Bread: Every culture, in every time period, through all of history has had some version of it. From ancient raisin cakes to modern day baguettes, there are a million different varieties but the one thing that remains consistent is that regardless of time or culture or tradition, people have always gathered together to “break bread”.This has certainly been the culture for our family. That is, until we had to go gluten and grain free. Possibly one of the most significant changes that we’ve made, as a family, is shifting our diet away from always having a “bread” element in our meals. And to be honest, after a couple of years this way, I can honestly say that I don’t really miss that way of eating. But…..there are those times when some kind of bread is just what the meal calls for and so, I set out to make that a reasonable (and tasty) possibility. And with sourdough being one of my favorites….I thought, “Why not start there?”
What to expect: As with all of my recipes, my goal is never to make a counterfeit replacement for whatever food has become a casualty of my dietary restrictions. Instead, I choose to celebrate food in whatever way I can, by creating recipes that capture the heart and spirit of the foods that I’ve always loved.
As such, if your goal is to bake up a carbon-copy substitution for the big yeasty, almost overly fluffy loaf from a grocery store, then you might need to adjust your expectations. What you WILL find here though, is a wonderfully flavorful, slightly tangy loaf with all the body and substance of a traditional quick-bread. You’ll find this bread to be very reminiscent of those “old world” artisan sourdoughs that surely won’t disappoint. Artisan breads have a density that lends themselves well to dipping, toasting, grilling and over all sinking your teeth into!
Getting started: This is a simple ingredient recipe without any added fats or starches. I’m sure that I’ll be sharing my many variations with you in the future, but for now, if the following steps seem a little daunting at first, let me encourage you that it’s really is more simple than it looks, and is WELL worth the effort. Not only does the culturing of this batter/dough make a great tasting bread, but it also makes this bread easy on digestion and lower in sugar than “non-cultured” cashew loaves.
You will notice that I have only listed the weights of the water and cashews. This is because measuring whole or pieces of cashews by the cup is very unreliable due to the way that they fill up space as compared to flours. This can easily result in to much or too little cashew to water ratio for the recipe. In reality scales are the best way to go when you want consistent baking results. But especially when working with whole nuts or pieces. I always recommend people invest in a digital kitchen scale as it makes for super easy and reliable baking outcomes.So here it is….enjoy.
Things you’ll want to know about culturing before you get started….
Culturing in the oven:
Place the covered bowl in the oven and turn the oven light on. Leave the mixture there for about 12-up to 24 hours. I leave mine overnight and bake in the late morning.
Keep in mind that some oven lights may not create enough heat to successfully culture, however, in all the ovens I have ever had, this has never been a problem. The temp should be around 105 degrees up to 110 degrees and the mixture should taste good and sour when it’s done. Culturing cashews is not nearly as sensitive as making yogurt since you are not trying to get anything to “set up”. But the amount of “sourness” you get does depend on the environment.
If the environments is not hot enough is will culture to slow or not at all
If the environment is too hot it will kill the living bacteria and not sour at all
If the environment is too hot, it will bake the mixture instead of culture it.
Other methods for culturing: Here are a number of other options for culturing the cashews. I always use the oven method myself as it is super easy and it works every time. However if you would like to try some of these other methods they work wonderfully as well. You can click on them for more detailed instructions.
Grain Free Cashew “Sourdough” Bread
10 ounces raw cashews or cashew pieces* (cashew pieces are generally cheaper)
4 ounces filtered water (about half a cup)
Enough probiotic capsules to equal about 30-40 billion strains***
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon filtered water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
One egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
*10 ounces cashews is about 2 cups. However ‘cups’ is an unreliable way of measuring whole nuts/pieces
***The probiotic is what cultures the batter and makes it sour. I use THIS brand, but there are many brands that work well such as Jarrow, which is found at most health food stores. They come in all different amounts of strains per capsule. Use as many capsules as you need to get about 30-40 billion)
You will need a 7.5 X 3.5 inch Magic Line bread pan or one of equivalent size or double the recipe for a standard size loaf pan.
For the “sourdough” starter:
1. In a food processor blend together the cashews and filtered water until very smooth. Stop and stir as needed to keep the mixture moving as it is quite thick. Be patient, this could take up to 10 minutes depending on your processor. You don’t want it to be too grainy.
2. Transfer to a non reactive bowl (such as glass or ceramic), add the probiotic powder and stir till well combined. The mixture will be quite thick. Don’t worry about that. Be sure to stir the probiotics in very well.
3. Cover the bowl (I use a plate to cover the top and so it doesn’t dry out. Place it in the middle of your oven with the oven light on. Do NOT turn the oven on too low. Just like making yogurt, the cashew mixture needs to be in a slightly warm environment between 105- but no more than 110 degrees for at least 12 hours or even up to 20 hours. I leave mine over night and bake in the late morning. The longer it sits the more sour it becomes. (See more culturing options above in the written part of the post.) Note: if the environment is too hot it will not sour as it will kill all the living bacteria
4. THe next day, when the culture is ready, preheat the oven to 325 degrees or 300 for convection.
5. Prepare your pan by greasing and lining it with parchment paper. Make the paper long enough so that it flaps over both long sides of the pan.
NOTE: If you choose to use a standard loaf pan instead of the size listed above, you will need to double the recipe (baking times will vary).
6. Transfer the cashew mixture to a larger bowl. Take care to get as much of it transferred as possible. Using a rubber spatula works best for this.
7. Separate the egg yolks from the whites, putting the egg whites into a medium sized bowl. Add the yolks and tablespoon of water to the cashew mixture and beat till smooth and lump free.
Rinse and dry the beaters so they’re ready to beat the egg whites. Just Before beating the egg whites stir the salt and baking baking soda into the cashew mixture.
8. Beat the egg whites till soft peaks form. Gently fold them into the rest of the batter till the egg whites are no longer visible. Tip: When beating egg whites, be sure not to over-beat into a firm peak or they won’t fold into the batter well. When you turn your whisk upside down, the peaks should just be starting to hold. They’ll be soft and should melt back into themselves after a second.
9. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and gently smooth the top. Batter MUST fill the pan about 3/4 full or you will not get a nice round loaf.
10. Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg yolk and the water smooth. Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the egg wash on top of the bread batter. This takes a gentle touch.This will give the loaf a nice crusty finish and help it brown nicely.
11. Bake at 325 degrees/300 for convection ovens, for 50 minutes (or tip the top sounds hollow and solid when tapped on. Times can vary).
12. Leave the bread in the oven and turn the temperature up to 375 degrees. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the top is golden and crusty. Baking times can vary from oven to oven.
NOTE: Do not worry if the top cracks some. Remember this is a quick bread and the sign of a good rise in quick breads, IS some cracking at the top of the loaf. The loaf in the above pictures happened to crack on the side so you can not see it as well.
13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Do not cut into it right away as the moisture needs time to redistribute. Nut based breads are actually at their best, “next day”.
Once cooled…..slice, serve and enjoy the awesomeness!