will give it a try ASAP. Cheers for sharing in such a wonderfully detailed way :)


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