Saturday, August 17, 2013

The miracle ingredient ~ and Joanna's kefir bread

My little girl has been having tummy troubles for a while, although we've only recently realized that she's probably had some version of acid-reflux for quite a long time. I thought she was just burping incessantly to annoy me (bad mother award!). Her doctor prescribed antacids, which seemed to do the trick; but after a month or so, I began to get concerned about giving a five year old antacids twice a day...if we even missed one dose, she was back to burping and tummy discomfort. Were we supposed to do it forever? But my research indicated that long-term use could cause all sorts of problems.

Browsing online, I looked for natural helps for acid reflux, and a common one was chewing gum after meals. So we tried that. It seemed to work okay, although not quite as efficiently as the antacids. And then I thought, isn't it crazy after all of our work to switch to real foods to be giving my daughter something that is nothing but chemicals twice a day? *sigh*

Finally, I was talking to my girl friend, and she mentioned that when her little one was having GI problems, they tried kefir and the problems cleared right up. Ke-what? I'd never heard of kefir. I started researching, reading, questioning, and it truly seemed like the miracle ingredient: cures acid reflux, any tummy troubles, some even claim diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer.... Will it clean my house?! Just kidding. But seriously, I couldn't find any negatives of drinking kefir anywhere. So we bought some; I was skeptical that she would drink it, but she did and she loved it and it seemed to make her feel better. And it contained a lot of sugar. And was something like $4 for a tiny little bottle that only lasted us a couple of days, and that was only if the rest of us didn't have any.

So back to research. I discovered that if you got some healthy grains, you could make kefir yourself, and then you could decide how to flavor it and how much sugar to add...and it reproduces eternally, as long as you do it right, so you don't have to keep buying it. I purchased some milk grains from the KefirLady. It was harder than I thought; at first, it tasted and smelled really funky and we had to toss jar after jar. But after a week, I tried rinsing the grains and then I bought some fancy organic whole milk instead of grocery store 2% milk. And sure enough, we immediately noticed a difference.

Adding fresh milk; kefir grains on the left
Since then, we've been producing about 3 cups a day, enough for all of us to have kefir smoothies once a day, and for me to make "kefiracles" (extra kefir smoothies frozen in popsicle molds). But because kefir needs to be made daily (gotta feed those hungry grains!), if we miss a day of smoothies, I end up with extra kefir.

And wouldn't you know it, right as I had an extra batch of kefir, Joanna posted this recipe for date syrup kefir bread! Well, that was meant to be, wasn't it? Jo helpfully suggested that I could use honey (I didn't have any date syrup), and I got to work, following her instructions and bread formula. I made the preferment and left it to bubble for 18 hours. It's a little shocking to use kefir, water, flour, and honey, and have it bubble...with no yeast or sourdough starter.

Joanna's formula worked perfectly for me (I used part KAF bread flour and part KAF white whole wheat) ~ and it made a nice, supple, soft, slightly tacky dough. It smelled just like a sourdough. Like sourdough, it took a long time on its first rise; for a while, I wondered if it was even rising. But when I did stretch-and-folds, I could feel the dough deflate, so I knew there was some rising going on. I pulled out my old round banneton and shaped the dough into a boule (haven't done that in ages!). I was expecting another long rise, but the dough filled the basket in only about 90 minutes.

Eggs-in-a-nest for breakfast...made from fresh kefir bread!
I used an egg wash, and baked it for...probably about 40 minutes? First at 470º and then lowering it to 360º. I tented it with foil at the end because it was getting so dark.

I'm still in awe that kefir could make such a perfect sourdoughy loaf...the bread was delicious, made excellent toast. It was sourdough-like without being too sour. And it didn't have any store-bought instant yeast or sourdough starter. And I didn't have to spend a week waking up my sourdough starter. How cool is that?!

Our kefir smoothies:
Little girl: 1/2 c plain kefir, 2 T (ish) homemade chocolate syrup, 1/2 banana, 3 ice cubes
Hubby & me: 1/2 c plain kefir, 2 T homemade chocolate syrup or small handful of chocolate chips, 1/2 banana, 1 T natural creamy peanut butter, 5 ice cubes
Little guy: 1/2 c plain kefir, various amounts and combinations of frozen fruits


  1. I also had the same problem and i started using gum balls from then on! This is a good one and I will give this a try next.

  2. Wow...all this information in one post, I'm a little overwhelmed and will need to read it all again. I have seen Kefir in the stores and then a friend told me that there is Kefir and then there is Kefir and one should be getting the right kind and not the kind the grocery stores all carry, so I sort of dismissed the whole Kefir issue at the time. Mark does not care for yogurt of any kind so he would be no help whatsoever on Kefir consumption around here...but I still read what you said about the health benefits and figure I might maybe should look into this more. Your bread, as always with your breads, looks wonderful. Fall is almost here (she says as it is supposed to be 94 here today) and my bread baking longings always increase crazily in the fall, so marking this to try...and the whole Kefir research thing as well. Thanks for teaching me. :-)

  3. I love the idea of kefir popsicles! That's really neat. I am so pleased that you gave the bread a go. I am still massively surprised that it works in a bread. and yours looked very stylish. Good idea to cover the bread towards the end of the bake, I think the extra sugars make it get quite dark, but it is all a bit trial and error. Hope all is good with you and yours now xx Jo