My mum loves seaweed; as a child I was always vaguely fascinated by the way she could work her way through a bag of the dark, pungent leathery stuff she picked up in the fishmongers. Although I would occasionally suck the salt off a mouthful of it myself, I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of it. However, you get older, your tastes change, and suddenly everybody is talking about seaweed as a superfood. Not only is it packed full of vitamins and minerals, but it provides depth of flavour to other foods by exciting the ‘umami’ taste receptors- it’s like a natural, healthy version of MSG. There are some interesting scientific studies on seaweed also suggesting that it can act as an appetite suppressant and can benefit diabetics and pre-diabetics by regulating blood glucose levels. These reports really interest me; I’m not a diabetic myself, but I think maintaining blood sugar levels is one of the keys to good long term health by avoiding the negative stress hormone responses elicited by fluctuations in sugar and insulin levels. As you may have seen in my previous post sourdough is an incredible food in the way it too helps dampen these fluctuations in blood sugar (if you haven’t already read it then click here), and so I’ve started wondering what benefits there may be in combining these two foods. Welcome to the first in a series of experiments in developing recipes incorporating seaweed into my sourdough breads.
I’ve chosen a product by an Irish company called Sea Of Vitality for this recipe. This company produces dried powdered seaweeds, preserving all the nutritional benefits while presenting the ‘weeds’ in a way that is easy to incorporate into a bread dough. I’m using their dried Kelp, which may be more of a challenging option than the Dillisk as I think the seaweed-y flavour may carry a bit more, but this just makes the enterprise more interesting. For this reason I’m going to incorporate some rye flour rather than making a plain white sourdough for my first effort, as I don’t really want to make a seaweed-flavoured bread, rather I want to produce something with all the nutritional benefits and hopefully a greater depth of flavour.
Note: the kelp powder is quite hygroscopic, absorbing a lot of water, and so I found I had to add quite a bit extra water to what I would consider one of my ‘standard’ formulae.
100g starter (100% hydration)
75g rye flour
Mix the levain ingredients and allow to ferment for 4 hours.
400g strong white flour
Roughly mix flour and water and allow to autolyse for half an hour. Then add your levain and:
8g dried kelp powder
Knead by hand or with a mixer for 3-5 minutes until a relatively smooth consistency is achieved, rest for 30 minutes in the mixing bowl. Turn out onto a lightly oiled surface and stretch and fold 3 or 4 times at 30 minute intervals until you have a really elastic dough. Form into a smooth ball and place in your covered bowl for allow to proof for around 3 hours. Then shape as desired (mine went into a banneton), and allow to proof until well risen. I covered my banneton and placed the dough in the fridge overnight. Next morning I baked straight from the fridge at 230C with steam for 15 minutes and then for a further 20 minutes without.
I’m very happy with the result. Aside from the fact that the loaf looks great from my sexy new banneton, the flavour was just about right. The kelp certainly adds another dimension; it is definitely a slightly ‘richer’ bread. I think the amount of rye in the recipe is probably the minimum I would have gotten away with; if I really concentrate I can just about appreciate the fact that there is a seaweed in the bread, and this isn’t something I want to accentuate too much more. My darling wife and kids all enjoyed it, and I’m delighted with being able to squeeze some extra nutrients into our daily bread. The experiment continues, I have a dough with a much higher rye and wholemeal content fermenting as I type, and I’ve crammed a lot more seaweed into it because I think it’ll be easier to get away with. Time will tell…