Working with Gluten-free Sourdough can be a bit of a challenge. We are pleased to welcome Sharon Kane, author of the The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking Book to share with us her story of developing methods for making bread, muffins, pizza dough, dessert breads, and more.
The Search for Gluten-free Sourdough Bread
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, 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.
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, pure-food bread that 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 from the Sourdough Wheat technique that most people are familiar with.
Differences Between Traditional and Gluten-free Sourdough
Here are some of the basic differences between Traditional Wheat Sourdough and my technique:
Amount of Flour Used
- Traditional Wheat Sourdough uses a large amount of flour incorporated into a small amount of starter.
- My technique uses a small amount of flour incorporated into a large amount of starter.
Frequency of Sourdough Feedings
- Traditional Wheat Sourdough starter needs to be fed once a day when getting ready to bake.
- My sourdough needs to be fed 2 to 3 times a day while building up the amount needed to be baked.
Storage Time for the Sourdough Starter
- Traditional Wheat Sourdough starter can live indefinitely in the refrigerator when fed properly, once a week.
- My Sourdough starter is 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 to 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.
- Traditional Wheat Sourdough bread usually requires kneading.
- Most of my recipes are batter recipes that benefit from gentle hand mixing with a whisk, wooden spoon, or dough mixer.
Type of Pan Used to Bake the Bread
- Traditional Wheat Sourdough bread can be baked in loaf pans as well as on flat sheets because the gluten helps them to “stand up” on their own.
- My gluten-free breads 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. By adding large amounts of high-starch flours, one can achieve a gluten-free loaf that stands up, but in my opinion, high amounts of starch flour decrease the nutritional content of the bread.
Gluten-free Sourdough Ingredients:
Here are the basic ingredients I use in my recipes:
- Water Kefir (Dairy kefir can also be used provided it is homemade): Click here to view a video for how to make a Gluten-free Sourdough Starter using Water Kefir
- Whole Grain Flours:
- Brown Rice
- Chick Pea
- Corn (sprouted corn flour)
- Note: I do not use millet because it is believed to interfere with thyroid function, something many people with gluten allergy suffer from.
Some recipes have small amounts of starch flours:
- Potato flour
- Tapioca flour
- Oil (your choice of oil or fat)
I use small amounts of stevia powder in some of the recipes but my revised book will have other sweetener substitutions since not everyone can use stevia.
There are other miscellaneous flavoring ingredients like fruit, herbs, spices, garlic, scallions, onions, vanilla, carob powder, and maca powder.
The ingredients I do not use are:
- Potato starch
- Xanthan gum
- Guar gum
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
Variety of Gluten-free Sourdough Starters and Recipes
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, and pizza dough, and I am currently experimenting with crackers, 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.
Sharon Kane's Personal Favorites
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).
Sharon Kane is the author of The Gluten-free Sourdough Blog as well as two books: The Art of Gluten-free Sourdough Baking and Lacto-Fermentation Through the Seasons. Sharon also offers an online video course on Gluten-free Sourdough Baking.
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 have to deal with some very difficult medical challenges, we can utilize the wisdom of the ancients to strengthen and nourish us.