Does our daily bread nourish us?
“ Give us this day our daily bread ”...
This much recited phrase, usually said in prayer, has been a part of my consciousness since I was old enough to understand English. When a child hears the words, “ our daily bread ”, naturally their thoughts turn to food. As a small child, bread was and always has been my favorite food. My favorites were crusted, chewy, old fashioned breads like rye, pumpernickel, and sourdough. It was not until I was a youth that the commercial, white, factory made, sponge like excuse for bread came into existence. However, I must admit, even that was tasty on occasion.
Bread that is perhaps tasty, but undermining to everyone’s health...
Little did I realize that the commercial yeast used in mostly all bread, along with added sugar, was throwing my body out of bacterial balance. This form of yeast is very harmful to your health in that it overwhelms the beneficial bacteria in your intestinal tract and compromises your immune system in many ways. I do not believe that God meant for our daily bread to be harmful, neither physically or spiritually
Yeast in our diet is connected to such illnesses as chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein-Barr virus, psoriasis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, endometriosis, headaches, depression, digestive problems and the list goes on and on. Not only does eating foods containing this yeast affect our health, but eating a diet which produces too much sugar in our system feeds the overgrowth of yeast. Candida albicans, one family of yeast, is so prevalent today, especially since an over-use of antibiotics kills our body’s beneficial bacteria – our body’s natural defense. Drug companies make a fortune selling their temporary fixes but never address the underlying cause since there is no money in it for them.
The only effective way to rid your body of yeast and to eliminate health problems is by doing intensive cleanses and modifying your lifestyle with a healthier diet and replacing the good bacteria. Later, when all this had finally dawned on me, I began eating bread with no yeast at all and after many years I became convinced of the health benefits. And yet, I still craved the heartier bread of my childhood.
How I became inspired to bake our daily bread...
In 1988, I was working as a consultant in nutrition at a “chelation” clinic in Leslie, Arkansas. A new issue of a natural lifestyle magazine came to me featuring the baking of ancient style bread in the traditional manner using no commercial yeast and a wood fired oven.
This “Desem” style bread originated in the area that is now Belgium. “Desem” is the method of creating the leavening for the bread from a natural sourdough starter – a live culture of naturally occurring wild yeasts, lactobacillus bacteria and fungi - made only from whole wheat and water. These organisms ferment the dough, digesting the flour’s starch, which produces lactic acid and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide then causes the dough to rise. The dough rises very slowly over hours – giving it its’ exceptional flavor and texture - while a fire is started inside the oven. When the fire burns down the coals are removed, the oven mopped clean and the bread is baked on the hot brick hearth...
The magazine article told of bakers who had returned to this area of Europe to learn the ancient craft and that there were six such bakers located in the USA.
This magazine article with pictures spoke to me in such a way, that I became convinced that this was a craft worth learning. And, lo and behold, one of the six such bakers was located several hours drive north of me in Salina, Kansas. The next day I phoned Thom Leonard of Great Plains Bread in Salina and asked him if I could come for a visit. He most graciously said yes and within one week my 83 year old mother and I made the first of many “pilgrimages” to Salina...in quest of “ our daily bread ”.
With the first bite of Thom Leonard’s bread, I was instantly transported back in time not only to my childhood, but also to “bread nirvana”. This was not the bread of my dreams, but much better. And it was healthy in a way I had never experienced before without any commercial-baker’s yeast, no added sweeteners, additives or fats and it contained beneficial organisms that our body needs.
When using only unprocessed flour that is unbleached and un-enriched, you still retain the grains nutrients as God intended us to have from our daily bread.
I became so entranced with this craft, that within four years, I left the clinic and opened Serenity Farm Bread in Leslie, Arkansas. Not only did Thom Leonard freely share with me his craft of baking, but also his plans for building the wood fired brick oven, resources for supplies and equipment and he gave me my first “Desem”, sour dough starter. I shall always be humble and grateful to Thom for his gift of love and knowledge.
My bread baking experience has evolved from “brick oven” to “earth oven”...
In 1993, I was inspired to sell the bread bakery to my best customer and move on to a new community, but the thought to bake again in this manner has haunted me since (I was legally restricted from opening another bakery for 7 years from date of sale).
Now in 2007 and 2008 we are again practicing this ancient craft here in Belize where we have aided and taught others to construct a smaller replica of my oven in Leslie (designed by Alan Scott of Ovencrafters, Petaluma, CA). I have also built our first “Earth Oven”, ala Kiko Denzer, on our own home site as a teaching tool and for our daily bread which I bake each Monday.
By encouraging others, here in Belize and elsewhere, to partake of this kind of bread primarily, it is my hope that many more people will be able to improve their own health and prevent further complications from unhealthy dietary choices. Thus, the phrase, “ our daily bread ” will take on even more meaning for many more people.
It was a joyful experience building my first earth oven. I heartily encourage home bakers to buy Kiko’s book and build your own natural hearth in order to create your own daily bread. Anyone with the desire and a small backyard can do it with a minimum of expense.
Why build your own oven, you may ask?...
By acquiring scrap wood from building sites and lumber yards before it is burnt anyway enables you to save on your utility bills and make better use of energy otherwise wasted. The natural energy imparted to your bread loaves as they contact the hot clay brick of the hearth and soak up the radiant heat of the dome cannot be duplicated by any other kind of baking chamber.
How I built my own earth oven...
We used the exact dimensions and plans as in the “Earth Oven” book. First we gathered limestone rock that had been piled to one side after our home site was leveled. Using the rock we created a double ring four feet in diameter and as we raised the rock ring to waist height, we filled the inside of the circle, about a foot from the top, with clay/dirt that had come out of the four foot deep holes dug for our concrete house piers. We then added more of the above clay/dirt mixed wet with coarse sawdust for insulation and then topped it off with about 3 inches of fine sand in which we set our brick hearth. Unfortunately, we did not take a picture of the brick oven floor before the next step.
Next, we molded fine moist sand, just like kids at the beach, into a clay dome of specific proportions. This was to be our mold on which we packed moist clay/dirt creating the inner layer/dome of the oven. When this layer was almost dry, I cut out the door and dug out the sand mold. A brick on each side of the door opening with rebar above reinforced the opening and then we began adding an insulating layer of moist clay/dirt/sawdust.
After allowing a few days for drying out, we built a small fire inside. The ancient design allows fresh air to be drawn in along the floor and the smoke to exit along the dome and out the top of the door opening. We built a door out of 2 layers of hardwood scrap with a metal liner made from an olive oil can. Then, with perfect timing, we followed a neighbor’s cattle as they grazed on adjoining land gathering fresh dropping for the final layer of plaster which waterproofs the clay. This final layer both insulates and waterproofs the oven but a roof is a must and we built our oven under a metal shed roof.
By now, we had become anxious to bake our first load of our daily bread.
The results of our efforts paid off...
Our first bake of our daily bread to be wasn’t too successful because the oven still held too much moisture and did not get hot enough to bake this style of bread. We had to finish the bake in our kitchen gas oven and that was humiliating. But subsequent bakes have been spectacular. “ Our daily bread ” has become a reality, once again, here in Belize. We also have ideas for several oven loads of varied items to include in our weekly Monday bakings ...Today it was 6 two pound loaves of whole wheat desem bread followed by two small sheets of oatmeal/carrot with raisin and walnut cookies. Several more oven loads are possible on the same initial firing as the oven holds heat over several hours. We plan to bake layered meals inside a cast iron, “Dutch Oven” type pot after bread and cookies.
Have I inspired you yet?
If not, my wife, Rose, says that little else compares with a freshly baked slice of our daily bread (now that I am baking regularly) with its’ chewy crust and spread with real butter. I say that it is nutritious enough to make a healthy meal along with a hearty garden salad or, on a damp or chilly day, with a gently cooked vegetable soup....bon appetit!
Our daily bread could also be your daily bread...
Whether you perceive God’s gift to us as spiritual food or physical food or both, God only intended it to be beneficial to us and never harmful. Amen!
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