I have a dream of being able to eat bread without any of the negative affects of gluten on my health. Being a silent celiac living in the tropics has rendered me a allergy riddled mess when partaking in baked goods. Understanding how my gut biome changes depending on where I reside and also understanding what ingredients are favorable for my particular condition has me on the ‘War’ path to solve this riddle. Just like so many things, the answer to this problem lies in the past. Baking with non GMO products that are glyphosate free in traditional cob ovens is my strategy for partaking in baked goods once again.
My confidence in Cob ovens with the aforementioned ingredients has been bolstered by my time in Europe. EU countries have had a ban on genetically modified grains and many bakers are using very old yeast starters that have been passed down for generations. Even though many of these bakers have switched to large commercial, metal box ovens some have retained their masonry progenitors. The combinations of these factors creates bread that might as well be from an alien planet considering what I was exposed to states side.
My European counterparts are ‘Bread’ snobs to say the least. Day old bread is sacrilegious. Something that doesn’t have a good crust with a nice moist, airy interior is just unacceptable. What I grew up with wouldn’t pass the smell test there. The styrofoam, cardboard covered bread that’s presented in the tropics would be such a visceral affront to my EU friends that they may not ever talk to me again. The beauty of their preference is that it requires ‘Quality.’ Looking at the traditional baking practices there are some key elements.
First off the flour has to be organic, fresh, and non GMO. Secondly, the starter needs to be home cultivated. The older the starter the better. Lastly the cooking vessel needs to impart all three types of heat, conductive, convective and radiant. I believe this is where the magic is when lengthening the gluten protein to an acceptable length for the human body. Gluten will stay ‘bundled’ when only exposed to two types of heat hence you need an old school, masonry oven to impart the ‘Artesian’ quality.
I have to admit my preference for cob ovens is two fold. For one I build them, so let’s just get that out of the way. But I build them for a reason. The bread that they produce is Spectacular! I don’t feel icky after eating Artesian bread. Store bought, big box offerings create an instant allergy in me throwing my digestion off for days. I think this is the key. Masonry ovens properly digest ingredients by using every type of heat. They give off a different spectrum of radiant heat known as far infrared. Far infrared saunas are incredible for turning on your mitochondria(your cells generators). My theory is that somehow this far infrared spectrum changes the gluten for the better. My evidence in antidotal, but very consistent.
I love cob ovens not only for their structural components but also for their shape. Imagine little earthen igloos with smoldering wood fires inside. These egg like shapes optimize thermodynamics. Think of fengshui for your oven. With no dead spots and all those different types of heat cob ovens distribute a unique energy to dough that can not be replicated from a box. Much like water storage vessels that are cylindrical cob ovens induce a flow state. Where there's flow there’s deliciousness!
Clay, sand, natural fibers are the primary building materials for these Cob domes. The more they are fired the more ‘Seasoning’ they have to give just like a cast iron skillet. The fact that masonry ovens breathe is what causes the seasoning. As dough expands from the heating process it’s moisture is absorbed by the oven and than redistributed back to the bread once the thermal mass reaches it’s homeostatic pressure. In conventional ovens miniature misters try to replicate this process so the crust will be crunchy. Nothing can replace the temperature time release of moisture that earthen ovens provide.
So being a hybridizing aficionado I will attempt to build a ‘Rocket’ cob oven that is smokeless and easy to use. Firing a traditional cob oven takes about two hours before it’s ready to bake. Even though you can cook in it for the next 12 hours it can be a hassle. Also, until the oven get’s up to temperature it produces a ton of smoke. I want a cob oven where the thermal mass heats up in a half hour with a smokeless fire from it’s rocket componentry. All of this is in the name of Scrumptulescent, healthy bread.
Within my cob creation I will also bake gluten free lasagna, egg plant parmesan, roasted root veggies, and Pizza!!! Having the capacity to make healthy pizza without any of the negative side effects is a legitimate challenge. Stay tuned to my blog to hear about these experimental cooking vessels and recipes. If it goes well it will be a win win for all of us.