Compared to store bought crisp breads this recipe is an absolute money saver! Chris compared it to an imported French equivalent which costs about $24/kg, almost three times that the cost of his recipe which produces a fabulous raw, probiotic flatbread made with Australian grown organic buckwheat for just $9/kg!
Servings: 2 – 35 cm square Excalibur trays
Total: 1000 g batch weight
2 Excalibur trays yield
Description – Flat Bread Process
The aim of this recipe is to provide a staple bread that’s nutritious, easy to make and easy on the budget. As a raw material, buckwheat fits the bill well; it‘s gluten-free, has a good protein content and a low GI and, as it’s a seed rather than a grain, is easily digested raw. It has a relatively high content of phytase (an enzyme that helps break down phytic acid).
The first step is to soak the buckwheat kernels in water, which makes them easy to grind and activates the beneficial micro-organisms (mostly lactobacilli and yeasts) naturally present in and on them.
The second is to grind the kernels, add a binder, water and salt, and mix to make a batter.
The third is to ferment the batter. This converts carbohydrates to lactic acid, further lowering GI, further breaks down phytic acid, hugely increases beneficial micro-organism content, and does good things for flavour.
Finally, the batter is formed into sheets and dehydrated at a temperature low enough to protect both enzymes and micro-organisms. As the moisture level falls, the latter goes into a dormant state. The result is a flatbread that’s both a food and a probiotic.
In the evening
1. Soak the buckwheat kernels in an equal weight of water in a wide-mouthed jar, for 12 hours. Cover to prevent the kernels from drying. If possible use water that’s free of chlorine or chloramine; both interfere with fermentation.
In the morning
2. Dry grind the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or similar taking care not to heat them to over 45°C (to protect enzymes).
3. Grind the buckwheat kernels in their soaking water in a food processor (can be done with a blender but it tends to grind so finely that the mix becomes sticky; a 5-tray Excalibur batch can stall a Vitamix even!), add the additional water, flax and salt and mix immediately (flax seed quickly forms a gel on contact with water and can make mixing difficult).
4. Transfer the batter thus obtained to a wide-mouthed glass jar, cover it with muslin and ferment it at 25°C (see notes for a simple bain-marie) for 24 hours or until it has fully risen. Nothing will happen for maybe 20 hours, then it will rise quickly (by as much as a third) and then seem to slow down; this is the point at which it’s ready. Mark the level of the batter when you put it down, to make this easier to gauge. Ensure you use a jar that’s big enough to allow for the rise.
The next morning
5. Using a spatula, spread the batter on baking paper laid on mesh sheets on the dehydrator trays. Pre-cut the paper to the size of the mesh sheets (use paper that’s at least as wide as the mesh sheets e.g. 38 cm Goliath paper from Aldi). Allow 500 g of batter per Excalibur tray (tip; put the jar of batter on a digital scale and tare it. Ladle out batter until it reads minus 500 g.) Spread the batter. Repeat the process.
6. Dehydrate the sheets of bread at 45°C for 4 hours, then at 40°C for a further 12 – 20 hours or until they’re brittle (see notes). As soon as they are stiff enough, but before a crust has formed on them (2-3 hours), score them with a pizza wheel so that they’ll break where you want them to. As soon as they are firm enough, break them along the scores, remove the baking paper, place them directly on the mesh sheets and complete the drying process.
The following morning
*Store the bread in airtight containers, in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, just as you would treat a probiotic supplement. No need to refrigerate (see notes).
This adds up to a 2 ½ day cycle; if you soak Friday evening, ferment Saturday morning and dehydrate Sunday morning, you can set the dehydrator timer so that you’ll have fresh bread when you rise on Monday.
To scale up, multiply the ingredient quantities while keeping the proportions the same e.g. multiply by 2 ½ for 5 Excalibur trays.
Control of fermentation temperature is the key to consistent results. A simple bain-marie can be made from an 11 litre pail ($12 at Bunnings) and a 25-watt aquarium heater ($15 on EBay) stuck by supplied suckers to the inside of the pail. Pour the batter into a wide-mouthed glass jar ($7 at Big W) holds enough batter for 5 Excalibur trays), put it into the pail, fill the pail with water to the level of the batter, set the heater to 25°C and turn it on.
Note: the bain-marie also works well for kefir, yoghurt, kvass etc.
The aim of the 2-stage dehydration cycle is to speed drying without destroying enzymes or killing micro-organisms. In the first stage, evaporation cools the batter so it never reaches the set temperature. In the second stage, evaporation is slower so this effect can’t be counted on so much. The suggested temperatures are conservative according to the Excalibur dehydration guide.
I expect the bacteria and yeasts in the fermented batter to be similar to those in sourdough starters. I expect at least as high a proportion to reach the gut alive as in sauerkraut. This should contribute to a richer and more diverse microbiome.
The moisture content of the bread is the best indicator of storage life, but that’s too hard to measure so I test its brittleness, by snapping pieces of it. This seems to be enough to ensure that the bread is basically dry and that the probiotics in it stay dormant. So I’d say; vary the brittleness to get the texture you like, but err on the dry side until you’ve had some experience. We take four weeks to get through a batch and have had no problems.
No doubt this recipe can be used with other pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, and grains such as wheat, but buckwheat is as nutritious as any, doesn’t have to be sprouted (saves a lot of time), and the end result is delicious. It has a sourdough aroma and tang with which we don’t get bored (important for a staple food). It’s great with nothing more than butter on it. It does justice to good cheese. It’s hard to resist with raw local honey…