Posts

Embracing Motherhood How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

Using sourdough is one of the pillars of healthy eating in our family because it is the best way to get rid of phytic acid, which is in all grains (and basically anything that is a seed) and prevents us from accessing the much needed phosphorus located in grains and leaches minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. (Read more about phytic acid in my blog here.) Not only that, but the souring process breaks down all of the sugars in the flour and makes it much easier for the body to digest. Making sourdough can seem like a daunting task at first, but once you get the sourdough starter established, it can become a very easy part of your routine.

I got my first sourdough starter from a friend, and things didn’t turn out so well. The problem could have been any or all of the following: 1) the starter flour was different than the flour I was using to bake with, 2) my gallon size jars were too big, 3) my hard winter wheat grain was too dense, and/or 4) I didn’t feed it enough. So I scrapped the project and waited until I had more time to do it properly. Now, I have an excellent starter that’s nice and poofy, some great containers, the perfect grain, the time to feed it regularly, and some great sourdough recipes that I love using.

Materials Needed

  • Sourdough Starter Packet (I got mine from Breadtopia via Amazon)
  • Wide Mouth Mason Jars (I use 2 jars at a time. You can get some here or in the canning aisle at your local grocery store.)
  • Coffee Filters (To cover the mason jars. This keeps out the fruit flies and lets the sourdough “breathe”.)
  • Fresh Ground Grain (I get my organic prairie gold wheat berries here, but you can find some similar here too. I use my Wondermill Grain Grinder to grind it up, but you can also get a hand operated grain mill if you’re looking for a cheaper option.*I’ve tried hard winter wheat berries, and they just didn’t work as well.)
  • Filtered Water (We have city water that fortunately has no flouride, and we bought a simple filter to get the chlorine and other chemicals out. You can also let water sit out for 24 hours to evaporate the chlorine.)

Starting the Starter:

  1. Put 1 t. of dried starter into your mason jar(s) and add 1 T of lukewarm filtered water. Stir until softened.
  2. Add 1 T of freshly ground flour and stir. (You can grind a big batch of flour and keep it on your countertop, which is what I do, or you can get a little coffee grinder and grind some fresh every day. The more freshly ground the flour, the more phytase will be available to break down the mineral leeching phytic acid. Don’t freeze your flour, this will “kill” all of the phytase.)
  3. Cover the mason jar with a coffee filter, screw the cap on to keep it in place (or place a rubber band around it), and let it sit for 24 hours.
  4. For the first few days, you’ll just add tablespoons of water and flour, but once your starter is established (you will notice the bubbling action of the fermentation), you can increase the amounts to 13 c. of flour and 14 c. of water. *You want the consistency to be soft but not soupy, and you want to be able to mix it easily.

    Sourdough Starter

    Sourdough Starter

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is my sourdough established? After you feed your sourdough and let it sit for 24 hours, you should see it get poofy, double in size, and there should be little holes dotted throughout. Because of this, you never want to let your jar(s) get too full.
  • How should I maintain the starter? If you’re like me and want to use the starter as often as you can for things like sourdough muffinssourdough pancakes, and sourdough pizza crust, you’ll want to leave it on the counter in warmish place (not near a drafty window) where it can be left undisturbed but remain within easy reach, and feed it 13 c. of flour and 14 c. of water every day. If you won’t be using it very often, you can keep it in your refrigerator. When you want to use it, take it out of the refrigerator, feed it, and let it sit out until it gets nice and poofy again, preferably 24 hours. Try not to let more than 2 weeks go by between feedings.
  • What if I need more? You can always double the amount of flour and water each time you feed your starter or feed it every 12 hours if you need a quick boost in volume.
  • What should I do if I forget to feed my starter every day? If you miss a day here and there, you should be fine. But if you miss more than a couple of days and the starter starts to turn black, you are getting near the point of no return. But still, try to feed it, stir it really well, and see if it will come back.
  • How do I know if my starter has gone bad? Make it a point to really stick your nose in your starter and smell it when it is first established. It should have a pleasantly sour smell. If it goes bad, it will have a rotten and putrid smell. When this happens, you just have to throw it away and start over.
  • When should I clean out my jars? When wet sourdough dries, it is VERY hard to clean! This is why I highly recommend cleaning any measuring cups with sourdough starter in them right away! If you notice that the inside sides of your jars are getting caked with lots of dry sourdough and especially if the dried sourdough is turning black, it’s time to clean your jars! Get a fresh clean mason jar(s), transfer as much of the wet starter as you can into the new jar, and soak the dirty jar in hot soapy water. Warning: It will not be easy or fun to clean! It will require a lot of scraping and perhaps even some more soaking, but you will be glad you did it when it’s over. 🙂
  • Why should I go to all of the trouble of using sourdough anyways? All grains (as well as seeds, nuts, corn, oats, tubers, and bean…even coffee beans) contain phytic acid. Phytic acid is found in the hull of the grain and protects it. If we eat phytic acid without breaking it down first, not only can we not access the phosphorus inside (which is needed by every cell in the body), but it leaches valuable minerals (such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium) from our bodies. By making sourdough, we are releasing the phytase within the grain which is the only thing that can break down the phytic acid. I did an insane amount of research to learn more about this fascinating topic and you can read more about what I learned in my blog: The Dangers of Phytic Acid and What to Do About It.
  • Where can I find some good sourdough recipes? Well, I’m glad you asked! It just so happens that I have a collection of my favorite sourdough recipes here.
Embracing Motherhood How to Make Sourdough Muffins

How to Make Sourdough Muffins

I have tried so many different recipes for sourdough bread, and I never found anything that really worked (or that I really liked) until I stumbled across this recipe and found the perfect solution! Who needs to make loaves of bread when you can have these perfect, single size, delicious little muffins? We love eating them toasted for breakfast with butter or cream cheese, as an “English muffin” for an egg sandwich, with lunch meat and cheese for a portable school lunch, or as a bun for hamburgers. Everyone who comes over LOVES these muffins!

The sourdough process is extremely beneficial for your health because it is the best way to get rid of the phytic acid in the grain. Phytic acid prevents us from absorbing phosphorus and it leaches valuable minerals from our bodies. (Read my blog: The Dangers of Phytic Acid and What to Do About It to learn more.) It also breaks down the sugars in the grain which makes it easier to digest.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. Sourdough Starter (Blog Post: Sourdough Starter Recipe)
  • 2 c. Raw Milk (Blog Post: Why We Drink Raw Milk)
  • 4 c. Fresh Ground Flour (I get my wheat berries here, but you can find some similar here too. I use this grinder. You could also just buy some organic sprouted grain flour here.)
  • *2 T. Raw Honey (Optional: It helps to neutralize the sour flavor. Get some here.)
  • 1 ½ t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 2 t. Baking Soda (Optional too, I think it just helps them rise a bit better.)
  • Coconut Oil (To grease your hands and the pans. This coconut oil would be best, but on our budget, I buy this.)

Materials

  • Mixing bowl
  • Towel or saran wrap
  • Stirring utensil
  • Baking sheet (I use the standard baking sheets I’ve had forever, but in a perfect world where money was no option, I would love some stone baking ware like this.)

Directions

Part 1: Mix it Up and Let it Sit

  1. Mix together the sourdough starter and the milk. I usually don’t mix it until it is completely dissolved, I just try to stir it up for a bit to make sure it mixes more evenly when the flour is added.
  2. *Add the honey. If you are going to add the honey, now would be a good time. My raw honey is usually solid at room temperature, so I put it in a glass cup and microwave it until it melts. (I added this when I first started making these to cut down on the sour flavor, but now that my family is used to it, I don’t add this anymore!)
  3. Add the flour until you achieve a solid, but pliable consistency. When you use freshly ground flour, it has plenty of phytase that will break down the phytic acid. (Read more about the dangers of phytic acid here.) If you don’t have the time to grind it fresh every time you use it, you can always leave your flour in a sealed container on your countertop at room temperature. Just don’t freeze it or it will kill the phytase.

    Sourdough Ingredients All Mixed Together

    Sourdough Ingredients All Mixed Together

  4. Cover with a towel (or saran wrap) and leave in a warm undisturbed place for 8 hours. It is best if it can be slightly warm during this process (but not over 90°F). I usually just tuck mine away on the counter during the warmer days, but if it’s cold, I’ll put it on top of the stove and turn on the stove to like 200°F.
  5. *Notes: If you’re just starting to get your family used to the taste of sourdough, I would start out only letting it sit for a few hours. This will still be enough time for the sourdough to break down some of the phytic acid. Then, you can gradually increase the time to 8 hours, and you can even leave it overnight if that’s more convenient. If you set it out and 8 hours later, you’re not ready to make your muffins, pop it into the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Part 2: Make Your Muffins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  2. Get the dough ready. The dough mixture should have risen to almost double its size by this time, and you’ll need to use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to loosen the mixture before dumping it onto your countertop. (*If it didn’t rise, it probably wasn’t warm enough, or maybe the starter isn’t good anymore.)
  3. Add dry ingredients and knead. Sprinkle your salt and baking soda on top of your lump, grease up your hands with some coconut oil, and knead the dough to mix everything in. *If your dough is too soupy, you can add a little bit of flour at a time until its more stiff and pliable. **It is very important that you don’t add the salt until the end because it hinders the fermentation process. You don’t want to skip it though because it tightens the gluten structure and prevents the dough from getting too sticky. 

    Sourdough Mixture Ready to Make Muffins

    Sourdough Mixture Ready to Make Muffins

  4. Grease the baking sheets. I like to use coconut oil.
  5. Make dough blobs. Make sure your hands stay nice and greased up with coconut oil and then pull apart a little blobs of the dough, roll them in your hands until they are formed into nice little cookie dough balls, and place them on the baking sheets. (This recipe should make enough for two sheets of muffins.)

    Rolling Dough Into Balls (Yes, my pans are atrocious!)

    Rolling Dough Into Balls (Yes, my pans are atrocious!)

  6. Flatten the blobs. Use the palm of your hand to press them down, and then even out with your fingers.

    Flattened Out Muffins

    Flattened Out Muffins

  7. Place the muffins sheets on top of the warm oven. Cover with some towels and leave them to rise for about an hour. (If you don’t have an oven underneath your stove, you can turn your stove to warm and place them inside with the door open.)

    two trays of sourdough muffins covered with towels so they'll rise

    Covered Sourdough Muffins

  8. Bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes.
  9. Place in Ziploc bags and store in the fridge or freezer. I like to cut them in half and toast them or use for sandwiches, English muffins, hamburgers, etc.

    Homemade Sourdough Muffins Fresh Out of the Oven

    Sourdough Muffins Fresh Out of the Oven

*I adapted this recipe from The Fresh Loaf, which is a GREAT resource for all bread making.

Tips and Tricks

Cutting these little buggers in half can be a little tricky, but my husband came up with a way that works really well even on the thinnest of muffins. First of all, hold the muffin up on its side and insert just the tip of the knife all around the edges (almost like you’re scoring it). Then, gently saw back and forth while rotating the muffin in a circular motion until you get to the middle. Walla!

cutting technique for homemade sourdough muffins

How to Cut These Sourdough Muffins

These muffins are kind of little, so they can get stuck in a toaster. I prefer making them in my toaster oven.

Toasted Sourdough Muffins with Butter

Toasted Sourdough Muffins with Butter

These muffins taste great with an egg sandwich, with scrambled eggs, or my favorite…sunny side up eggs!

Check out my sourdough starter recipe here, or take a peek at some of my other sourdough recipes like these sourdough pancakes and sourdough pizza crust.

Embracing Motherhood How to Make Paninis That Will Knock Your Socks Off!

How to Make Paninis That Will Knock Your Socks Off!

Finally, I have a reason to use my George Foreman grill again! Remember back in the day when everyone thought that high protein, low-fat diets were healthy? (You know that we were misguided then, right?) Well, when I learned the truth about fats and how good it was to eat fats with their attached proteins (thank you Sally Fallon), I put my George Foreman grill on the shelf. Well, now thanks to one of my lunchtime panini cravings, the Foreman is back!

It all started when my husband and I stopped at a little deli the other day, excited to try one of their advertised special paninis. At the mere mention of said panini, my mouth started watering in anticipation. The crisp bread, the melted cheese, the caccophony of flavors, I could hardly wait! But then, as I bit into the premade deli sandwich, I was crestfallen at the reality of the flavor, or the lack thereof.

So, I went on a mission to create my own panini, and let me say, it was well worth the journey. I think that having fresh, quality ingredients really makes all of the difference.

Ingredients

  • Sourdough Bread (I just purchased some from our local grocery store. Properly prepared sourdough is, in my opinion, the healthiest bread choice because it gets rid of the most phytic acid that blocks mineral absorbtion.)
  • Lunchmeat (I would have preferred sliced organic free range chicken, but I settled for Oscar Meyer’s carving board lunchmeat.)
  • Cheese (I used sliced havarti and shredded cheddar.)
  • Tomato Slices
  • Avocado Slices
  • Finely Chopped Jalapeño
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise (I like Hellman’s)
  • Real Salt
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Plug in the Foreman grill. Prop the front legs up on a cutting board to make it level so that all of the butter doesn’t slip out.
  2. Spread the butter generously on one side of the sourdough bread.
  3. Stack the two slices of bread so that the butter sides are together so that you can put the toppings on the other side of one of the slices.
  4. Start by spreading the mayo and mustard on the bread.
  5. Then add your lunchmeat and sliced cheese.
  6. Add the tomato, avocado, and jalapeño. (Be careful not to let things stack too high.)
  7. Add a nice sprinkling of Real Salt, and hey, maybe even add a dash of pepper to boot.
  8. Cover everything with a handful of shredded cheese.

    Making the Panini

    Making the Panini

  9. Carefully place the bread half with all of the toppings onto the preheated Foreman grill and cover with the other half of the bread.
  10. Press the top down really hard and cook for about 10 minutes (or until all of the cheese is melty and gooey and the bread is nicely browned.
grilled paninis on a foreman

Grilled Paninis

Variations

  • Ultimate Grilled Cheese Panini: I put tomato, jalapeño, garlic, and salt into our little food chopper and pulsed it until it was a finely chopped. Then, I put these ingredients in between two layers of cheese and grilled them to perfection.

    Ultimate Grilled Cheese Panini

    Ultimate Grilled Cheese Panini

  • Roasted Chicken Panini: After I cooked a delicious roasted chicken and cut up all of the meat into chunks, I placed those chunks on my sourdough bread and topped them with sliced tomato, chopped jalapeno, fresh parsley, and shredded cheddar cheese. It was amazing!
  • Breakfast Panini: Cook some scrambled eggs and bacon separately, then place the scrambled eggs, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese on sourdough and grill it up! Add some jalapenos for a little kick!

Sort of Sourdough Pancakes

Typically, when you make things with sourdough, you need to prepare them well in advance, but what if you wake up one Sunday morning and you’re just craving pancakes? This is a good recipe to make some quick pancakes that are “sort of sourdough”. (If you’re looking for more of a real deal sourdough waffle/pancake recipe, check this recipe out, and if you just want some whole wheat pancakes, go here.) My kids always love this pancake recipe, and we sometimes even eat them for dinner!

Read my article about phytic acid if you want to learn why eating sourdough is so important!

Ingredients

  • 1 c. Sourdough Starter
  • 2. c. Milk (Raw is best.)
  • 2 c. Flour (I get my wheat berries here, but you can find some similar here too. I use this grinder. You could also just buy some organic sprouted grain flour here.)
  • 3 Eggs (Preferably pastured)
  • 6 T. (¾ stick) Melted Butter (You can add room temperature butter and it should mix alright though.)
  • 2 T. Cinnamon (Buy some here.)
  • 2 T. Vanilla Extract (This vanilla would be best, but on our budget, I buy this.)
  • ½ t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 1 t. Baking Soda (or Aluminum Free Baking Powder)
  • 2 T. Coconut Oil (This coconut oil would be best, but on our budget, I buy this.)

Directions

  1. Mix the sourdough starter and milk. Try to let it sit out for as long as you can. If you let it sit out for 8 hours, all of the phytic acid will be broken down, but if you can at least let it sit out for half an hour to an hour it will be better than nothing. (*Eating sourdough is an acquired taste. It might be a good idea to slowly get your family used to the sour taste of these pancakes by letting the batter sit out for increasing amounts of time.)
  2. Preheat your cast iron skillet (make sure it’s cured properly) by setting it to a 2 or 3 for about five minutes.
  3. Add a dollop of coconut oil to your cast iron skillet (or whatever cooking pan you choose).
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs.
  5. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Stir well.
  6. Add the flour and mix together. Add about a ½ c. to a cup more flour if you like poofier pancakes. This mixture is pretty thin, but it makes some deliciously thin pancakes that we all love. (*I find that my kids really like it when I cook pancakes one way for awhile, that I mix it up and make it a little different. So I’ll go from thick to thin and less sour to more sour quite often.)

    sourdough pancake batter mixed up and ready to serve with a ladle

    Sort of Sourdough Batter

  7. Turn the heat dial to 4 and pour a ladle’s worth of batter into the skillet. (The oil should be bubbling around the pancake.)

    sort of sourdough batter just starting to cook on a cast iron skillet

    Sort of Sourdough Batter Starting to Cook

  8. Cover and let cook for about 2-4 minutes.  (By the time I get a few pancakes in, the heat is sometimes too high and needs to be turned down temporarily. You’ll know if the heat is too high if you get hit with splattering coconut oil!)
  9. When the edges are slightly browned and the top is bubbly, you’ll know it’s time to flip.  (Stand back as you do this so you don’t get hit with splattering coconut oil.)

    Sort of sourdough pancake with brown edges and bubbling on top ready to flip

    Sort of Sourdough Pancake Ready to Flip

  10. Cover and cook for about 1 minute on the other side.

    sort of sourdough pancake cooking in a cast iron skillet

    Sort of Sourdough Pancake Almost Done Cooking

  11. Cook the rest of pancakes and add more coconut oil as needed. When you rock the pan back and forth, there should be enough oil to generously coat the bottom. This batter should make about 5-6 pancakes.
  12. Serve with butter and maple syrup. (I like to smear the butter all over the top, then cut it up, and finally add a very modest amount of syrup.)
    sourdough pancake fully cooked with a dollop of butter on the top

    Sort of Sourdough Pancake

    cut up sourdough pancake with butter and syrup ready to eat on a plate

    Sort of Sourdough Pancake Cut Up and Ready to Eat

The Dangers of Phytic Acid and What to Do About It

When you eat a bran muffin, brown rice, or whole wheat bread, you think you’re making a healthy choice, right? Well, because of the phytic acid present in these foods, that is not the case. If you are not going to properly prepare your foods that contain phytic acid, it is actually a better option to eat a blueberry muffin made with white flour, white rice, and white bread.

Phytic acid is present in all seeds (which by definition includes nuts, beans, grain, oats, rice, corn, tubers, etc.), and is an anti-nutrient that protects plants, but is harmful to us if we eat it in its raw state. In order to unlock the phytic acid so that we can get the phosphorus within and prevent it from leeching additional nutrients from us, we need to unlock the phytase within the seed (or add it if enough isn’t there). We can do this by using proper preparation techniques such as soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening.

What is an Anti-Nutrient?

There are many different types of anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors, lipase inhibitors, amylase inhibitors, oxalic acid and oxalates, glucosinolates, trypsin inhibitors, lectins, flavonoids, and saponins, and they are all good for plants, but bad for us. Basically, they are the protection system of plants. They are found most often in the hull or husk of a seed and acts as a protective coating that can be “taken off” when the conditions (for growing) are just right.

child's coat

This Coat is Like the Anti-Nutrients in a Plant

child's coat open

Taking the Anti-Nutrient “Coat” Off

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient

Phytic acid is the specific anti-nutrient that I want to focus on here because it is prevalent in so many of our foods, and by properly preparing foods to unlock the phytic acid, we will also be unlocking the mechanisms of some of the other anti-nutrients as well.

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient

Phytic Acid is an Anti-Nutrient (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Harbinary, 2009)

Good for Plants: When a seed is in conditions that are just right for growing (the right acidity or soil pH, enough moisture, and nutrients are present), phytase will be released that will unlock the phytic acid and release the phosphorus that it needs to grow. Because of phytic acid, seeds can stay dormant as they pass through the digestive tract of an animal and are in locations or conditions where the growing conditions are not ideal. Soil has a specific pH that when combined with water and nutrients unlocks the phytic acid so the seed can germinate and grow.

date seed sprouting

A Seed is Protected by Phytic Acid Until it Sprouts (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Amada44, 2010)

Bad for Us: We have enzymes to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, but we do not have an enzyme that allows us to break down phytic acid. So when we eat foods with phytic acid, we are not getting access to the valuable phosphorus inside. Phosphorus isn’t as widely recognized as calcium, but it is just as important. Phosphorus is a mineral found within every single cell in the body. It works with calcium to make our bones strong. Too little phosphorus in the diet can lead to osteoporosis. (*Too much, mainly from soft drinks, can lead to calcium loss as well as cravings for sugar and alcohol.)

In addition, the phosphate arms of the phytic acid molecule attach to valuable minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, making it impossible for us to absorb them during digestion. (It binds with these minerals regardless of when they were consumed, meaning that by eating phytic acid, we could actually be getting negative nutrients from the food we’re eating.) Phytic acid also inhibits the enzymes amylase, pepsin, and trypsin that help us to digest carbohydrates and proteins.

Osteoporosis

Over Time, Phytic Acid Can Cause Osteoporosis (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, BruceBlaus, 2013)

When growing children are deprived of these minerals, their growth is stunted and the results can be severe such as poor bone growth, short stature, rickets, narrow jaws, and tooth decay. As adults, we can go for years and years consuming a diet high in phytic acid and not notice any immediate damage until we get something like osteoporosis in our later years when it is too late to do anything about it.

Seeds That Have Phytic Acid

The following list of “seeds” contain phytic acid and are listed from the highest phytic acid content to the lowest. When we eat these foods, some of them easily come to mind as seeds and with others, you’ll be like, oh yeah, I guess those are seeds! (Just know that for the duration of this article, I’ll be referring to the following as seeds.)

  • Seeds (like sesame and pumpkin)
  • Nuts (like pecan, walnut, and peanut)
  • Grains (like wheat, rye, barley, rice, and corn)
  • Beans (like kidney, soy, and chickpeas)
  • Tubers (like yams, sweet potatoes, and potatoes)

Phytic Acid is Located in the Hull of the Seed

wheat seed labeled

Phytic Acid is in the Hull (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Laghi.l, 2007)

Phytic acid is mostly found in the bran, hull, or the hard outer layers of the seed. You would think that we would just be able to remove it and problem solved, but when we separate the bran, we are also separate the embryo, and these two places are where all of the nutrients are located.

What Will Neutralize the Phytic Acid?

Phytase is an enzyme that resides within plants alongside phytic acid that neutralizes it and unlocks the organic form of phosphorus by acting as a catalyst to the hydrolosis of phytic acid. In nature, this occurs during germination.

Where Do We Get Phytase?

Ruminant animals such as deer, cows, and sheep, produce phytase that helps them to unlock the nutrients in the phytic acid. They also have four stomachs, regurgitate their food so they can chew it again, and have longer intestines. They are made to eat food like this.

Abomasum

Ruminant Have Four Stomachs that can Break Down Phytic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pearson Scott Foresman, 2008)

We are not. We produce such a small amount of phytase that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Some people do have really good gut flora with probiotic lactobacilli and other good bacteria that actually produce phytase. They are able to handle low to moderate amounts of phytic acid.

But here’s the good news: By soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening, we can mimic the conditions that stimulate germination which will release the phytase and break down the phytic acid thereby releasing the phosphorus mineral and unlocking any other minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron) that are bound up as well.

Organic Chemistry

This might be a section that you gloss over, and that’s fine. Just know that I have spent weeks upon weeks and hours upon hours reading hundreds of pages of studies and scientific explanations in order to understand this very complicated, yet beautifully simple, process. Here is what I learned about phytic acid and how it is affected by the three things that seeds need to germinate.

  1. The Right Moisture: The first thing seeds need to germinate is water, or H2O.
  2. The Right Acidity: When the pH reaches the optimal level of 5.1-5.5, which is slightly acidic, the phosphates in the phytic acid (where the phosphorus is being stored) convert to dihydrogen triphosphate ions (H2PO4). This is when the phytase that is in the seed catalyzes (or starts a reaction with) the hydrolysis of phytic acid. Hydrolysis is a reaction involving the breaking of a bond in a molecule using water. So basically, when the conditions are slightly acidic, the phytic acid is able to be broken apart with the help of the phytase enzyme. 
  3. The Right Nutrients: Now that the phosphates have been released from their phytic acid bond, the seed can access the phosphorous which it uses to sprout and grow. When the seedling sprouts, the phytase levels are at their highest and they phytic acid levels are at their lowest.

Kitchen Chemistry: Soaking, Sprouting, and Sour Leavening

Once we understand the organic chemistry behind germination, we can understand the chemistry that needs to take place in our kitchen. In order to break down the phytic acid and unlock the nutrients that are trapped within, we need to mimic the process of germination.

  1. Soaking in an Acidic Medium: Soaking is what prepares the seed for germination. By adding an acidic medium such as whey, buttermilk, yogurt, or clabbered milk, which creates an optimal pH level of about 5-5.5 where the phytic acid will be able to be broken down. Apple cider vinegar has a slightly lower pH of 3 and lemon juice is the most acidic of all with a pH of 2. By adding a few tablespoons of either of these to a large pot or glass container of filtered water (never plastic), it should be diluted enough to create a slightly acidic medium. Soaking works best when it’s warm (about 90 degrees) and when it lasts for at least 24 hours.

    barley soaking in an acidic medium to break down phytic acid

    Soaking Barley in an Acidic Medium

  2. Sprouting: Seeds that are soaked in filtered water and then sprouted for 4 to 5 days will have the time to neutralize a good amount of the phytic acid. Sprouting also increases the vitamin C content tremendously! I personally find the sprouting process too time consuming, but give it a try if it sounds like fun to you or you can buy some sprouted grain flour here!
    sprouting mung beans in a jar

    Seeds Sprouting (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Alex Ex, 2007)

  3. Sour Leavening: Sourdough creates the perfect pH of 4.5-5.0. This is the BEST way to get rid of ALL the phytic acid. Not only that, but the naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria that convert lactose and other sugars into the lactic acid that gives it its perfect pH, are also the good bacteria that you want in your gut to crowd out things like candida. When making sourdough, it is important to work with freshly ground grain so that the phytase is readily available. Check out some of my sourdough recipes if you are ready to get started.

    sourdough starter using fresh ground wheat

    Sourdough Starter

Some Seeds Don’t Have Phytase

In order for the phytic acid to be broken down, there MUST be phytase within the seed. If there isn’t, no amount of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting will break down the phytic acid. Rye, wheat, and barely, for example, have high amounts of phytase. Oats, rice, and corn, however, have hardly any phytase at all. Here’s a simple trick you can do for seeds that don’t have enough phytase.

  1. Grind some fresh grain that is high in phytase. (Rye is the best, wheat works too.)
  2. Add one or two tablespoons during the soaking process to seeds that are low in phytase.
  3. *The grain MUST be ground fresh (which is why I would recommend buying a little coffee grinder to keep on your kitchen counter) and cannot be frozen or stored for a long time (the phytase will no longer be active.)
  4. The added phytase will break down the phytic acid and your precious nutrients will be unlocked.

Preparation Tips and Tricks

If you’re ready to start getting rid of phytic acid, here are some tips and tricks to use with seeds that have a lot of phytase (like rye, wheat, and barely), seeds that have very little phytase (like oats, rice, and corn), and seeds that are in kind of a grey area (like tubers, beans, nuts, and seeds).

Seeds with Plenty of Phytase

Rye, wheat, and barley are high in phytase. This means that when properly prepared, they can break down their own phytic acid.

Making Flour: I love grinding my own grain to make bread or any other recipies. Freshly ground flour has all of the active phytase and all of the vitamins and minerals intact. The heat of industrial grinding destroys the phytase along with many of the nutrients. Combine that with a long shelf life and buying whole wheat flour is just an empty gesture. Even grinding grain fresh and keeping it in the freezer destroys the phytase.

The best thing to do is to freshly grind what you are going to use. That is why I like keeping my WonderMill within easy reach in the kitchen. I know the $220 price tag seems like a lot, so if you don’t have one yet, maybe you’ll want to try a hand grinder for $29 first to see if you like it first. For grinding small batches of grain to add to my sourdough and other recipes, I like using this little coffee grinder. *Post update (January 2016):  After I grind my wheat, I just leave it in its container and keep it on the countertop to use as needed. 

I have found that sourdough is the best way to eliminate pretty much all of the phytic acid. Soaking grains before grinding them to make flour just doesn’t make sense to me, and sprouting is a LOT of work and won’t get rid of all they phytic acid, but it’s an option if you’re interested. You can soak your flour in an acidic medium after it’s freshly ground and it should do a pretty good job of getting rid of the phytic acid as well.

  • Rye – Rye grains have the most phytase of any seed. They have 14 times more phytase than wheat grains. This is the recommended grain for making bread because of its high phytase content, but I have tried using it to make my sourdough and it didn’t rise very well. It tastes great, but it’s a very dense grain. I prefer keeping some on hand to grind fresh to add to other seeds that don’t have as much phytase.

    rye grains

    Rye Grains (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Agronom, 2013)

  • Wheat – Wheat grains don’t have as much phytase as rye, but they have enough to do the job. I find that the lighter grains like Organic Prairie gold wheat berries are the best for making sourdough bread. You can also use something similar like this Soft Winter Wheat or some ancient Einkorn grains. It may seem like a lot to buy 50 lbs at a time, but it is the most cost effective way to get your grains if you have the place to store them. I just keep them in a cupboard in the bag it comes in and roll it down when I’m not using it, but you can get some 5 gallon buckets from the hardware store that would work great too. If you don’t feel like grinding your own grain, here’s a good alternative. Sifting your freshly ground flour to take out the big chunks of bran can help too.

    wheat grains

    Wheat Grains: High in Phytase

  • Barley – Barley is more of a superfood than you think. It has an impressive nutritional profile with 23 g of protein per serving (way more than beans or rice) with more vitamins and minerals than just about any other grain. Barley grains have the same amount of phytase as rye grains, so before I use them in my soups, I soak them for 24 hours in an acidic medium. I also order them in bulk from CLNF, but you can also buy them here. I like to get the hulled kind, but if you don’t want to soak them and you don’t care about the nutrient profile, then you can get the pearl kind.

    barley grains

    Barley Grains: High in Phytase

Seeds with Very Little Phytase

Oats, rice, and corn have very little phytase, so they will need a little help to break down the phytic acid. By adding a few scoops of freshly ground phytase rich rye flour (or wheat) to an acidic soaking medium, and soak for a full 24 hours, a good amount of the phytic acid should be broken down.

  • Oats – Oats have more nutrients than just about any other grain. Organic rolled oats are the best because part of the bran (where the phytic acid is) is removed during the rolling process. Just stay away from instant rolled oats because they have been subjected industrial processing with such high heat that nearly all of the nutrients have been destroyed. I used to like steel cut oats, but they have an extremely high phytic acid content. If you prepare them properly, you might be able to get rid of about half of the phytic acid.

    steel cut oats

    Steel Cut Oats: Very Little Phytase

  • Rice – Brown rice isn’t as healthy as you would think. It only has 5 g of protein per serving in comparison to barley’s 23 g and more impressive nutrient profile. I much prefer using barley in my soups over rice. In addition, studies have shown there to be concerning amounts of arsenic in rice, especially in brown rice. In our family, we enjoy organic jasmine or basmati rice from time to time as a vehicle for other healthier foods like salmon and stir fry.

    white rice

    White Rice: Very Little Phytase

  • Corn – Are you surprised to see that corn is a grain instead of a vegetable as it’s often peddled? Well, because corn is such a genetically modified food, we try to stay away from it anyways unless it’s in season and we can buy it fresh from a local farmer. Otherwise, we might enjoy some organic corn chips as a vehicle for other more healthy foods like my homemade tacos on occasion. You can get these sprouted organic corn tortillas in bulk here, and here’s a recipe for some fermented corn bread that sounds pretty good if you’d like to still include corn in your diet in a safe way.

    white popcorn kernals

    White Popcorn Kernals: Very Little Phytase

Kind of a Grey Area

All of the seeds in this category are kind of hard to define, but the one thing they have in common is that they should NOT comprise the majority of the calories in your diet. Many people will turn to things like nut flours (including coconut) if they trying to go grain free, but here’s a look into why that’s not such a good idea.

  • Nuts – Nuts have phytic acid amounts equal to or greater than that of grains, but unfortunately we know very little about how to reduce phytic acid in nuts. If you soak them, you might be able to get rid of some of the phytic acid, but not much. A handful of nuts here and there should really be of no concern, but watch out for things like almond milk, nut flours, and peanut butter. You can buy nut butters that have been soaked, and that is a better option.
an assortment of nuts

Mixed Nuts: Very Little Phytase

  • Seeds – Seeds are extremely high in phytic acid. Some of the phytic acid may be removed by soaking, sprouting, and/or roasting, but it’s debatable. It is best to keep seeds to a minimum and to avoid snacking on raw seeds. If you want to buy some that are okay for occasionally snacking on, you might want to check out these organic sprouted pumpkin seeds.
sesame seeds

Seeds: Extremely High in Phytic Acid (Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons, Jitujetster, 2009)

  • Cacao Seeds – Oh, and here’s some bad news: cacao is a seed, and it is extremely high in phytic acid. Do you know what that means? That’s right, chocolate is made from cacao seeds and is therefore high in phytic acid. Boo! The best thing to do is look for raw cocoa and cocoa powder that is fermented. Maybe I’ll have to give some of these a try.

    where chocolate comes from

    Cacao Seeds (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

  • Beans – Do you ever get gas after eating beans? That’s probably because they weren’t prepared correctly. If you soak beans for 24-36 hours in an acidic medium with some added phytase from some freshly ground rye flour, change the water at least once, rinse the beans, add fresh water, cook at a low boil for 4-12 hours, and skim the foam that comes to the top (those are the phytates and other anti-nutrients), you can get rid of about 50% of they phytic acid. If you want to get rid of ALL the phytic acid, you’ll have to soak for 12 hours, germinate for 3-4 days, and then ferment them.

    Dark Red Kidney Bean

    Beans: High in Phytic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, BetacommandBot, 2007)

  • Coffee Beans – Ready for some bad news? Coffee beans are BEANS! Therefore, they contain phytic acid too. According to research, espresso is the best way to get your caffeine kick while minimizing the phytic acid content. Here are some good espresso beans to get you started.

    espresso beans

    These Espresso Beans are the Best Way to Get Caffeine (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ailura, 2015)

  • Tubers – Sweet potatoes and potatoes contain very little phytic acid, but yams and other starchy staples do contain enough to be a concern. Cooking does not significantly remove phytic acid in potatoes or other tubers, but consumption of potatoes with plenty of butter or other animal fat in the context of a nutrient dense diet should be enough to mitigate their effects.

    different kinds of potatoes

    Potatoes: Very Little Phytic Acid

Benefits of Phytic Acid

There are some health benefits to phytic acid, however, that is worth taking a look at. It can be beneficial for detoxification because even though it is binding with needed minerals such as zinc and iron, it is also binding with unwanted toxic metals such as cadmium and lead and ushering them out of the body. And when phytic acid binds to excess iron (which never comes from animal products by the way, only plants) that can oxidize and form a rusting in the body, it is serving as antioxidants against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. But instead of buying inositol hexaphosphate or IP6 (the scientific names of phytic acid) as a supplement, just know that if you’re looking to detoxify your body because of illness or some other ailment, you can just eat a bowl of plain old brown rice to help flush out your body.

In Conclusion

There is a big misconception in a lot of health circles that if it comes from nature and it’s minimally processed, that it is the best and healthiest option.

Phytic acid is just one the many anti-nutrients out there, and its negative effects such as trapping phosphorus, leaching important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, and inhibiting the enzymes amylase, pepsin, and trypsin that help us to digest carbohydrates and proteins, should be enough to make us think twice about the seeds (grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and tubers) that we eat.

It therefore stands to reason that the “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” axiom by Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) isn’t the simple solution we should be looking for. If we are to keep these foods in our diets, however, it is important that we take the steps to prepare them properly in order to degrade these anti-nutrients as much as possible. By learning (or re-learning) the ancient arts of soaking, sprouting, and sour leavening, we can take steps to ensure the best nutrition not only for us, but for our children, and for our future.

Resources

Embracing Motherhood Sourdough Pizza Crust

Sourdough Pizza Crust Recipe

This sourdough pizza crust recipe is great for getting rid of the phytic acid that is in all grains, but you do need to prepare it about 8 hours ahead of time. If you need something right away, I suggest you check out my quick and easy pizza recipe.

This sourdough pizza crust recipe can be used to make one large pizza, two smaller pizzas, two trays of pizza muffins, or two medium sized calzones.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. Sourdough Starter (Blog Post: Sourdough Starter Recipe)
  • 2 c. Raw Milk (Blog Post: Why We Drink Raw Milk)
  • 4 c. Freshly Ground Flour (I get my wheat berries here, but you can find some similar here too and then I grind them with this.)
  • *2 T. Raw Honey (Optional: It helps to neutralize the sour flavor.)
  • 1 ½ t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 1 t. Baking Soda (or aluminum free baking powder)
  • *Optional: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Oregano, and Basil

Directions

Part 1: Mix it Up and Let it Sit

  1. Dissolve the sourdough starter into the milk, add the flour, and stir until combined.
  2. Cover with plastic (or a towel) and leave out for 8 hours (or overnight).

Part 2: Make Your Crust (8 Hours Later)

Sourdough Pizza Crust

Sourdough Pizza Crust

  1. Add the honey, salt, baking soda, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, and oregano. Since the dough is pretty stiff at this point, I find it easiest to just knead in the remaining ingredients. To do this, spread a little flour on the counter top, grease up your hands with some coconut oil, and knead until everything is mixed together.
  2. To make a large pizza, preheat the oven to 450˚F, roll out the pizza crust onto a slightly greased pizza pan, cover with a towel and place on top of the preheating oven for an hour to let it rise (this is optional and will make a softer crust), add your toppings and bake for 15-20 minutes. *If you want to be extra fancy, melt some butter, add some fresh herbs and salt, and spread generously over the edges of the crust.
  3. If you want to make some amazing Pizza Muffins instead (which is what I usually do), click here to see the recipe. *I cook my pizza muffins for 10-12 minutes at 350º F.
Embracing Motherhood Pizza Muffins

How to Make Pizza Muffins

As a busy mom with young eaters who LOVE pizza, I needed a quick, healthy, easy, and convenient way to feed them their favorite food. So after much trial and error, I created these delicious pizza muffins, and they were a BIG hit! The kids love them, and my husband and I love them too! They are so easy to make and they are even good cold which makes them perfect for school lunches.

Pizza Crust

  • Sourdough Pizza Crust: If you can plan ahead by about 8 hours or so, this sourdough pizza crust will taste great and be free from the mineral leaching phytic acid present in all grains.
  • Quick and Easy Pizza Crust: If you’re looking for a quick and easy pizza crust that is made with fresh homemade ingredients, this is the recipe for you.

Pizza Muffins

Ingredients:

  • Coconut Oil (For your hands and greasing the pan. I like to buy my coconut oil in bulk here, but you can buy it here and here on Amazon as well.)
  • 15 oz. Tomato Sauce with Added Herbs (I love using my fresh chopped tomato puree when on hand, but even spaghetti sauce will work, you just might want to add a little oregano and basil.)
  • 32 oz. (8 cups) Mozerella Cheese (Any kind of shredded cheese will work really. You can even make your own Raw Milk Farm Cheese!)
  • Toppings: Pepperoni, Ground Beef, Tomatoes, Green Olives, Onions, Peppers…or whatever else you might like!

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Grease the muffin tins liberally with coconut oil.
  3. Tear the dough into the size of about a tablespoon and plop into each muffin tin.

    Pizza Dough in Cupcake Pans

    Pizza Dough in Cupcake Pans

  4. Grease your hands up with coconut oil and flatten the pieces into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Put about a teaspoon of pizza sauce on top of each muffin.

    Adding the Pizza Sauce and Cheese to My Mini Pizza Muffins

    Adding the Pizza Sauce and Cheese

  6. Cover the sauce with a generous helping of mozerella cheese.
  7. Place pepperoni and any other toppings you wish to add (green olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, green pepper, crumbled bacon, sausage, ground hamburger, etc.) on top. *For you big cheese lovers out there, you can top the toppings with even more cheese!
  8. Place into an oven preheated to 350° F and bake for 10-12 minutes. The cheese should just start to brown and bubble on the sides when done.

    Cooked Pizza Muffins

    Cooked Pizza Muffins

  9. Let the muffins cool a bit, and then use a butter knife to “cut” around the edges and remove from the muffin pan. The bottoms should be nicely browned and firm. If they are still soft, bake for a few more minutes.
  10. Once the kids (and I) devour as many as we can, I put the rest in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator. My daughter loves it when I pack these for her school lunch, and my 2 and 4 year old love eating them cold too.

Variations

  • Garlic Butter Muffins: Melt some butter and add salt, oregano, basil, and garlic powder (or better yet, freshly pressed garlic), and spread generously on top of the dough. Then, sprinkle a little cheese on top.
  • Pizza Loaves: I find that my kids like to eat food WAY MORE when they help make it! They love tasting all of the ingredients along the way and helping out with whatever they are comfortable doing.
    Ruby Making Pizza Loaves

    Ruby Making Pizza Loaves

    We have these little mini loaf cooking containers that make for some really cute mini loaves. These loaves took about 15-18 minutes at 350° F to bake.

    Cooked Pizza Loaves

    Cooked Pizza Loaves

  • Mini Pizza Muffins: I recently bought this tray for mini muffins, and I love it! I just made a few batches to send into school with Ruby as her monthly class snack. The are the perfect bite-sized little treat!
Cooked Mini Pizza Muffins

Cooked Mini Pizza Muffins

Sourdough Waffles and Pancakes

These waffles are a BIG hit with my kids! I like to keep one fresh batch in the fridge and one spare batch in the freezer. In either case, I just pull one out, pop it in the toaster, and we’re in business! Then I like to slather it with a generous amount of butter, cut it into bite size pieces, top with some fresh maple syrup (or organic syrup when the budget is tight), and WALLA –breakfast is served! (*Note: Sometimes my kids suddenly turn on me and stop liking what they used to like. When that happens with this, I switch to my Sort of Sourdough Pancake recipe or my Whole Wheat Pancake recipe.)

Ingredients

  • 1 c. Sourdough Starter
  • 2. c. Milk (Raw is best.)
  • 4 c. Flour (Freshly ground for optimal nutrition so that the phytase that will break down phytic acidI get my wheat berries here, but you can find some similar here too.)
  • 2 Eggs (Preferably pastured)
  • 6 T. (¾ stick) Melted Butter (You can add room temperature butter and it should mix alright though.)
  • 2 T. Raw Honey  (You could add ¼ c. brown sugar, or just skip this ingredient – it just helps to counteract the flavor if you’re not used to sour. It’s best to buy local raw honey, but you can buy it here too.)
  • 1 t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 1 t. Baking Soda  (or Aluminum Free Baking Powder)
  • 2 T. Cinnamon (Buy some here.)
  • 2 T. Vanilla Extract (This vanilla would be best, but on our budget, I buy this.)
  • 2 T. Coconut Oil (This coconut oil would be best, but on our budget, I buy this.)

IMG_2795Directions

Part 1: The Sponge (Mix and Let Sit Overnight…or for 8 Hours)

  1. Dissolve the sourdough starter into the milk.
  2. Mix in the flour.
  3. Cover and let sit overnight or for 8 hours. (I like to do all of my food prep in the morning, so I make my overnight batter in the morning, then put it in the fridge during the day, and finally put it out on the counter before I go to bed so it’s ready the next morning.)
  4. Note: Now, if you’re like me and you unintentionally leave it out for way more than 8 hours, YOU might still like it, but your picky eaters may not. So watch the time.

Part 2: The Final Batter (The Next Morning…or 8 Hours Later)

IMG_2945

  1. Start preheating your waffle iron.
  2. Add the eggs, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and baking soda to the overnight mixture. (You can mix all of these ingredients in a separate bowl first if you want.)
  3. I like to use beaters to mix everything together, but you could also use a spoon.
  4. Coat the waffle iron with coconut oil. I just bought this waffle iron, and I love it. (I like my waffles square so that I can pop them in the toaster.)IMG_2946
  5. Cook for about 6 minutes (or until the light turns green). You want them as lightly cooked as possible so that you can reheat them later in the toaster, and they won’t be too overdone. IMG_7895
  6. *This also makes great pancake batter, so if you don’t have a waffle iron, just make pancakes instead.
  7. Smother with butter and maple syrup then serve! (Find out why I like to smother everything with butter here.)IMG_7894

*I adapted this recipe from The Fresh Loaf, which is a great source for all bread making.

Why Eat Sourdough? To learn more about why sourdough is the best way to get rid of phytic acid, check out my blog: Phytic Acid: The Anti-Nutrient That’s Slowly Killing You.