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Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
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June 18, 2009


Deconstructing Dinner


The Sourdough Waffle

Why do sourdough waffles taste and feel so good?


Jon Steinman


Let it be known that the consumption of sourdough waffles can be one of the most blissful gastronomic experiences.


Perhaps my first sourdough waffle experience carried with it such a resounding and positive impact in light of the 'waffles' of my childhood being of the frozen quality and bearing the resemblance of corrugated cardboard.


It's no surprise though that homemade food tastes better than processed and frozen counterparts. However, sourdough goes beyond just differences in taste and texture.


What is sourdough anyway?


The complicated explanation; sourdough is a dough containing a lactobacillus culture. In other words, it's alive. Sourdough is prepared by mixing water, flour and a sourdough starter (culture). When the flour comes into contact with the water, naturally-occurring enzymes break down the starch into complex sugars that the yeast can then metabolize. The lactobacteria then feed mostly on the products that the yeast metabolizes.


But back to the waffles...


For quite some time now, Deconstructing Dinner has been documenting how residents of Nelson and Creston, B.C. have become the proud recipients of an 80lb share of locally grown grains. The grains were the product of an innovative community supported agriculture (CSA) project.


When members of the CSA received their grains, many were left wondering what to do with them all. After all, it's not common for North Americans to have 80lbs of unmilled wheat and oats hanging out in the kitchen!


Lorraine Carlstrom stepped forward and offered a series of classes ranging from how to make your own bagels, to crackers and biscuits, or tips and tricks for preparing oatmeal and granola, sprouting grains, and many more.


Carlstrom has long been exploring alternative methods of preparing food, and in her search, she has instead rediscovered our roots and the more ancestral methods of food preparation.


As an aside, it's also fascinating to see how these workshops came together. Just as a seed germinates, grows and then spreads it's own seeds abroad, so too did the grain CSA help spawn Carlstrom's series of workshops and classes. Even more exciting, the CSA spawned a new part-time job for a local resident as an educator.


As the seven of us sat around Carlstrom's kitchen table, we learned how, in a relatively short period in human history, we Westerners have chosen to consume grains in their raw form. Sourdough, on the other hand, is seen as a tried and tested method of converting grains into a more palatable food for our digestive systems and our tastebuds. I strongly concur.


The waffles we ate were not just silky smooth; they seemed to actually melt in my mouth after only a few chews! Once in my stomach, the waffle didn't feel heavy at all as is so often the case with many breads and grain products made with whole grains.


As Carlstrom explained, there's a pretty good reason for the enhanced digestibility.


Seeds need to protect themselves from germinating until the conditions are right. This protection (preservative) is in the form of phytic acid - a storage form of phosphorous. Phytic acid is contained in many plant tissues and especially in nuts, seeds and grains.


Unfortunately, we humans are non-ruminant animals and we lack the proper enzymes to digest this form of phosphorous. Nevertheless, many North American's consume these foods every day.


The sourdough process instead breaks down the phytic acid, making it more digestible, and hence, no tummy aches!


The Internet is filled with resources on how to make your own sourdough starter, although you can always ask a local artisan baker to sell you some of theirs... if you're lucky.


Once the starter is prepared and maintained by periodic feeding of new flour and water, let the baking begin. I for one have experimented with sourdough brownies, cakes, cookies, pancakes... the list goes on, and they all taste great.


Here are a few resources to get you started...






Sourdough Waffle Recipe


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
2 cups warm buttermilk (about 100 degrees)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


In a large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, starter, and buttermilk. Mix well. Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes (or covered and refrigerated overnight).


Beat together eggs, milk, honey, and oil. Add to flour mixture and stir until blended. Combine baking soda and salt. Stir into batter, then let stand for 5 minutes.


For pancakes, drop batter by spoonfuls onto a moderately hot greased griddle. Cook until tops are bubbly and appear browned. Flip and cook through. Makes about 2 dozen 4-inch pancakes.

For waffles, bake in a pre-heated electric waffle iron, however you usually do. The waffles should be richly browned. Serve immediately. Or let cool on racks, package airtight and freeze. You can reheat the frozen waffles in a toaster or warm oven later. Makes twelve 4-inch square waffles.


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