“Bread is elemental. Earth, water, fire, and air, the four elements of the ancients, combine in bread.” — Crescent Dragonwagon, Soup and Bread: A Country Inn Cookbook.
I came across this passage as I was researching bread recipes. The process of witnessing the staff of life springing forth from the interaction of the four cardinal elements seems more like magic to me than a chemical reaction. I suddenly and very badly wanted to make a loaf of bread.
Before you say it, yes, I know making bread is a lot of work, and yes, I can get it much cheaper and better tasting by buying it. But here’s the problem: have you ever read the Nutrition Facts on the back of the bread wrapper? Do you know how much sodium is in that one slice of bread you are toasting for breakfast? I consume too much sodium and I need to do something about it. I read in The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book that salt is an absolute necessity for the texture of the bread. I am going to take the word of the experts here. I thought I would try anyway to make a loaf of bread with about 80% less salt — just enough to make the bread palatable and not disintegrate in my hands.
Now, if I wanted to be really rustic, I would make the bread by hand. But I do have a bread making machine that I got twenty-some years ago and have not used in well over five years. Since I’ll take the help whenever I can get it, I got out the machine and cleaned it up. (The machine reminds me of a miniature R2-D2 with a round body, domed top, blinking lights and a vocabulary of beeps, dings, and whirs).
I filled the chamber with the appropriate amounts of flour, water, yeast, oil, and a smidgen of salt (one-fourth of a teaspoon, which is about a sixth of what the recipe called for).* As I type this, the machine is thumping away, the yeast happily working up the gluten. I hope this turns out good, sans salt and all.
I got to thinking about salt — salt never used to be so universally available. For most of world history salt was a scarce commodity that built national economies and brought some of them to war with each other. So that tells me that throughout most of our history, we used salt sparingly. Traditional foods don’t use a lot of salt. Today, though, our tongues have become so “over-salinized” that many of us are not able to ascertain the true taste of the foods we eat. For the person starting a low-sodium diet, the initial experience of now-bland food may make that person feel like a prison sentence has been imposed upon her or him. I think, though, for me, it will be taking baby steps to re-educate my taste buds, like making my own bread from scratch.
Three hours later: A magical thing has transpired in my kitchen.
*Here’s the recipe I used:
Low-Sodium Bread Machine Bread.
1 cup of warm water
1 1/4 teaspoon rapid-rising yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 T – Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
I mixed the yeast and sugar into the warm water and set it aside for a few minutes. I added both flours, salt and oil to the machine’s chamber. Then I added the yeasty water and set the machine for “white bread.” Four and a half hours later, I had bread. It’s a little more crumbling than full-salted bread and I doubt that I can make sandwiches out of it, but, darn, it sure tastes good with a pat of real butter and some raspberry jam.
L. Gloyd (c) 2010