Category Archives: bread

Why Gluten Free Sourdough?

Today’s post is from Sharon Kane, the very talented baker and author of The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking.  In this article she shares her journey from sourdough consumer to someone with multiple food sensitivities who needed to find an alternative.  During her long journey to learn how to make gluten-free sourdough bread Sharon was focused on making it as nutritious as possible by continuing to use whole grain flours.  It is important to note that many gluten free products currently on the market are made with enriched and nutritionally deficient flours.  They are also often not soaked and, as she explains below, this is an important part of the process which helps to make the end result more nutritious.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 10.00.17 PMSourdough baking is a time-tested bread baking technique that was used exclusively until the discovery of modern commercial yeast. The technique utilizes the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the grain, and in the air, to leaven bread. Sourdough bread becomes highly digestible because the flours are fermented or “soaked” in the starter as well as in the long rise period.

Some people may remember their grandparents soaking oatmeal the night before cooking it for breakfast. Soaking neutralizes natural enzyme inhibitors in the grain, begins breaking down the tough cellulose fibers, fosters the formation of probiotics and enzymes and releases vitamins. All this makes for a more nutritious finished product that is easy on the digestion with many nutrients available for assimilation. Sourdough breads have a robust taste, long shelf life and freeze well.

I became successful at making sourdough rye bread and happily ate the bread for a few years. Then I learned I was gluten intolerant and could no longer eat my beloved rye sourdough bread. I also learned I was highly sensitive to eggs, dairy, soy and commercial yeast.

Wanting to continue eating good bread, I went to the market and saw that all the retail gluten-free breads contained one or more of the ingredients I needed to avoid. I realized that if I wanted bread I needed to be able to control the ingredients and the baking technique.

I began experimenting with gluten-free flours using the rye technique as a guide.  My parameters were:

  • Use gluten-free whole grain flours
  • Minimize the use of high starch flour
  • Use only simple food ingredients so no xanthan or guar gums nor baking powder or soda
  • Minimize the use of all sweeteners
  • Use high quality oils, fats and flavorings

I began experimenting with the sourdough techniques I had mastered for the rye bread and it took one whole year to make a successful bread! Five more years of research and development led me to use different flour combinations and different types of breads.

This type of baking is different from conventional gluten-free baking and is also different from conventional sourdough baking. There is a bit of a learning curve to this technique however many people have mastered it and are happily eating nutritious gluten-free sourdough bread from recipes that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, peanuts, baking powder/soda, and xanthan and guar gums.

Don’t forget to stop by The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking for a FREE sourdough starter recipe.

On My Mind Monday 7.09.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

How can a big gulp look so small? – Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban has raised all kinds of backlash across the system.  The biggest misconception put forth is that we “know” how much we are consuming.  Manufacturers keep trotting forth this phrase each time they feel threatened to limited by any type of legislation that may impact their ability to peddle their product.  Frequently it’s the least healthy manufacturers who complain the loudest.  So now another study has been done that once again proves that our brains don’t do geometry very well.  We are not accurately able to gauge how much we are consuming, instead cueing off the size of the container.  This study, to my mind, confirms a study previously done with bottomless bowls of soup.  We do indeed eat with our eyes, frequently over-eating because we rely on visual cues.

Our Daily Bread – a slightly modified take of the work they’ve published in their book Hungry Planet: What The World Eats, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio have an exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston.  It shows a wide variety of people with the food that they plan to eat for that day.  The variety and circumstances are startling.  It gives one definitely pause for thought.  I hope the exhibit is very successful and even more that it will travel around the country, perhaps making it’s way to a museum in Houston so that I can go see it.

Food Companies Concerned About Sustainability – As more consumers become more educated, more companies are beginning to listen.  Realizing that they need to be aware of and involved in this issue as well if they want to sell their products.  As always I propose we start with whole foods, but I do believe that sustainable practices across all parts of the food spectrum are important.

Nutrition Education on Wheels – This looks like an interesting concept.  Using a food truck and providing recipe cards and cooking demonstrations people are getting some ideas for how to use the food they get to make healthy, nutritious meals.  This is an idea that I think could be expanded greatly all across the country.  It seems to me that it would not only help people to eat healthier, but also to help avoid food waste as people often don’t use what they don’t know how to use and it sits until it becomes inedible.  I hope to see more food trucks like this.

EU Organic Label Now Mandatory – Well this just proves that it can be done.  It can’t come to our shores fast enough in my opinion.  I even like the symbol they chose.

I use a LOT of onions in my house.  I’ve tried to grow there but here in my hot, piney woods garden they have not done well.  Out of two onion sets I got one reasonable size onion, yes, one onion.  The others all seemed to melt and disappear into the garden.  I’m still not sure how that happens but I’ve decided that, for now, growing onions is not for me. I continue to use them as they are flavorful and a great, healthy way to punch up your recipes but, for now, I’m still buying instead of growing them.  As a good source of vitamin C onions also provide a lot of phytonutrients.  They are considered to be beneficial for heart health and are also anti-inflammatory.  Using them can be a challenge however as chopping a spherical object into nice tidy dices or even slices isn’t always easy.  Learning the proper way to chop onions is a handy skill.  Here’s a great video demonstrating how to do it.



Cottage Loaf

Over on my Facebook Fan Page I wrote about a recent experiment in bread making.  I took one of my favorite quick rise bread recipes and used the baking method from no-knead bread.  The bread rose really well.  At first I was sort of disappointed because it rose REALLY well, I was making it in 2 quart pyrex containers (I don’t own a 5 quart cast iron dutch oven as called for in no-knead bread) and I wound up with 2 quart-casserole-dish-shaped bread.  However, as you can see from the picture, once turned out of it’s container I realized it looked beautiful.    I got a fabulous rise and the crumb is very even and beautiful. 

Helayne asked for the recipe so here it is:

Cottage Loaf
[makes one loaf but doubles very well]

5-6 C. bread flour
2 T. yeast
2 T. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 T. sea salt
1 t. ground ginger
2 C. hot water

In a large bowl mix together 2 C. flour, the yeast, salt, sugar and ground ginger
Add hot water and stir well
Add flour 1 C. at a time until dough is no longer sticky
Knead for 8 minutes until dough is ready (I have a really big bowl and I just knead directly in the bowl)
Oil dough and return to the bowl
Cover with a dishtowel and let rise in a draft free place for one hour
Punch down, shape dough into a ball and place in a bowl lined with a well-floured towel
Recover dough
Take 2 quart covered casserole dish and place in the oven
Set oven to 475
When oven is done preheating open dish, slide dough into dish, place lid back on casserole
Bake 30 minutes then remove lid and bake another 20-25 minutes until bread is done
Remove bread from casserole and cool on wire rack completely before cutting 

The waiting part is very difficult to accomplish as the smell of freshly baked bread permeates the house like nothing else and draws hungry folk in a hurry.

I made this bread using King Arthur Bread Flour.  Although I bake a lot of bread using whole grain or fresh ground flours occasionally I will use unbleached all-purpose or bread flour.  Then I experiment from there to see how much I can modify it and change to less processed grains.  The next experiment with this loaf will be to see if I can substitute 1/2 of the flour for whole wheat and what happens from there.  

I’ll keep you posted.

Homemade Rolls

Susan asked, “
I wondered if you might have a resource for homemade wheat rolls (or other dinner-y kind of breads) that could be made up to a certain point and then frozen. So that you could make up a whole bunch when you have time, and then just cook a few at a time when you want them. I’ve been googling and haven’t really come up with anything. We’re trying to accommodate the starch eater/cravers in the household while substituting for healthier alternatives. Thank you very much for any ideas.

I don’t have any whole grain par-baked bread recipes. Part of the difficulty, as I find it, is that working with whole grains changes the gluten structure, the higher fiber retards the rise. So when I try to par-bake and freeze the rolls they never rise right. Freezing the unbaked dough is tough because the freezing process kills the yeast and the thawing bread never seems to rise correctly, adding extra yeast doesn’t work because then you’re starting all over again.

My suggestion would be to find a whole grain bread recipe that you like and make rolls, soft bread sticks, even slice the loaf after baking, and freeze the results. You can thaw them for those that want it and then warm it up in the over for that “fresh-baked” aroma and warmth.

photo courtesy of Fir002 | Wikimedia Commons

Local Grain Source

As many of you know I love to bake. Specifically I love to bake with whole grains. This way my family gets all of the benefit of the grain, the fiber to help slow down the digestion of the starchy endosperm and help stabilize blood sugar, and the germ with all of it’s nutrient goodness.

When we moved here I felt fortunate that our local grocery store carried whole grains in the health food section. Unfortunately they recently decided to stop carrying them which left me without a local source. But all of that has changed now thanks to my friend Jinks. Her new website Yummy Bread Kneads is a new local source for whole grains and she’ll be sharing some great recipes.

Be sure to check it out.

photo courtesy of Rainer_Zenz | Wikimedia Commons

No-knead Mesquite Bread

Those inventive folks over at have come up with a new twist on the, by now, ubiquitous no-knead bread. Laura, one of the Editorial Assistants, found my post about mesquite flour and emailed me to let me know about this really fun article on how to harvest and process mesquite to make the flour. It includes a recipe for No-Knead Mesquite Bread which they said I could share with all of you. Living here in Texas I know we have mesquite, but there isn’t any in my area. I’m going to have to learn to identify it though so that if I find any in my travels I can harvest the pods.

No Knead Mesquite Bread Recipe

3 cups white flour
3 tbls mesquite flour
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups of water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
Add water and mix
Stir with fork (mix will be sticky)
Cover in a bowl, let sit overnight
Place bread dough on cutting board covered with towel for 2 hours
In metal bowl bake in sun oven @ 350 for 1 hour

photo courtesy of: Wendy Tremayne


On a forum that I belong to Shannon asked the following question: “I’ve used vital wheat gluten to achieve a more tender crumb when baking traditional/artisanal breads with whole grain flours. I’m still not sure if vital wheat gluten is a heavily-manufactured and processed product. Anyone have experience or knowledge on this? If it is heavily processed, is there a good substitute in whole grain baking?

Here is my reply:

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. There is some controversy as to whether oats have gluten or not. Obviously if there are any celiac or gluten sensitivity issues you cannot use gluten in any cooking or baking. This answer assumes there are no gluten issues.

Vital Wheat Gluten is nothing more than concentrated gluten. Many vegans and several Asian cultures use it to make a meat substitute called seitan (sometimes referred to as “wheat meat”) which can be cooked almost like meat.

Gluten can be obtained by washing it out of flour but because the process is so lengthy many people just use vital wheat gluten. I do not have any specifics on how vital wheat gluten is created commercially.

Gluten, especially used with whole grain flour, is usually referred to as a conditioning agent. This is because the extra fiber in the whole grain flour retards the gluten and slows down the rise. By ‘conditioning’ the dough you can get a better texture, a higher loft, and sometimes a moister crumb. Gluten is also added to low gluten flours to get the dough to stretch. The typical amount to add is 1-2 Tbsp per batch. Be aware that if you add to much your loaf with over-rise and then collapse.

Other conditioners include lecithin (you can use approximately 1 tsp per loaf in your recipe), citric acid (just a pinch, okay a generous pinch if it is a two loaf batch, otherwise your bread will taste very citrus-y) and powdered ginger (as my Uncle Joe used to say, “It aggravates the yeast.” Use up to 1/2 tsp per loaf). You can combine these conditioners in differing amounts to see what will work with your recipe. You can also use barley malt as a conditioning agent.

Be aware that commercially there are lots of chemicals that are used instead of natural substances. Chemical dough conditioners (also called improving agents) include azodicarbonamide, carbamide, sodium stearoyl 2 lactylate, calcium stearoyl lactate, bethoxylated and succinylated monoglycerides, and polysorbate 60.

photo courtesy of

Dough Flying Everywhere

I recently came across a video of Richard Bertinet’s slap-and-fold method of working bread dough. You can find the video here.

As with the No Knead Bread phenomenon that swept the foodie sites a couple of years ago, I wanted to modify this to work for me. What that means is I wanted to use fresh ground, whole grain flour. I decided to try this new method with an overnight soaked dough that I like because it has great flavor and usually turns out pretty fluffy. I wanted to know how the slap-and-fold method would affect the consistency of the dough.

My first challenge was how wet the dough was. Halfway through the slapping and folding I realized that perhaps a fluffy dough was not the dough to be doing this with, I probably should have started with a more rustic dough. Also, it might have made sense to try it with all-purpose flour, as the recipe calls for, but I didn’t. The flour I used was fresh ground, 1/2 spelt, 1/2 hard red wheat, soaked overnight in buttermilk.

After I mixed in the rest of the ingredients I followed the instructions and began to slap the dough against the counter. I dutifully resisted the urge to add more flour. The dough was very wet and it was tempting to add flour at least to clean off my hands. It took a while to learn to control the dough. I must be the world’s messiest dough slapper because there was dough everywhere. Little bits would fly off and stick to the back wall, to the underside of the cabinets, as well as all around me onto the floor. it also seemed to take a rather long time for the dough to become cohesive. But I persisted. I know that I worked the dough far longer than the video suggested was necessary but I did eventually get a nice smooth ball of dough which I returned to the bowl and covered to let rise.

The dough took longer than expected to rise, about 2 hours. Punched down, formed into two boules and set to rise again. This rise seemed normal. I baked it in the oven and it seemed to turn out well. As the picture shows it made two really lovely boules, nice and fragrant, soft crust, dense crumb with a rich flavor. The bread turned out really well and was worth the effort.

I’m not convinced that I’m going to start slapping dough on a regular basis but I am going to try this again. I plan to back up and start with Mr. Bertinet’s sweet dough recipe and then try again to modify it to whole grains. It was fun to experiment with the dough and see the results; it’s also fun to think about what will happen with other changes and then try those ideas out.

I believe we need to do more than simply eat our food, we need to enjoy it. So I encourage you to play with your food, savor it with all of your senses; that includes thinking about how it’s made.

Be well.