Paleo ... um ... Bread?

Yes, it's bread!

Paleo seems to have an odd pre-occupation with emulating neolithic foods - I suppose paleofying some comfort foods is a good thing since we should all have comfort food every so often, but it should remain the best standard. Paleo.

Some paleofied foods could easily lead us into bad habits and away from the simple mantra of meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and veggies, what with those little extra tastes and flavours from condiments and so on.

Some paleofied food is downright dangerous, and this is one of them. Bread.


Well, quite simply it utterly derails the point of paleo eating: to eat quality whole food, organic and pastured with a simple ratio of sufficient meat or fish to feel replete, satisfied and fed, and a variety of vegetables to keep it interesting and fill in all those micronutrients.

So, why make it?

I've had it in mind to make paleo bread ever since going paleo but never actually got around to doing it, partly because I just enjoy paleo eating as is and partly because I prefer to eat foods that required some kind of bread with something that supplants it: Eggs Benedict over a sweet potato muffin, Beef Burgers in mushroom buns, that kind of thing.

I've had a jar of almond butter in the cupboard for ages and what with just moving house, I considered throwing it out when packing up but decided to hold onto it and make a conscious effort to do something with it at the new place.

Then, Niko goes and posts this article on Free the Animal showing us how to make a kind of paleo bread - part one and part two.

I was even less scientific about it ...

I had a jar of almond butter (250ml) which I scraped out into a bowl.

Using the guidelines of four eggs per cup and a half (something like 350ml), I used three eggs since ours are somewhat large.

Stir together with a fork (Grok didn't have a food mixer or a blender, right?) until a uniform slurry is achieved.

Good pinch of sea salt, tablespoon of cider vinegar and a level teaspoon of baking powder.

Pour out into a shallow oven-proof dish and place into a pre-heated over set to 200C for 35 minutes.

Oh, grease the dish or it will soufflĂ©, rather than rise uniformly.

Once done, it should have risen, should be firm throughout with no stodge and hard on the outside.

So simple! In fact, so simple, I wonder why bread makers go through all the fuss that they do.

We had a slice with some Orkney chutney and smoked cheese. My Mrs commented that this was pretty much indistinguishable from real bread, or rather the heavily seeded breads that we used to eat. Somewhat thrilled at having found something we might enjoy as a treat we proceeded to have another slice and then I set about making our dinner ...

We had a starter of salted beef with tomato, caper and parmesan, main of Cod Italiano - cod covered in a hot tomato sauce, much basil and some mozzarella.

After the starter, we were stuffed!

The bread had ruined our dinner. Even as part of our dinner, it would have ruined it - I'd planned some tenderstem broccoli and sweet potato mash with the cod, neither of which got cooked and so, the bread prevented us from having two fantastic vegetables that would have given some real nutrition.

And, today, I have a touch of heartburn.

Did I say bread, even paleo bread, was downright dangerous?

So, sod this epi-paleo lark! I'm going back to the Ice Age!


  1. Hi Paul,

    haven't checked in for a while,. so have missed out on reading your food stories and seeing your amazing photography - it would do justice in any cookbook, and is actually verging on "food porn"!

    I second your thoughts on paleo bread. I have tried making it with buckwheat, using kefir whey as a sourdough, and also with normal yeast. I have gotten a "cake like" texture, but really, whats' the point?
    It just makes you more likely to end up eating real bread, and also doing rushed meals - almost all "finger foods" (other than fruit/veg and chicken drumsticks) contain flour.

    Conversely, any meal that is eaten with a knife and fork doesn't need to have any flour at all.

    IF you want to do something different for an appetizer next time, that has the opposite effect (i.e. lets you eat the rest of the meal) try some real (fermented) sauerkraut. It stimulates the appetite, boosts stomach acid to help digest the incoming meal, and has good probiotics too.

    As far as I can tell, almost all "condiments" were originally some form of fermented food - they were as much a digestive aid as they were a flavouring.

    Finally, for a different way to do a "paleo sandwich", you can do it with capsicums, for when you need something sturdier than lettuce;

    Paul N

    1. Great idea with the bell pepper - that is definitely something I'll do!

      I absolutely agree - real meals do not need any kind of flour based products. Even cheesecake is better without the base.

      I've done the experiment, made a very convincing and flavoursome bread from paleo-friendly ingredients and thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. It's not something I'm going to go back to at all regularly, but perhaps something I'd do for other people - non-paleos.

    2. ... and thank you for the comments over the pictures. I do have an idea about a cookbook, which will be a very different approach from the many paleo cookbooks out there. In fact, that it contains recipes may well be incidental to the core of the book.

    3. I have tried making the paleo breads (coconut and almond flour) and they are *expensive*! It defeats the purpose of bread as a cheap filler.

      My paleo "baking" (other than baking meats and veg) consist of making buckwheat pancakes on the weekend ( a canadian tradition). I sourdough the buckwheat using kefir, and let it go for 24 or 48 hrs. Then mix in the eggs and oil (melted coconut or butter) right before I cook, they come out great. Top them off with cream and honey and some local berries/cherries. It is great, but it is the only carb inclusive breakfast I have, and only once a week.

      I have also used the same mix to make Yorkshire puddings, cooked in beef dripping of course, and they turn out fine too, but more of a cupcake than the cup shaped yorkie.

      Otherwise, the oven is used for roasting stuff - as it should be!

      I think a new cookbook would be welcomed. It is all to easy to just do the "paleo scramble", which, while tasting nice, is missing the art of fine cooking and presentation. And that, along with ingredient styles, is what makes up regional "cuisines". And said cuisines are gradually dying out thanks to modern, grain based cooking and (ugh!) franchise restaurants/pubs etc.

      I thought a good blueprint for a paleo cookbook would be a "global" paleo. Instead of the usual arrangement of most cookbooks by meal types (breakfast, lunches, soups, dinners, desserts, or meat, fish, veg, etc) I think an interesting one would be paleo cuisine by geography - to make the best use of the foods where you are. Don't know of you have heard about/read the "100 mile diet" (started by a Vancouver couple, and an interesting book) but I think the paleo diet is the only one that could be done, long term, using local foods, at any location in the world, and be "healthy". At the other end of that scale, the vegans rely on all sorts of stuff that comes form all sorts of places - they probably have the highest "food miles" of any diet.

      So, a section on by the sea, in the tropics, the cold northern climes, the grasslands/prairies, temperate rainforests (think mushrooms), even deserts (not that many of us live there, by many tribes have), and so on.

      Now, just because they are paleo foods, doesn't mean they can have spectacular taste and presentation, as you show.

      Anyway, that's just my idea, what's yours?
      By the way, Richard Nikoley has some new stuff up about doing web publishing - you might want to check it out.



    4. Hi Paul! Good to hear from you again.

      Sourcing fully organic and totally unmessed with almond butter, I resorted to online purchasing which came with a hefty P&P tag. This little loaf cost almost a tenner, all in and gleaned maybe 6 or slices. Over £1 a slice, it was indeed an expensive treat.

      I had a brief foray into grain substitutes and even considered some ancient grains. My sorghum flatbreads worked out pretty well and even made a reasonable Yorkshire pudding with sorghum, but by far my greatest successes are Brazilian cheese bread with cassava starch, baking powder, cheese, butter and milk. Seriously good, so easy to make and don't leave you feeling stuffed.

      I'll read into the hundred mile diet - it sounds like a very sound principle and one which I am already very much in agreement with. Adhering to a hunter/gatherer inspired diet, but importing food from the other side of the world does seem a little out of kilter with the spirit of paleo. I need to catch up with what Nikoley is doing, too.

      The Paleo Scramble is fun every now and again, and, while I do agree that paleo eating should be pretty simple, not requiring much by way of prep or technique, there are so many ways of producing really excellent looking and tasting food; sound combinations that enhance the flavours of the food, but also enhance bioavailability when digesting. Some foods simply cancel each other out.

      What grows together goes together is the starting point for that concept which inevitably grounds itself in local and seasonal produce. Altering that with one or two ingredients from further afield can start to upset that natural balance. It needs some research. If I was to produce a cookbook that rigid, it would only be useful to people local to me. I have another idea, though ... we'll see. It will incorporate much of what I've just said here as it's focus.

    5. The 100 mile diet lent a catchy name to the "locavore" movement, read more about it here;

      The book itself is an interesting read too, as it is written as a description of the couples year of 100 mile eating -including the predictable personal/relationship challenges that would come with it. Each writes alternate chapters which makes for a very different style of book to what you would expect.

      There a restaurants here that have "100 mile" items on their menus.
      There is also a town in BC called "100 Mile House" - it was at mile 100 on the Cariboo gold rush trail!

      The other book I can't recommend highly enough is "nourishing traditions" by Sally Fallon, which has 700 old school ways to prepare foods yourself from basic ingredients, including doing fermented pickles, etc. It does include old style bread techniques (soaking/sprouting/sourdough, but if you skip those, you have a great book on how to prepare and preserve almost all paleo foods.

      While I am a bit hard on the vegans, I have to admit my coconut and west african red palm oil are not much better. However, they are dense foods, and do not need to be refrigerated, have no spoilage %, etc, so the transport cost, in dollar and environmental terms is not as great. Same goes for spices too, and since these have been traded for most of human history, I don't sweat that.

      I did find a cold climate coconut tree from the Andes highlands that is growing in northern California and just might grow here! (http://www.goldengatepalms.com/public_html/coconut.htm)

      Interestingly, I am finding that I am getting more and more of my food not from the supermarkets but from local producers- eggs from local producers, produce from farmers markets and my partners organic market garden, and meat from buying sides of grass fed cows/sheep.

      Tragically, there is no local dairy here - I am seriously thinking of startng one ( i grew up on one) - it would look something like this, complete with the worlds cutest cows - kefircheese.com

      The issue about foods cancelling each other out is fascinating. I never knew that caffeine blocked iron absorption, or that casein blocked absorption of the catechins in green tea, and so on.

      Food traditions are full of this stuff, which we have largely ignored in the quest for "taste". As you show, taste, and presentation, and simplicity, need not be sacrificed in going paleo/real foods.

      I don't follow Nikoley too much - can't stand all the swearing, but I do give him credit for simply telling it like he sees it. It is from him that I discovered gnolls!

      I also like Paul Jaminets perfect health diet site - he hasn't updated for a while as he is working on a new edition of the book, but the articles there are great reading, and very well researched. It is probably the best technical treatise on paleo+/real foods that I have come across.

      But your site reminds me that, while wanting to include the scientific knowledge, food is still meant to be a pleasure for the senses and a joy to prepare and eat.

      Keep it up!

    6. Pickling and preserving is something I grew up with. We used to take a couple of wheel barrows down to the Green Grocers and hoover up whatever he had left (which would go off) at the end of the day for literally nothing. While it did mean picking through a lot of rotten stuff, we got a lot of food out of it for small change.

      I am a big fan of pickles and condiments.

      Likewise, I'm a big fan of fermenting. I see this as nature's little miracle, which can render all manner of undigestible foods digestible. I do like fermented dairy. With that, I am very much in agreement with folks like J Stanton and Paul Jaminet. In fact, both are also advocates of simple starches, which I am perfectly happy with. I use the term paleo+ for now, but I think mainstream paleo advocates are really coming around to this now.

      Paleo in it's simplest form is a no-brainer. You can pass that to anyone and they can follow it without much knowledge. Once you say, "but a little dairy is okay ... some kinds of dairy ... fermented or fatty", or, "but white rice is okay in small doses" and "peeled white potatoes are okay so long as you don't overdo it ... or you've met your goals" then there is an investment of research involved. At this point you need to understand some of the nutritional science involved.

      When I started out eating paleo, I remained with yoghurt in my diet for the probiotics. I was pleased to find others (quite quickly, like J Stanton) who busted through the dogma and delivered a sane pack of reality. I bought a load of books, too, but have retained just two: Mark Sissons' 'The Primal Blueprint' and Paul & Shou Ching Jaminet's 'The Perfect Health Diet', both of which I keep dipping back into.

      Nikoley is a character. Behind his online persona, he strikes me as a very serious fellow who is absolutely passionate about what he does and puts the whole of himself into it. I take the good and look past the bits I don't like.

      This 100 Mile notion is really interesting. We've got a real sense of localism here in Yorkshire (northern England), in fact, quite a pride in it. Many of our better pubs which serve good food have blackboards demonstrating the farms, growers, breeders and suppliers whose food they use - all local farms. You'll find that quite commonplace around Yorkshire.

      While on localism, there are actually no fruits truly native to Britain. We have berries in abundance, and the apple tree is perhaps our best known fruit which we can kind of claim as just about native now. Because of this, I am really very happy not to eat fruit as part of my paleo diet, but do seriously enjoy berries with a simple panna cotta every so often, just cream and set with gelatine.

      Pleasure chatting. If you're able and capable of running a dairy farm on whatever scale you're considering, please do it!

      Keep it up? I will.

  2. Fermenting is indeed natures miracle. If you haven't been to Dom's kefir site, check it out for more info than you possibly thought could exist on kefir, including the fact that no one knows how the grains were started, and no one has been able to make new ones, without having some already! Certainly meets the criteria as gift from nature!

    I am fiddling around doing fruit ferments - I don;t have a sweet tooth (that is probably why I still have all my teeth!) but love the slightly sour taste when they are fermented with whey, and the slight effervescence if I use kefir whey. Am also going to try advanced fermenting - fish and meat - there is something very primal about that!

    It is interesting to observe how many people end up at a "paleo +/real foods/PHD" place. it makes it a lot easier than being "strict", and I think healthier too. Women, especially don;t seem to do so well on very low carb - many run into thyroid problems. My routine is protein and fat for breakfast, and protein/fat/carbs for dinner. Don't get hungry for lunch any more, though i will often indulge in a kombucha, another great recent discovery for me.

    Good to see the locavore movement catching on there. it has a harder time here, just because of the American influence of "branding" and "franchising" everything - the independently owned places are in a minority, but when you find a good one, well, you bite it by the throat!

    We'll see about the dairy. I am actually heading up the development of a new wastewater (sewage) treatment plant in my town. I have a grand plan to reuse all the effluent and biosolids to kick start a serious local farming industry here (hundreds of acres of crown land sitting around doing nothing), I have a few tricks up my sleeve to do a new level of treatment that completely removes all hormones and pharmaceuticals (as well as killing all the pathogens, etc) but retains the nutrients, to make for a truly sustainable system.

    if I can make all that happen, then I'll be happy to put my feet up on a little dairy/mixed farm in the middle of it! The classic mixed farm -pasture/dairy/chickens/pigs/veg crops has to be about the most sustainable farming model there is - every "waste"product is food for something else! I was lucky to grow up on one, and consider that the main reason for my abnormally disease free life, to date.

    If I ever get it going I'll send you some cheese for you to do something with!