From No-Knead to Sourdough - An Interview with author Victoria Redhed Miller

by: Sara on 06/13/2018

Today we speak to author Victoria Redhed Miller about her new book From No-knead to Sourdough: A Simpler Approach to Handmade Bread. In her new book Victoria teaches readers how to create delicious, healthy breads (no experience required) From low and no-gluten baking to  bagels and pizza, even tips for using a wood -fired oven, there is a recipe for every baker from beginner to experienced.

woodfire sourdough

Sourdough bread being baked in the authors wood-fired oven

Q: I love how you draw connection between seemingly unrelated tasks. You give an example of hand-kneading bread mimicking the process of blending clay and sand into cob. What was it that first drew you to traditional homesteading skills like baking homemade bread?

A: I've never quite understood why I am so drawn to homesteading skills, doing things with hand tools, and all the other things people generally associate with homesteading. My mother cooked almost everything from scratch, including bread, and that certainly influenced me when I was very young. We were encouraged to read a lot, and I've had a passion for family history for many years; this no doubt relates to my fascination for earlier times and a different lifestyle. We also always had a vegetable garden, and several of us were involved very year in helping to plant seeds, tend the garden, harvest and preserve what we grew. I grew up in the heart of Seattle, so honestly I don't know where all my interests came from; I just know that this life suits me perfectly. It's a life full of variety, constant learning and challenges.

Q: What would you say to people who insist that they “just don’t have the time to make their own bread”?

A: That's actually the number 1 reason I hear people give for not making bread, that they can't figure out how to fit it into their schedule. What I've learned is that, contrary to what most people think, it's actually easier to find time for bread when you slow the process down, rather than speed it up. Yet another advantage of the long, slow fermentation process of sourdough bread; a typical yeast bread recipe takes around 4 hours from start to finish, so it requires attention much more frequently than a sourdough bread process spread over 24 hours or more. And of course, automatic bread machines take a lot of the schedule issues out of the equation.

Q: One reader asked how does someone make the most airy / lightest / voluminous gluten-free loaf, as all the ones she makes are flat and like bricks :)

A: Once you understand the basics of what gluten does in a bread dough, you'll realize that it's simply not realistic to expect a gluten-free bread dough to behave like a dough with gluten in it, even when you add things like xanthan gum and other things that are meant to somehow mimic the effect of gluten. I strongly recommend, if you're avoiding gluten altogether, to focus on flatbreads rather than sandwich-type loaves; flatbreads are much more suited to being adapted to gluten-free grains, as they don't depend on the gluten structure to enable them to rise. This reader isn't doing anything wrong that's making her bread turn out flat and like bricks; it's simply the nature of gluten-free grains that's doing that.

Q: Is sourdough bread ok for folks with diabetes?

A: This is a really good question. I've done a lot of research on this subject but I'm not a medical person and not qualified to say “yes” or “no” to this question. It's very important to bring your physician or naturopath into the conversation, ask questions and do some research. It's also important to know that “sourdough” is not a flavor; many commercially-made breads are labeled “sourdough” but are actually sourdough-flavored bread. Often the sour flavor comes from citric acid. Sourdough bread that has been leavened with a sourdough starter (that is, with wild yeast) is definitely lower on the glycemic index than bread raised with commercial yeast, but there's more to the story than just the glycemic index. For example, breads made with whole grains slow down the process of the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream because of their relatively higher fiber content. Absorption rate is also influenced by what other foods are eaten along with the bread. Again, the best thing is to gather some information, talk to your doctor, and learn to read labels. If the word “yeast” is listed in the ingredients, that is not naturally-fermented sourdough bread. Look for phrases like “sourdough starter” or “sour culture.” I'm not familiar with labeling regulations in Canada, but these are the phrases I see most commonly on bread labels in the US.

And the winning questions from our Facebook/Instagram contest

 Q; I’ve tried 3 times at sourdough & failed at getting a natural starter going. It seems our home doesn’t have the right wild yeast?

A; There isn't a "right" kind of yeast. There are literally thousands of strains of wild yeast, and they are everywhere. Your wild yeast is different from what we have at our place, and the grain you use to make starter or bread has plenty of wild yeast living in it too. Here are a few

woodfire pizza

Wood-fired Pizza Margherita

pointers for getting your starter successfully up and growing.

1. Avoid using chlorinated water if at all possible. Bottled or spring water is fine. Chlorine tends to inhibit yeast growth.2. All you need is flour and water. No sugar. No salt. No commercial yeast.3. I recommend using organic unbleached bread flour when cultivating a starter. Even if it's not organic, make sure it's unbleached! All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour.4. Add a little whole wheat and rye flours to the starter. Rye ferments quickly, and whole wheat adds minerals lacking in white flour, so they both encourage yeast growth in your starter.5. The wetter the mix, the faster it will ferment. So when you're just beginning to grow your sourdough, a wetter mix will get it going a little more quickly.6. Keep the starter at room temperature until it is actively fermenting, then store it in the refrigerator. It doesn't have to be kept very warm; in cool conditions it will just ferment a little more slowly.

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