Wholemeal, spelt, quinoa and seeds Bread

There is a bread recipe that I put together when I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant. I try to make sure that this brown bread contains all the nutrients that are required for a good development of the baby: essential amino-acids, omega-3, iron, folic acid, and calcium.
So, this is how it goes:
Recipe for 2 loaves of 1lb each :
  • 450g organic wholemeal flour
  • 450g organic spelt flour
  • 100g organic quinoa flour
  • 20g organic oat flakes
  • 50g organic millet
  • 50g organic sunflower seeds
  • 50g organic pumpkin seeds
  • 20g organic hemp seeds
  • 50g organic linseeds
  • 4g sea salt
  • 14g dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon organic honey
  • 300-400g warm water

Mix 7g of yeast with a tablespoon of the wholemeal flour and 100g of warm water. Set aside.

Put the oat flakes and all the seeds in a roasting tray and roast them in a the oven set on high heat for about ten minutes. Set them aside to cool down.

In the bowl of a kenwood chef type of kitchen equipment, put the flours, the salt, the honey, the rest of the yeast and the warm roasted seeds. Set the machine, with the hook, on its minimum speed, allow the dry ingredients to be mixed for 10 seconds.

Then, start to slowly add the warm water. When half of the water has been added, pour the yeast-flour mixture and the rest of the water*. The right consistency is moist and soft but not wet.

When all the ingredients have come together, set to a medium speed and allow to work the dough for 10 minutes. Then, set your machine on high speed (not the maximum though), and let it work for another 10 minutes. Finally, reduce the speed to the minimum and allow to work the dough for another 5 minutes.

Put the dough in a large, clean container to ferment for 2h in a warm place. Make sure to cover your dough with a clean, damp kitchen cloth.

When the dough has double in volume, put back in the bowl and set your machine on medium speed and allow the dough to work for ten minutes. Then, take it out on a floured surface, and knead the dough by hand for 15 minutes.

Divide your dough in to equal masses and form a ball or put them in a baking tin. Make a large cut in the middle of each ball of dough (see picture on the left). Put in a warm place to rise for another hour, covered with a clean, damp kitchen cloth.

Set your oven at 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Spray the dough with a little bit of water and put in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 180 degrees Celsius (356F) and allow to cook for another 20 minutes. To know if the bread is cooked, tap it with a finger, it should sound hollow. Allow to cool down on a rack.

Note that if using a tin, take the breads out, after 25 minutes of baking and put them back in the oven for another ten minutes.

* You may have noticed that the amount of water that I gave in the ingredient list is 300 to 400g. This amount will vary depending the behaviour of the flour. Its moisture may change with the weather condition or the way it is stored. So, depending on your flour you may not have to use all the water or have to add a little bit more.


Nutrition Facts 83g serving of bread

Calories (kcal): 411 of which 18.7% from fat, 64.9% from carbohydrates, 16.4% from protein.

Total fat: 8g (13%)* of which 1g sat. fat (6%) ; 3g monounsat. fat (11%) ; 4g polyunst. fat (20%)

Total carbohydrates: 65g (22%) of which 11g ( 43%) dietary fibers.

Protein: 16g (33%)

Sodium 140mg (6%); Potassium 397mg (11%); Calcium 41mg (4%); Iron 6mg (32%); Zinc 4mg (26%); Vit A 107UI (2%) & 24RE (2%); Vit B1 0.6mg (42%); Vit B6 0.2mg (8%); Vit B12 0.5mcg (8%); Folacin 67mcg (17%); Niacin 7mg (36%); Vit C trace.

* Percent daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


"In Paris today millions of pounds of bread are sold daily, made during the previous night by those strange, half-naked beings one glimpses through cellar windows, whose wild-seeming cries floating out of those depths always makes a painful impression. In the morning, one sees these pale men, still white with flour, carrying a loaf under one arm, going off to rest and gather new strength to renew their hard and useful labor when night comes again. I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread."

Alexandre Dumas, French writer (1802-1870)

Suitable for pregnant women, vegetarian, vegan. Dairy free. Contains gluten.


Sauces Thickened with Droplets: The principles of Emulsions

Emulsion under the microscope
On a previous post on the principles of sauce consistency, I gave a general description of the different thickening agents. In my next few posts I am going to look into the different thickening methods: what they are, how they work and give you the general guide lines for a successful realisation of sauces using this particular thickening method.
So to start lets have a look at sauces thickened by droplets of oil or water. One very particular method to thickened sauces is to fill the water based liquid with droplets of oil. This droplets of fat are much bigger and slow moving than molecules of water. The result of this dispersion of one liquid in another, is a thick and creamy mixture called an emulsion*.
An emulsion can only be made with two liquids that don't dissolve in each other, like the oil and the vinegar in a vinaigrette. These two liquids can be seen as the container and the contained. The container is called: a continuous phase and the contained one is called the dispersed phase. So an emulsion is the dispersion of a dispersed phase in a continuous phase of water (mayonnaise) or droplets of water in a continuous of oil (vinaigrette).
As you all know it is hard work to make an emulsion. The reason that justifies these frustrating minutes of whisking, is: when two liquids, that don't mix for chemical reason, are disturbed (whisking) and let to stand, they spontaneously take a configuration that minimize their contact with each other: they coalesce. They form two separate large masses, to expose less surface area to each other (see Picture). This behaviour is the expression of the force called: surface tension.
So, to make a emulsioned sauce the cook must pour a lot of energy to break this surface tension and create the droplets. The size of the droplets has a big influence on the stability of the emulsion: the smaller the droplet the more stable the sauce will be.
There are two main factors that make it easier for the cook to generate small droplets. The first one, is the thickness of the continuous phase, which drag harder on the droplets and transfers more shearing force to them from the whisk.

There is a little experiment that demonstrates this principle:
In a bottle put some water (about 1/2 pt) and some oil (about 2 tablespoons) (fig. 1), give it a good shake (fig. 2) the oil droplets are coarse and quickly coalesce (fig. 3). In another bottle put some oil but in the reverse proportions, 1/2 pt of oil and 2 tablespoons of water (fig. 4) and shake a little (fig. 5). The water breaks into a persistent cloud of droplets (fig. 6).

Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3
Fig. 4 Fig. 5 Fig. 6
In conclusion it helps to start with as viscous a part of the continuous phase as possible and dilute in it, any of the other ingredients required in the recipe, after the emulsion has been established.

The second factor that helps the chef to form small droplets is the presence of an emulsifying agent.

An emulsifier is a molecule that lowers the surface tension of a dispersed liquid in an another. The way that emulsifiers work is that they create a coating on the droplets that shields them from the continuous phase. Such molecules are partly soluble in each of the different antagonists in an emulsion: one part of the molecule is water soluble and the other part soluble in fats. It is said that they have a hydrophobe (afraid of water) side and a hydrophile (that likes water) side.
They are two kinds of emulsifying molecules:
  • The first ones are, like the phospholipid lecithin in the egg, are small molecule that have an hydrophobe side that attach itself in the fat phase and an hydrophile head that is electrically attracted to the water molecules of the emulsion.
  • The second one are proteins which are much larger chains of amino-acids that have a number of hydrophobe and hydrophyle regions. The yolk proteins in the eggs and the casein in dairies are the best protein emulsifying agent.
Another type of molecules that can help in the stabilization of an emulsion are: the stabilizers. They are starches and plant particles. There are many kinds of particles and molecules that can help to stabilize an emulsioned sauce once its formed. They all have in common the property of getting in the way, so that the droplets that are getting towards each others meet the stabilizer instead. Large molecules like proteins or starches are very efficient in this role, pectins, gums and particles of pulverized plants too. Ground, white mustard seeds are a very efficient stabilizer thanks to its particles and gums that are released when wetted. Tomato paste too, is a really interesting stabilizer and emulsifier with its large protein content (3% !) as well as its cell particles. There is a but, though, once the emulsion has formed, the droplets may be so crowded that they bump against each other, then the force of the surface tension may pull them together and cause them to coalesce again.

Now, after the theory the practical stuff. Always keep in mind that emulsion sauces are very fickle ones. There is always a risk that the sauce splits. Three reasons for that:
the cook has added the liquid too quickly to the continuous phase, he might have added to much of the dispersed phase or he has allowed the sauce to get either too hot or too cold.
There are the basic rules that will ensure a perfect result, without the risk of the sauce separating along the way:
  • The first ingredients in the bowl must be the continuous phase and at least one emulsifying or stabilizing element. The dispersed phase must, ALWAYS, be added to the continuous phase. Otherwise it cannot be dispersed.
  • The dispersed phase must be added to the continuous phase very gradually, to begin with. Then, it requires an energetic and continuous whisking all the way through the making of the sauce. ONLY, when the sauce has started to thicken and become more viscous that the oil be added more rapidly.
  • Finally, the proportions of the two phases must be kept in balance. The right proportion is that the dispersed phase should not exceed three times the volume of the continuous phase. If the emulsion stats looking stiff it is the sign that it is time to add more continuous phase to the sauce.

When the sauce is finished, it should not be stored at a temperature that is either too hot nor too cold. It should not be kept at a temperature exceeding 60 degrees Celsius. They should not be stored at a low temperature either, under 15 degrees Celsius the surface tension increases making it more likely to coalesce. Butterfat and some oils, solidify at room temperature or in the fridge. This results in sharp-edged fat crystals rupturing the layer of emulsifier on the droplets. Then the sauce will coalesce and separate when stirred or warmed.

In the event of the sauce separating, there are two ways to reemulsify it.

  • The first one is to put the sauce in a blender to break the dispersed phase apart again. This has its limitation. It will only work if the sauce still has enough emulsifier left intact. It won't work in the event of the sauce being overheated. Especially, sauces like bearnaise or hollandaise that contains eggs, their proteins may have been cooked thus destroying their emulsifying properties.
  • The second one and more reliable one, is to start with a small amount of the continuous phase, adding in an egg yolk (optional), and carefully beat the broken sauce back into it. If the proteins in the sauce have coagulated (cooked) they must be strained out of the sauce first, then it is a good idea to add an egg yolk at the beginning of the process.
*Emulsion: is a word that comes from the Latin for "milk out" and refers to the milky liquid that can be squeezed out of some nuts or plant tissues. Milk, cream and egg yolks are natural emulsions.

Relative proportion of fat in water in common food emulsion**
Food ..............Parts fat to 100 parts water
Fat-in-Water emulsion

Whole milk ..................5
Semi-skimmed milk ..................15
Light cream ................25
Double cream ................70
Double cream reduce by a 1/3 ................160
Egg yolk ..................65
Mayonnaise .................400

Water-in-Fat emulsion

Butter ...................550
Vinaigrette ..................300

**Source: McGee on food and cooking


Flour based thickeners and salt

In recent times, various research on thickeners and perceptions of flavours in sauces and food in general, have uncovered that thickeners reduce our perception of flavour molecules and saltiness. A very interesting one on viscosity and flavour perception, conducted by A. L. Ferry, J. Hort, J. R Mitchell, S. Lagarrigue and B.V. Pamies from Division of Food Sciences University of Nottingham Sutton Bonington, Loughborough in the U.K. and the division of Nestlé Product Technology Center in Germany has shown that viscosity has a huge influence on the perception of salt by our taste buds.
The first reason why the perception of salt by our taste buds is reduced, is that starch based thickeners increase the level of amylose into our mouth. Amylose has the property to trap aroma molecules and bind salt molecules thus decreasing aromatic intensity and saltiness.
Secondly, this study shows that viscosity (the property of a fluid that resists the force tending to cause the fluid to flow) influence the way our taste buds sens salt. It seems that our brain is too busy dealing with this sensation that the salt perception is decreased.
Finally, it appears that poly-saccharides (long-chain carbohydrates), like starch, are able to bind sodium ions to themselves, resulting in a reduction of saltiness.
As a result, the reduction of saltiness reduce the overall aroma intensity in our mouth, albeit the fact that the same number of aroma molecules are flowing out of the sauce and across the smell receptors in our nasal passages. So, if using flour or starch based thickeners, such as a roux or arrow root, in your sauce, you must think that its overall flavour will be diminished. It is, therefore, very important to taste your sauce and rectify, to some extent, its flavour by adding more salt at the end of its cooking process.


The Influence of Thickening Agents on Sauce Flavour

After all these basic sauce recipes that will allow you to master the different techniques used in sauce making, let's have a closer look at the influence of the thickeners on the sauce flavour elements. It is now, understood that the thicker the sauce is, the least flavour it will have.

The first explanation is that as thickeners do not or have very little flavour of their own (excepted brown roux), they only dilute the flavour already in the sauce.

The second one, is that thickening agents decrease the aptitude of the sauce to deliver its flavour components. When the thickeners bind with all the elements of the sauce, they also trap some of the flavour molecules in a way that our palate never senses them. By thickening the liquid phase of the sauce, it reduces its fluidity (the speed it moves). It also slows the capacity of the sauce to release its flavour molecule so that our taste buds and nasal passages miss them as they go by.

The third reason why a sauce may feel less flavourful, is that tasty molecules tend to be more fat soluble than water soluble. So, the fat globules dispersed in the liquid phase will catch aroma molecules therefore decreasing the sauce aromatic intensity. Amylose starch molecule, also bind aroma molecules. The aroma molecules in turn make the starch molecules more likely to bond with each other into a grainy milky-coloured particles.

Finally, wheat flour has a tendency to bind more sodium than the pure starches. Long-chain carbohydrates, including starch, reduce the apparent saltiness of the sauce either by binding some of the sodium ions to themselves or by adding another sensation (viscosity) for the brain to attend to.

In general, thin sauces have a more intense and immediate flavour than the same sauce with added thickeners. In the other hand a thickened sauce will release its flavour more slowly and persistently. Each effects has its uses.

Many sauces are thickened by reduction, not by adding thickeners. It removes some of the continuous phase by boiling the water off. This technique does not decrease the flavour because whatever flavour the sauce's particles or molecules can bind have already been bound. In result, the thickeners already present in the sauce as well as the flavour molecules become more concentrated, thickening the sauce and intensifying its aroma. It is this principles that are used in tomato fondues, jus, coulis and cream sauces.

And a last little thing to conclude this post, all the sauce thickened with a roux or beurre manié (handled butter) require more added salt. It may be good thing to take this into account if suffering from high blood pressure.