It’s been an exhausting yet interesting week. We started the week in Perth making sourdough breads and cakes, and finished the weekend in Balingup getting to know the local producers and assisting Holly Davis with her public classes.
Whilst I make a lot of sourdough myself, it is always interesting to see how other people make it. There are as many different ways to make bread as there are bread makers. I find that every time you watch somebody demonstrate their technique you learn something new. We branched out from bread, and used the levain to make pancakes, piklets, crumpets and cakes. The advantage of using the levain in pancakes and piklets is that you can make the mixture the night before, then all you have to do in the morning is cook them.
It has long puzzled me as to why sourdough is more beneficial than any other type of bread. Sourdough is a lactofermented product. Wild yeasts consume the gluten and carbohydrates in the flour, creating carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is trapped in the dough, causing the bread to rise. This action of the yeasts effectively predigests the bread, so your stomach has less work to do. People with problems digesting regular yeasted breads sometimes find they are able to tolerate sourdough as a result.
Following on from sourdough, we explored a variety of other lactofermented products and their roles in re-establishing colonies of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Scientists are starting to appreciate that the gut is instrumental in a number of processes within the body, and imbalances in the gut can have major ramifications on your health and well being. A wide variety of lactofermented foods in the diet is key in establishing and maintaining these colonies of beneficial bacteria.
From sauerkraut and brine pickled vegetables to dairy kefir, water kefir and kombucha. The breadth of lactofermented foods is amazing. Almost every traditional culture in the world has some form of lactofermented food in their diet. My favourite food was the strained cultured cream. This is made by culturing cream with dairy kefir grains, then straining the cream through muslin to remove some of the whey. What you end up with is a dense block of cream, which is sensational with jam on scones. It is always good to find yet another way to eat cream.
We travelled south to Balingup on Thursday afternoon, and spent Friday visiting local producers to further understand the relationship between the producer and food quality. The cows at Blackwood Valley Beef are extremely friendly, and we soon found ourselves surrounded by the curious animals. It was great to hear Warren Pensini’s philosophy for raising his animals and the way he manages his land to ensure a continuous supply of food for the cattle.
We then travelled on to Cackleberries to look at their biodynamic egg farm. There are some very happy chickens on this farm. The chickens roam the hillsides and return to purpose built structures to lay and sleep at night. Edward and Margaret graciously hosted us for lunch beside their beautiful shady creek, and provided us with some Cackleberries to supplement our lovely lunch prepared by Katrina of Taste of Balingup. If I didn’t have my own chickens I would definitely be buying these eggs.
Saturday and Sunday provided us with ample opportunity to gather tips on running public classes; something that many of us are interested in undertaking at the completion of the course. It was good to see the amount of work that is required to run a successful class, and to understand the many factors that need to be taken into consideration when setting up for a class. There is actually a lot more that goes into classes than just turning up and teaching, which I had not truly appreciated until seeing it in action.
We were lucky enough to be invited to a long table dinner on Saturday night at Southampton Homestead on the Blackwood River. As the sun set over the hills, we sat in a paddock of perennial grasses enjoying beef brisket from Blackwood Valley Meats, fantastic prawn salad and beautiful rustic fruit tarts whilst the family pet cow watched on. By the time we returned to Perth we were exhausted, and desperately looking forward to a much needed day off on Monday.