Immune Function = Sourdough + Spelt Flour

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The cooler weather is arriving on the East Coast. This change is seasons brings about beautiful scenery and refreshing winds—both of which please the senses. This change also brings about more responsibility, though; I’ve been bringing inside my container plants from the balcony, closing the windows, and making use of my new wool coat with knit trimmings. I take care of the household first, but I still must make my own health a daily priority. It’s not difficult, and there are no excuses for making the necessary adjustments. I mean, if trees can drop their leaves and the regrow them all over again, not to mention more than the previous year, then I think I can merely maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid any threats from old man winter. We all must take precautions, and be proactive.

Enter: comfort foods! These sourdough buns will take the stage, taking the spotlight for your healthy meals. Half of the flour is all-purpose flour, and the other half of the flour is organic spelt flour. Spelt has been used for centuries and provides a lot of health benefits. I’m keen on it’s high zinc content. Two ounces of spelt flour (or just about 1/2 cup of spelt flour) already contains about 16 percent of your recommended daily value. Sourdough helps us to absorb all this zinc. So spelt four, meet sourdough. Sourdough naturally has lactic acid, which makes conditions ideal for the appropriate pH levels that allow the enzyme phytase to excel. Phytase dissolves phytates, thus freeing up more minerals for our bodies to take up, such as zinc. We must have zinc to help our immunce system fight off infections. So let’s try to stave off the winter blues, and use our baking skills to help us stay rosey cheeked and bushy tailed!

Thick Sourdough Buns

modified from “Sourdough Buns;”

  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup water, approximately
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup dried whole milk or Baker’s Special Dry Milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups organic spelt flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • cornmeal (for dusting)

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  1. Feed sourdough starter and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
  2. Measure out the needed amount for sourdough, then place “mother” sourdough back in fridge (I store mine there and use/feed at least every two weeks). Mix all of the ingredients together—by hand, mixer, or in a bread machine or food processor—just until the dough comes together (it will remain slightly sticky and soft). Knead for about 3 minutes, then turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough approximately 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick. Cut it into 6-8 circles, 2 1/2-3 1/2 inches in diameter. Remember to dust your cutter with flour so it doesn’t stick to the dough.
  4. Dust a baking sheet or burger bun pan with cornmeal. Place each piece of dough on your sheet, spreading them out evenly; sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Cover the buns and let them rise for 40 minutes.
  5. Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned top and bottom. Remove them from the oven. After cooling for 10 minutes, place buns in a cooling rack.

photo 2 (1)Feel free to experiment with the flour measurements. There is a risk, however, with adding more spelt flour and taking away all-purpose flour: your buns may not rise as much since spelt flour is a whole wheat flour.

I like to serve these buns for assembling sloppy joes, especially since lamb and beef are also good sources of zinc (over-achiever alert!). Use for breakfasts, too, by topping with poached eggs or spreading on butter and homemade jam. Open-faced sandwiches would be delicious, too!  Bon ap, to healthy immune function!

PS – Wine note: these buns are thick. Have a heavy wine partner that just as full and round, such as a White Rhone, California red Zinfandel, or Australian Syrah.

Melatonin = Tomatoes + Walnuts


I’m a night owl… at least I am now. I didn’t used to be. In college I woke up at 3:30am for ice hockey practice and other days at dawn to go take on the track or gym. My roommates were fast asleep, but I was up to get my day started right away. Not anymore! My “me time” is now at night when I can relax or check off some items on my Wunderlist. Hockey and working out comes now at night, and getting out of bed is, well, it takes time these days! Staying up late, though, because I can’t get to sleep shortens my beauty rest routinely. Shouldn’t I be able to stop thinking about my to-do’s and just hold off things until the next morning? I need to change this habit, so my choice is to turn to a natural remedy. And since food is bliss for me, I’ll make my nightly snack or dessert help me out on this challenge (and keep me away from my computer, who distracts me from my oh-so-lovely bed).

As it’s August, I’m turning to some summer bounty to befriend my efforts. Tomatoes, meet walnuts. Both of these ingredients are high on the scale in melatonin compared to all the other fish in the pond. Snatch up those orange and red and pink tomatoes, looking so ripe and full of good care and growth! So, the tomato-walnut combo can be thrown together in many different ways, but my tummy tells me that something creamy would create the perfect cloud with which to pile on slices of fresh tomato and crunchy walnuts. Ah, I made Mascarpone cheese the other day for Chicken Marsala… perfect!

You can make this thick and smooth cheese, too! All you need is heavy whipping cream and citric acid, which you can purchase online, such as at King Arthur Flour, or baking supplies stores. If you bake with sourdough, in fact, such as Sourdough Pumpernickel bread, then adding citric acid can help make your bread have a more acidic taste and smell. I purchased a cheese making kit and recipe book from Standing Stone Farms. The other ingredients in the kit are used for other recipes, including mozzarella and queso fresco. Here’s their recipe for Mascarpone:

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Very slowly, heat cream to 190°F. You will begin to see the cream get (slightly) frothy and foamy.
  2. Remove from heat and add citric acid and salt. Stir gently 3-4 times in an up and down motion. The milk will begin to split into curd and whey.
  3. Place drain bag into colander over a pot large enough to allow whey to drain. Pour in curds.
  4. Let curds rest until room temperature, about 1 hour.
  5. Cover curds in bag and colander with plastic wrap and let drip in refrigerator for 12 hours. Remove from bag and enjoy.

Now, you may not think that your cream is turning into cheese, but keep going! Trust me, it doesn’t look like what you’re used to until it’s refrigerated and complete. A candy thermometer and cheesecloth will make this recipe super-duper easy, so I suggest having those by your side to assist you in your tasks. And make room in the refrigerator for the big bowl that you’ll be setting inside. This recipe makes at least a pound of Mascarpone, so you’ll certainly have some to share and use with dried fruits, honey, etc.!


Slice up some sourdough or hearty bread, slather on the Mascarpone, and top with your walnuts and then tomato slices. I stop here and then indulge, but feel free to add anything else you have around the kitchen that you think would be another great addition. Maybe that mint growing in the container on my balcony would be great, as mint is another source of melatonin. It’s a sleeping-aid party on your late night snack! Bon ap to good sleep!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member eVo photo; “Tomatoes”

Iron = Sourdough + Molasses

Yes, I love sourdough. When I lift up the lid to the crock pot storing my starter, there’s a smell of fermentation and other processes transporting me to the behind-the-scenes walks around a brewery. And then when the starter is added to bread dough and rising in the oven, that homey smell of baked bread is even more intense. I can’t get enough of it. Someone needs to invent a sourdough bread candle and make millions. I’m also taken back to my visit to San Francisco, the motherland (at least in the States) of sourdough. Go visit! And indulge in amazing sammies and seeing breads braided and bent into animal shapes!

Sourdough should be called magical dough as its properties have bewitching powers, making your loaves extremely more tummy-friendly and also strengthening ties in your life as you share your starter with others. I received my starter from a friend at work who also found the fermentation process quite mysterious. As I have used the starter in recipes and fed it (about one cup of flour and one cup of water for every cup that is taken out, trying to retain the same consistency), keeping my little bubbly cauldron full. I gifted about a half-cup of the starter to a good friend of mine along with a crock pot, and she’s now a devoted baker of a new sourdough baby. We can share failures and successes, enhancing our craftiness for the baking habit.

Back to the tummy-friendly powers of sourdough: the longer rising time and bacteria in the culture break down the starches and protein gluten into amino acids. Processed breads and bread using all whole wheat most often do not undergo these processes, thereby giving our digestive system a great challenge in breaking down the bread. Sourdough also activates the enzyme phytase to dissolve phytates, which allows your body to absorb more minerals, especially zinc, iron, magnesium, and copper. Let’s focus on soaking up more iron to help you combat anemia and function at your best!

I have to share my favorite sourdough bread recipe with you, especially for health reasons. This recipe also leaves your counter tops and tools fairly clean, so in case you’re the only one on kitchen duty, clean up goes very smoothly. Yay!

Sourdough Pumpernickel: this is the bread you will crave to make next. If you don’t have a starter yet, ask a friend to share, or you can order online, such as from King Arthur Flour: Rather than send you on a chase for pumpernickel flour (which I actually DID and left every Whole Foods, German market, and Balducci’s empty handed), just buy a bag from King Arthur Flour:

The key partner ingredient in this bread for the sourdough is molasses. As you know, blackstrap molasses is a great source for iron. Along with sourdough’s strength in sending you more iron to soak up, molasses is there to provide more zinc! Molasses also contrasts with the taste of the sourdough—sweet with sour, bitter with tangy. So, sourdough, meet molasses:


  • 1 1/3 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 cup lukewarm coffee or whey or leftover pasta water (be resourceful!)
  • 2 cups pumpernickel flour
  • 1/2 cup onion (any color you want)


  • 2 tablespoons oil (I recommend coconut oil or vegetable oil, or a mix)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (the bread tastes more hearty this way, but feel free to use all-purpose or any other flour of your choice for this last cup)
  1. Put together the sponge at least three hours before you add the rest of the dough ingredients, and cover. The longer, the better, so I usually complete this step before I go to bed and finish the recipe the next day. Bakers are good planners, right?! The two pictures below show you the sponge once mixed and then the sponge after resting for three hours. The sponge has slightly risen as there are now air pockets underneath and there are small bubbles on top where some air escaped. You can feed your starter now, too, and leave it out at room temperature overnight for 12-24 hours before storing it back in its home in the fridge.ImageImage
  2. Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to stir the oil, salt, and molasses into the sponge. Add the flour and mix. Using a bench scraper or rubber scraper, push out all of the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Since this dough is quite tough and slightly sticky (a good sign!), you do not need to have much bench flour on hand. I usually go through only about 1/4 cup, usually just to keep the dough from sticking to my hands.Image
  3. Knead the dough for 8 minutes. Yes, that’s a minimum. I know the dough ends up feeling like really thick Play-dough by the time you reach minute 6, but just keep going! Flex those muscles and showoff to anyone else in the room. You’ll look great 😉Image
  4. When you poke your dough, the indent will fill in a bit, but still look like an innie bellybutton. Make sure the dough still pushes back, though! Otherwise, flex those arms for another two minutes to knead the dough further. You can now shape your dough. Divide the ball into two equal parts and shape into two 10-inch logs to put on baking sheets or to put into two bread pans (about 8×4-inch). Sprinkle all-purpose flour around the shaped dough and shake off. Place dough on greased baking sheets or in greased baking pans. Heat up the oven to about 100°F then turn off, which is just slightly warm. Cover your bread loaves with a towel or greased plastic wrap and place in the oven. Leave them alone so the loaves can relax and rise for at least 3 hours. Leave in for another hour if you don’t think that the loaves doubled in size.
  5. Take out the loaves and preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the loaves and bake for 40 minutes. Image

Share how the magic churns out in your kitchen and what you think of the recipe! Bon ap to higher iron!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe:  The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 3, January-February 1992 issue.