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The Evolving Art of Shanghai-Style Tea Blending

The Evolving Art of Shanghai-Style Tea Blending

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

It took me a long time to settle on the title for this post. Why? Because it’s quite a statement to suggest that a humble loaf of bread will change your life, but the “Life-Changing Loaf of Bread” will do just that. I am willing to be so bold.

When I began eating healthier, bread was definitely on my hit list – not because bread is inherently bad in my books (nothing is that black and white), but that I knew when I was basing three meals a day around a loaf of crusty white French bread, something had to give. I realized that if I replaced a few slices of bread a day, I could make room for things like greens, fresh fruits, legumes, and that I would be getting more nutrients from the same amount of calories. Light bulb moment!

Now that isn’t to say that my love affair with bread ended there. Oh no! When I moved to Denmark four years ago, I fell head-over-heels for bread all over again – except this time it wasn’t light and fluffy, it was kind of like the weather: dark, deep and intense. The Danes are excellent bread makers, especially when it comes to sourdoughs and of course, rye. Bread here is hearty, filling, and a single slice is almost like a meal in itself.

I love going to the bakery on Saturday morning and getting a loaf of rye that has naturally risen for days, been baked for 24 hours, and looks and feels like a brick. People often ask me why I don’t bake my own bread, and the answer is simple: the Danes just do it better. And I like the ritual of walking down the canal to the bakery – rye bread is one of the few things I actually purchase ready-made. This way, I appreciate bread on a whole other level and it becomes special. I savor every slice instead of making it every meal.

It wasn’t until I went for lunch at a friend’s place a couple weeks ago that my life changed. When I walked into her apartment, I could smell it. Something malty and definitely baked – toasty, nutty, when I rounded the corner to her kitchen, there it was: A very beautiful loaf of bread, pretty as a picture, studded with sunflower seeds, chia and almonds, golden around the corners and begging me to slice into it. She served it with a number of spreads – pesto, lentil hummus, some veggie pâté. It magically seemed to complement everything I slathered across its speckled flesh – moist, dense, chewy. Hints of sea salt here and there, nestled between the oats, around the corner from a golden flax seed. So beautiful and more than tasty, this was a revelation.

“Please tell me this is good for me,” I begged her.

She smiled. “You’re probably asking yourself how the heck this bread holds itself together without any flour. Nice observation – and the answer is psyllium seed husks.”

Psyllium Seed Husks

Psyllium seed husks are one of nature’s most absorbent fibers, able to suck up over ten times their weight in water. Psyllium comes from the plant Plantago ovata and is related to the common garden dweller, Plantain (not to be confused with the fruit). For this reason, you’ll often find psyllium in over-the-counter laxatives, stool-bulking agents, and colon cleansing kits – basically anything having to do with poo.

I just came back from running a detox course in Lisbon where I got all the participants in-the-know about this amazing little supplement that also helps to reduce cholesterol levels, aid digestion and weight loss, and alleviate diarrhea and constipation. Psyllium seed husks contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber dissolves in water and soothes the digestive tract with its mucilaginous properties, while the insoluble fiber acts like a broom to sweep the colon free of toxins. Taken during a detox, juice cleanse or fast, psyllium can greatly improve the body’s ability to eliminate impurities.

But the good news is you can take it anytime – many people find that a daily dose of a teaspoon or two in a glass of water really helps them get their bowels moving, or slow them down if necessary. But what does this have to do with bread? Well, the idea here is to use psyllium to bind all these lovely ingredients together without resorting to flour.

There have been some low-carb bread recipes floating around the net as of late that take advantage of psyllium, and I think it’s a great idea. Eat delicious bread, have good poops – I’m in!

Psyllium is available at health food stores and most pharmacies. It comes in two forms: the raw husks themselves, and powdered, which are just the husks that have been pulverized. It is easier to take the powdered form as it dissolves easier in water, but that is not important in the case of this bread – either type will work just fine.

Why This Bread Is So Special

First of all, when I make bread, there are bowls, spoons, measuring cups and flour everywhere. There is always a mess to clean up, and my biggest pet peeve is trying to get the very last bit of dough unstuck from the mixing bowl. Serenity now!

The only thing this bread leaves you with is a used spoon and a measuring cup. Everything that you mix, you do so right in the loaf pan. Genius.

Secondly, bread almost always requires some kneading, then some waiting and then perhaps more kneading. Maybe more waiting. I’m confused already. This bread, on the other hand, is kind of brainless. Dump all the ingredients into the loaf pan, stir and let it sit for a couple hours. Or overnight, all day, or however long or short you find convenient. Whatevs. You rule the bread, not the other way around.

Third, bread recipes are specific. Use this kind of flour and that kind of yeast. What if I told you that if you don’t have hazelnut, you could use almonds? If you don’t like oats, you could use rolled spelt? Out of maple syrup? Use honey. See where I am going with this? The only thing I will emphasize is to replace the ingredients in the same proportion and with a similar ingredient for the best results. The rest is your call.

Fourth, breads require a rising agent, whether that is a sourdough starter (which takes days to make) or commercial yeast (which should really be avoided if possible). This bread doesn’t.

Fifth, your typical loaf of packaged grocery-store bread is not really that healthy. It uses flour which has often been stripped of much of its fiber, bran, essential fats and nutrients, unless milled mere hours before baking. It is high in refined carbohydrates and most times low in protein and healthy fats. Most breads require gluten-containing flours for texture and leavening, which many are trying to eat less of. And sometimes bread has kooky ingredients like corn syrup and food coloring. Seriously, read those labels.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread features whole grains, nuts and seeds. High in protein, incredibly high in fiber and it is gluten-free and vegan. Everything gets soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion.

I will go so far as to say that this bread is good for you. I realize that few pleasures in life will ever be able to compete with tearing open a fresh baguette or slicing into a thick-crusted country levain, and I am not suggesting that those pleasures be forgotten. On the contrary, let’s let those things be what they are and enjoy them from time to time. And for now and hopefully the better part of your bread-munching days, I offer my latest and greatest pleasure to you: the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread, with no downside, a bread with personality, a triumphant flag raised high exclaiming that deliciousness and health are not exclusive.

Conclusion

This bread changed my life. Will it change yours too? For the visual learners out there and for those who’d like to come hang with me in my kitchen, the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread is just one of many cooking classes, both live and recorded, featured on my wellness platform, My New Roots. Check it out!

I’d love to answer the number of questions about substitutions for the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread coming into the comments section. Please be advised that I cannot guarantee any results beyond the recipe above. To help out, if you do make a successful substitution, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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