By Riki Shore
Sharon Kane is highly sensitive to gluten and other foods. Not wanting to give up eating freshly baked breads, she developed a recipe for a gluten-free sourdough starter, which can be used to make breads and pancakes. She’s published The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking and teaches classes on her methods. She’s agreed to share her sourdough starter recipe with Three Squares – download the PDF to start baking.
TS: How did you first discover that you were gluten-intolerant? Were there other foods you chose to give up in addition to gluten?
SK: I had chronic sinus infections, digestive issues and fatigue. I went to a holistic MD who tested me for food sensitivities and we found I was sensitive to gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and commercial yeast. I gave up all those foods and saw a marked improvement in my well being. I had health problems for many years so I had already eliminated wheat, caffeine, shellfish, alcohol, sweeteners and fruit. I had not given up rye bread, however, and had mastered an old-fashioned recipe for 7-day sourdough rye bread. By eating that wonderful bread I was ingesting a daily dose of gluten.
TS: How would you describe your diet today?
SK: I eat hot cereal like teff or amaranth for breakfast. To add some protein to the breakfast grain I add nuts and seeds that have been soaked in water overnight. For lunches and dinners, I eat brown rice or quinoa paired with a modest portion of fish, poultry, meat, or beans, a generous helping of cooked vegetables and a good size salad. I often add some homemade lacto-fermented vegetables to the salad. In the fall and winter I regularly make soup stocks and bone broths. I use these for cooking and for when I’m under the weather. For snacks I have a piece of my homemade gluten-free sourdough bread heated in the toaster with coconut oil and some more soaked nuts.
TS: What are some of your favorite foods?
SK: I’ve recently bought a crock pot and have been playing around with less expensive cuts of meat. Last week I made a cross cut beef shin on a bed of vegetables. I added a quart of stock and a cup of kombucha tea, which is a great substitution for wine. The resulting stew reminded me of boeuf bourguignon or French onion soup (without the bread and the cheese). It was excellent!
My favorite warm weather food is salmon cooked over a bed of sauteed vegetables. I make a lot of beans and really like beans over brown rice or quinoa with a few dashes of my homemade fermented hot pepper sauce. I’ll also add some sauerkraut on top of the beans.
One of my favorite breads is my Teff Carob Coconut Bread. It’s dark, rich, slightly sweet and very aromatic. Coconut oil is a perfect compliment to this very unusual bread.
TS: Many people who eat gluten-free bread turn to either almond flour or a combination of flours, such as rice, tapioca, and potato. Which grain do you use in your gluten-free bread and pancakes?
SK: I use a variety of grains: brown rice, quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, corn and recently, coconut. I don’t use them all in the same recipe, but in many different configurations. The high starch flours – tapioca, arrowroot and potato – add a lot of fluffiness to gluten-free breads. As much as I like them, I need to stay away from large amounts of them. I use very small amounts in my recipes and continue to experiment with other flours to achieve the fluffiness we all love.
TS: At the core of any sourdough bread is a great tasting starter. What is a starter and how did you start yours?
SK: A starter is a medium that fosters the growth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria and yeast. Flour and water make an excellent medium for this purpose. The bacteria and yeast feed on the starch in the flour, thereby fermenting the grain and making the finished bread easier to digest. My first starter was made with brown rice flour. After watching the starter spoil a few times, I learned to add a small amount of Water Kefir, a fermented drink, to the starter. After I mastered the rice starter I moved on to rice-free starters using quinoa, teff, buckwheat, sorghum and corn. My technique works best with a fresh starter every time, which is nice because you don’t have to care for it between baking days.
TS: What are the nutritional benefits of sourdough? Why should someone following a gluten-free diet go to the trouble of making a starter and baking their own sourdough products?
SK: Sourdough Bread, made without commercial yeast, uses the wild yeast in the air and on the grain to leaven the bread. The fermenting process neutralizes harsh elements in the grain while making other nutrients more available for absorption. Humans have leavened bread using this slow method for many, many years.
Most of the baked products in our culture are “quick” breads leavened with either commercial yeast that’s grown in a lab or chemical leaveners. The batters and doughs are assembled quickly, rise within a few hours or not at all, and are then baked.
Most gluten-free breads use xanthan or guar gum to help the batter hold together. Many people are sensitive to commercial yeast and these gums. I believe bread processed this way will not be easy to digest and may actually stress or damage our digestive systems. This may lead to future problems down the road.
Those of us with multiple food sensitivities and/or extremely sensitive digestions cannot eat quick breads. Making our own sourdough bread can be the answer to controlling the ingredients that go into our bread while creating a super healthy and flavorful product.
Using my technique it is easy to create a starter any time you need it if you keep water kefir on hand. Download Sharon’s Sourdough starter recipes now.