LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Sister Act

A note to Fish readers: On Jan. 2, I began a nutrition plan complete with a certified nutritionist coach. After learning that I’m a journalist and blogger, she invited me to blog about my experiences. The following is the eighth of two month’s of weekly blogs that first appeared on the international Metabolic Balance® website on March 17.  Unheralded.fish will run the first eight blogs in the next two weeks to “catch up.”

During the 18-plus years I lived in Germany from the late 1970s to the early ’90s, I baked bread a couple of times a week, switching between white and whole wheat recipes that my family enjoyed.

However, in the 20-plus years since returning to my home state of Minnesota, I hadn’t made bread once. That all changed a couple of months ago after I started my Metabolic Balance® journey.

White and even whole wheat bread are not on my plan, only sourdough rye bread. Since I hadn’t found a bakery that made it without some whole wheat flour added, I decided to start baking my own bread again.

If you’ve ever baked bread, you know it’s a lengthy process with mixing, letting the dough rest, kneading, letting the dough raise, etc. Add wild yeast, which is the bases for sourdough to the mix, and you have another layer to the process, actually about five more layers.

I Googled “How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter” and printed the 12-page, somewhat arduous instructions, complete with photos.

Luckily, my coach, Christine Lindell Detweiler, had a handy breadmaking source: her husband, Phil. Unfortunately, he was traveling in South Africa, and I didn’t want to wait until he returned to provide me with some starter and demonstrate the process. Christine recommended a source for rye flour, so off I went and bought a 25 pounds of rye flour. Given its weight and bulk, I also stopped by a container store and bought a bin on wheels to store the flour in a closet since our kitchen isn’t that large to say nothing of my inability to lift 25 pounds!

I diligently studied the 12 pages of instructions and commenced on my first attempt to make the starter. It takes about five days for the starter to “activate.” My first attempt failed — I’m not sure why — but there weren’t enough “bubbles,” and I tossed it. Always one to persevere, I tried again. Fast forward five days: another failed attempt.

At this point, I called Christine to ask if Phil was back from his travels and, as luck would have it, he was. Bless him, he even delivered some of his starter the next day.

With the active starter, I was ready to commence making my first batch of sourdough rye bread. Amazingly, I still had my old bread pans. Over the next few weeks, I continued to bake bread every couple of weeks, making one loaf and one batch of 12 muffins each time. The consistency and finished product improved in texture and taste with each batch.

It wasn’t long before I preferred the ease of muffins over a loaf of bread for a variety of reasons. First, the muffins are easy to eat and don’t need slicing. Second, the size is a perfect portion. Third, they’re easy to freeze and keep fresh. Last, the loaves often seemed like they weren’t completely cooked in the center, despite being in the oven for the required time.

My sister, Sharon (right) and I spent a fun day together at La Farm as I showed her how I make the sourdough rye bread on our MB® plan.
My sister, Sharon (right) and I spent a fun day together at La Farm as I showed her how I make the sourdough rye bread on our MB® plan.

You may recall from early blogs that my sister, Sharon Henneman of rural Minnesota, is my inspiration for starting on the MB® plan. Last year, she lost over 80 pounds, and now we are sharing the journey. After telling her about my baking experiences, she asked if I’d  show her how I do it.

This past weekend was Sharon’s birthday. So my husband and I drove the 2½ hours to our family retreat, La Farm, near Ashby, Minn., where we grew up and is not far from Sharon’s. La Farm is 33-acres and belonged to our late grandparents for 40 years. My sisters and I bought it 20 years ago this year and have enjoyed it as a wonderful family gathering place ever since.

Sharon came over Saturday morning for a Sister Time Bread Baking Session. We had a ball working side by side in the kitchen that once housed our grandmother, who surely made bread many times in the same spot during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

We each had the same measurements, but we had different styles of kneading the dough. I like to keep it contained in a large bowl, whereas Sharon turned her dough out on the counter to knead.

She noticed a different consistency in our doughs with mine being somewhat “lighter”and hers more dense. The only difference I could distinguish was that during the kneading process, I added small amounts of flour — this dough is  VERY  STICKY — as well as olive oil on my hands several times.

After four kneading sessions, with 45-minute raising times in between each session, we both formed our dough into muffin forms.

We covered the muffin forms with tea towels and left them to raise for five hours and spent the rest of the afternoon playing our favorite card game: Hand and Foot.

Later that evening after a birthday “treat meal” of shrimp and veggies stir-fry made by my talented husband, we baked our muffins to perfection.

Sourdough Rye Bread
Mix together:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tablespoon of honey (optional)
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pour over and mix well:
2 cups of boiling water
Add immediately to this hot mixture:
½ cup of rye flour
1 cup of wild yeast (Google How to make sourdough starter for recipe)
5 to 6 cups of rye flour
½ cup water
Mix all together until you have a tacky, but not sticky dough. (I keep extra flour and olive oil handy to add if dough is too sticky.)
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes with 45 minutes rest periods in between each time.
This primary fermentation process takes about 3 hours.
Gently knead the dough and shape as preferred in bread or muffin pans. If using muffin pans, it’s recommended you weigh each one so they are all the same weight. Place in oiled and floured tin and leave to raise — at least 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes for muffins or 45 for loaf of bread. It is done when it sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool.

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Results: I’m losing between a pound to a pound and a half a week. At first, I was disappointed until I realized it’s much healthier to have a steady weightloss week after week. With my weightloss to date, I’m able to exercise three to four times a week either on the treadmill or — now that the snow has melted and weather permitting — I walk in our neighborhood park for 30 minutes.

Tip: Slow down, be present in the moment and enjoy spring.

One thought on “LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Sister Act”

  • Bev Benda June 11, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I love the pic of you and your sister! Sweet! And congrats on the slow but steady weight loss – that is the better predictor of fat loss. Rapid weight loss is the sign of water loss and even muscle loss, since muscle is “preferred fuel.” Slow and steady wins the race, as the turtle taught the hare!


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