Vegan Vegetarian Cooking School

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Leavening Ingredients & Sourdough

Baking Powder & Baking Soda

Some of my readers have asked if baking powder is ok? They often refer to this quote among others: "The use of soda or baking powder is harmful and unnecessary. Soda causes inflammation of the stomach, and often poisons the entire system." Ellen White, Counsels on Diet and Foods p342. One older study (the only negative one I have found on the subject) stated that sodium bicarbonate reduces both heart and systemic oxygenation. It may lead to actual oxygen starvation of the heart muscle in some people with that disease. (Ref. THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 87:7. July 1989). But I can't find the actual article only a quote from a doctor on the matter. I have no way to know how they tested the chemical. In my opinion one of the issues is poor manufacturing and over use.

There is evidence the "old" baking powders/sodas were often laced with harmful chemicals and heavy metals due to the primitive refining processes, and even hygiene of the manufacturers. There is evidence the new baking powers are safe, but be sure to get an aluminum free brand. Here is an article on this subject that was posted on the Ellen White estate. Dept of Home Economics - 2.32MB. Saleratus (often assumed to be baking soda but was not sodium bicarbonate), a potassium salt, was a product that had health issues because of the ingredients and the poor regulation of purity of ingredients. It was often laced with heavy metals or other harmful chemicals and is no longer on the market. powder

Our bodies make sodium bicarbonate to reduce acid in the stomach and the bowels. Too much 'extra' from dietary consumption can reduce the acid and make digestion more difficult. Many recipes from that era (when Counsels on Diet and Foods was written) used copious amounts of soda. If you used 2 or 3 Tbsp of baking soda in a recipe of biscuits or bread every day (and yes, they ate bread and biscuits every day often at all meals), plus in pancakes, plus in crackers, plus in desserts, can you see how that would be harmful?

Another reason to avoid 'regular' baking powder is it can contain aluminum. READ the ingredients, it will be listed. Aluminum may cause an inhibition of intestinal absorption of phosphorus and this may be followed by an increase in calcium loss. The effect is probably due to the binding of dietary phosphorus in the intestine by the aluminum. (Spencer & Lender, 1979). Much has been written on the harmful effects of aluminum and it is fairly easy to get aluminum free baking powders. In Canada, Magic Baking Powder, a standard in all grocery stores is aluminum free.

The only baking powder I've found without 'soda' is Ener-G baking powder. It consists of two ingredients: calcium carbonate and citric acid. Both are simple, natural ingredients. When combined with water it forms calcium citrate, a highly digestible form of calcium. Use 2 tsp of regular baking powder to 1 Tbsp Ener-G Baking Powder. It can be purchased at health food stores and Azure Standard. It reacts with liquid so time is of the essence. Mix quickly and thoroughly, then put it into the oven as soon as possible. There have been some warnings on the Internet about calcium carbonate, but NOT because it is harmful but because it can contain other chemicals from improper refining. Thus mass marketed antacids can be laced with these chemicals. I can't say where Ener-G gets theirs from, I did contact them years ago and they assured me it was safe.


What about food grade hydrogen peroxide?

I would never use hydrogen peroxide internally. Peroxide is a chemical that kills all living cells. While people tote the health of cooking with it, there is little research on the subject. When I research this topic I can't find any science to back them up the claims it is safe and healthy, just opinions. What I can find is strong evidence how strong this chemical really is. Used in manufacture of many animals products to kill bacteria (good and bad).

While all these warnings relate to it before it is cooked, there is no scientific evidence to support it is healthy even when cooked, albeit it MAY be safe. There is NO other food or ingredient we cook with that is so caustic and since there is no benefit I would not use this chemical in my home.

As for leavening, I use what people have used for 1000's of years: yeasts/good bacteria and aluminum free baking powder.


Yeast & Sour Dough

Yeast has been used for 1000's of years to make bread. From Bible times until now, both leavened bread (raised with some raising agent) and unleavened bread have been a staple for delicious, wholesome foods for generations across vast cultures. Never has bread been attacked until this century when food intolerance has many people questioning even the most healthy of foods. If you have a food allergy or a food sensitivity you must listen to your body but that does not make that food toxic, dangerous, or unhealthy in general or to others.

What is yeast? Basically it is a fungus. "A microscopic fungus consisting of single oval cells that reproduce by budding, and are capable of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide." Wikipedia. The carbon dioxide is what creates the air bubbles in the bread making it light and airy. What about sour dough bread? Sour dough bread starts with a culture. The culture is usually both yeast and bacteria from spores in the air or added directly to the culture. Depending on how much culture one uses, or how the culture is made, will determine the rising time. The longer the rising time the more "sour" the taste of the bread and the more the bacteria grows in the bread, this is where the taste comes from. Some sour dough breads are left in the fridge to rise over two days. I'm not an expert in sour dough bread, in fact I've not been able to make a good one yet, expect a sweet friendship bread that I made several times many years ago with cinnamon (an antibacteria and antifungal so I wonder if that prevented the sour taste). However, I've purchased many different sour dough breads and the flavors really do vary intensely. Remember that light, sweet bread with the yeasts completely destroyed in baking are the most healthy.

Making good bread depends on many factors. Following the directions for the recipe is VERY important. Temperance of the water and air you proof the bread (let it rise), amount of sugar, salt, and other ingredients all matter in making healthy bread. Adding Lemon juice or vinegar (or citric acid which professional bakeries do) as a stabilizer helps it not only rise but also prevents it from rising too much (1 Tbsp per 'loaf'). Salt is another essential ingredient in quality bread production. Salt helps to regulate the fermentation process, while too much salt slows down the fermentation process, too little may allow for excess fermentation. In the proper amount, salt produces good grain and texture, because it strengthens the gluten allowing it to fully mature during fermentation. Salt also limits the bacterial growth which can make a bread heavy or sour tasting. Generally 1 tsp per "loaf" is a good amount. Sugar can help decrease the rising time and result in a lighter, airy bread. Adding 1 Tbsp of sugar per loaf is a good start, but it is optional.

Rising times are affected by many factors including the weather, type of flours, how much gluten is in the flour, and temperature of the room. Experiment with recipes and write out what you do. Once you find a successful recipe then you can experiment further with adding fun herbal flavors, mixed flours for multi-grain, and so on. Using all whole wheat flour can make for a very heavy, sour bread if not down well.

Light bread, meaning not too heavy or dense, is the goal. Any bread that has a sour taste is not as healthy as a sweet bread. I don't mean donut sweet, but rather a light, flavor. Now, sour dough bread is NOT the same as sour tasting bread. While some sour dough breads are more 'sour' than others, one can make a sweet sour dough bread (albeit I'm not an expert in sour dough bread making). The longer a bread is allowed to rise, the more sour it will taste. If you rise and punch it down, and rise again, but its taking more than a couple hours to complete the process the bacteria can build up giving the bread an almost vinegar taste.

"They let the bread sour before baking, and the saleratus (baking soda) added to remedy the cook’s carelessness, makes it totally unfit for the human stomach. It requires thought and care to make good bread. But there is more religion in a good loaf of bread than many think." CTBH 49 "Many a life has been sacrificed by the eating of heavy, sour bread." CTBH 156 "In many families we find dyspeptics, and frequently the reason of this is the poor bread. The mistress of the house decides that it must not be thrown away, and they eat it. Is this the way to dispose of poor bread? Will you put it into the stomach to be converted into blood? Has the stomach power to make sour bread sweet? heavy bread light? moldy bread fresh?" CD 318.

What should bread be like? "Bread should be light and sweet. Not the least taint of sourness should be tolerated. The loaves should be small, and so thoroughly baked that, as far as possible, the yeast germs shall be destroyed. When hot, or new, raised bread of any kind is difficult of digestion. It should never appear on the table. This rule does not, however, apply to unleavened bread. Fresh rolls made of wheaten meal, without yeast or leaven, and baked in a well-heated oven, are both wholesome and palatable.... Zwieback, or twice-baked bread, is one of the most easily digested and most palatable of foods. Let ordinary raised bread be cut in slices and dried in a warm oven till the last trace of moisture disappears. Then let it be browned slightly all the way through. In a dry place this bread can be kept much longer than ordinary bread, and if reheated before using, it will be as fresh as when new." CD 317.


PS: A personal note. I've tried to be unbiased in this article using both Ellen White and science (many of our readers, and myself, believe Ellen White was not only a health reformer, but inspired because NONE of her writings have ever been disproved by science which is UNHEARD of by any other health author. Learn more about Ellen White here.). For myself and our family we do use aluminum free baking powder but in limited amounts. We don't believe it is wrong or harmful to share a birthday cake with friends or eat a cookie at a Christmas party. Ellen White did not discourage using yeast in bread, although she does discourage eating fresh bread due to the possibility the yeast is not fully destroyed. She recommends toast or even dry bread, like crackers.

Article: Angela Poch, CN
My research on the subject so far as of 2018-02-18.


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