Guest Blog Post: Sharon Kane xgfx Sourdough Baking

Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking is a method I developed for myself when I learned that I had multiple food allergies: gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. I was also sensitive to commercial yeast, large amounts of salt, almost all sweeteners and fruit. Before learning about the allergies, I had been successfully making 7-day Sourdough Rye bread using a simple recipe that used only 3 ingredients, rye, water and salt.

To continue eating bread again, I tried to find a bread that used minimally processed organic ingredients, ingredients that had no chemicals and ingredients that were not created in a laboratory.

When I looked at the commercially made gluten-free breads, I found that they all contained something I could not or would not eat: yeast, xanthan/guar gum, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and other sweeteners, fruit juice, eggs, milk, soy, and large amounts of high starch flours.

Starters Before and After Rising

That’s when I began experimenting with the old-fashioned sourdough technique that I had mastered, combining it with pure gluten-free ingredients. This labor of love (it took a long time to sort out) resulted in a nutrient dense bread that uses simple ingredients, tastes good, has great texture and is very satisfying. My bread has been likened to “European” bread and “Artisanal” bread. The sourdough technique and careful flour combining eliminated the need for the all the ingredients I can’t or choose not to use. My techniques are based on the Sourdough Rye technique which is very different that the Sourdough Wheat technique that most people are familiar with.

Here are some of the basic differences between Traditional Wheat Sourdough and my technique:

Traditional Wheat Sourdough Gluten-Free Sourdough
a large amount of flour incorporated into a small amount of starter. a large amount of flour incorporated into a small amount of starter.
needs to be fed once a day when getting ready to bake. needs to be fed 2-3 times a day while building up the amount needed to be baked.
can live indefinitely in the refrigerator when fed properly, once a week. delicate and thrives best in the freezer between bakes, no need to feed. Some can be stored in the fridge for a short amount of time, 5-7 days, between baking days without deterioration. It is easy to start again from scratch so there isn’t any real need to preserve some for the future.
usually requires kneading. benefits from gentle hand mixing.
can be baked in loaf pans as well as on flat sheets because the gluten helps them to “stand up” on their own. need “walls” to hold them up because, without the gluten, they spread rather than rise upwards. All loaf, cake and muffin pans work very well.

Here are the basic ingredients I use in my recipes: water kefir, whole grain flours, amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, chickpeas, coconut, corn, quinoa, sorghum and teff.  (I don’t use millet because it’s believed to interfere with thyroid function, something many people with gluten allergies suffer from).

Some of my recipes also have small amounts of starch flours: arrowroot, potato and tapioca flour.  Other ingredients I use include: chia and flax seeds, salt, oil, stevia, fruit, herbs, spices, garlic, scallions, onions, vanilla, carob and maca powders.

The ingredients I do not use are: potato starch, xantham gum, guar gum, baking soda, baking powder and yeast.

My first successful starter was a brown rice starter, and I developed a few different techniques and many variations on that starter. Then someone asked me to create a rice-free starter, so I began experimenting again and came up with 3 different rice-free starters and many breads. At the current time I make starters with 4 different flours but the starter technique is the same for all the flours.

My recipes include loaf breads, muffins, dessert breads, crackers, and pizza dough. I am currently experimenting with scones, cookies and cakes intent on keeping the amount of sweeteners used to a bare minimum.

My recipes, like other traditional foods, utilize preparation and cooking time in a different manner compared to conventional cooking. Baking my breads require some forethought. I strongly believe in the increased digestibility that soaking and fermenting gives to food, so I have structured all my recipes so the ingredients are fully fermented by the time the bread is ready to bake. The result is an easy-to-digest bread that does not stress the digestive or immune system.

My current personal favorite breads are Teff Carob Coconut Bread, Cranberry English Muffins, Rice-Chick Pea Bread and Mock Rye Bread, (one with rice, one rice-free).

I’ve had recent success with gluten-free sourdough crackers. They use a combination of gluten-free sourdough starter and sprouted flour.

Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread is easy once the principles and guidelines are understood.

It is encouraging and comforting to me that as we move into the future and must deal with some very difficult medical challenges, we can utilize the wisdom of the ancients to strengthen and nourish us.

Sharon A. Kane is the author of The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking.  You can see more photos of her breads and process here.

For her free PDF Starter Recipe Download,  please email Sharin  glutenfreesourdoughbaker at gmail dot com with “Recipe Download” in the subject line.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted June 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    wow..that’s incredible..

  2. claire
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    awesome! is there a sample recipe to try? although i’m not fully gluten-free, i do rotate grains and soak/ferment before eating. i have a rye starter that i would love to use with gluten-free flours. i think she’d have a wider audience if she pitched not just to the gluten-free folks, but to those of us who are *mostly* gluten free or rotating grains….

    soooooo… can yall post a sample recipe?? :)

    • Posted June 21, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      hiya claire!
      “For her free PDF Starter Recipe Download, please email Sharin glutenfreesourdoughbaker at gmail dot com with “Recipe Download” in the subject line.”

      xo
      kittee

    • Sharon A. Kane
      Posted June 22, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Hi Claire,
      If you email me at glutenfreesourdoughbaker@gmail.com, I will send you the recipe download. It has recipes for the starter, pancakes and a great loaf bread that uses rice and chick pea flour.

      Thanks for your suggestion about pitching to mostly gluten-free people. I had to think about it a minute since I can no longer eat gluten nor can I eat my beloved sourdough rye bread. I wouldn’t feel comfortable pitching about using gf flours with wheat or rye starter simply because I cannot eat it to test it myself. However, that said, I think it would work really well especially if the baker familiarizes herself with the properties of the different gf flours and how they might affect the bread. (That info is in my book. Each gf flour has it’s own property and contributes some property like sponginess, dryness, structure, etc to the finished product)

      Since my gf technique is based on rye bread I imagine the technique would work well with rye starter.
      Thanks Caitlin and Claire for your comments,
      Best,
      sharon

  3. Posted June 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I so needed to read this. I’m finally accepting that gluten is not my friend. And while cutting gluten out of my diet is going to be a challenge, a bigger challenge will be trying to get my partner to go along for the ride. He likes his bread and wheat, though he seems to have a bigger problem than I do with gluten.

    Although I have a major yeast sensitivity too, I’m hoping that once I vanquish the candida I can try this method out.

    Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Sharon A. Kane
      Posted June 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Hi Nicole,
      Just wanted to respond to your comment about your partner liking his wheat. (who wouldn’t?) My partner has been my main tester and now prefers my breads because they are so nourishing and satisfying. He’s so used to my breads now that when he eats wheat bread, even homemade, it seems pasty and empty compared to the substance of mine.

      Best,
      sharon a. kane

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