Saturday, December 19, 2009

Breads from The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking

Here are some photos of breads from my Ebook, The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking. These breads are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast and sweeteners. They taste great, have a nice sponginess and a beautiful crumb. The sourdough technique helps them to rise to a nice height.

Sourdough Millet Bread, Chia Teff Muffins, Italian Bean Pecan Pizza, Onion Buns and a tall loaf of Chia Teff Bread












Boosted Brown Rice Starter Gluten free, Casein free

Prep time: 5 minutes
Fermentation time: 3-4 days

Start with one cup of brown rice flour and put it in a ceramic or glass bowl
Pour in slightly less than one cup of water and whisk smooth
Add 1-2 tablespoons of water kefir and whisk again
Cover with a cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band
Leave it on the counter away from drafts or extreme temperatures

Feed the starter, with 1/3-1/2 cup of flour and little less water, roughly every 8 hours, 3 times a day, for a total of four days, whisking smooth and covering. If you know you won't be able to feed it after 8 hours, put it in the refrigerator after feeding. You won't have to feed it for another 12 hours if it's in the fridge.

After two days put the starter in a clean bowl and continue feeding. (change the bowl so that the dried out starter that clings to the sides of the bowl stays out of the living starter)

After about 48 hours the starter should show signs of viability.
If you don’t see any bubbles or hilling you can add another tablespoon of water kefir

By the third day you should see small bubbles especially during stirring

By the fourth day you may see bubbles of different sizes and there may be a hissing, bubbling sound when they come up from the bottom of the bowl

It should take about 4 days for a brand new starter to be ready for cooking. It may take less time in warm weather and more time in cold weather. With a little practice you will get to know when your starter is ready.

You can store a small amount of starter, ¼ - ½ cup, in the refrigerator for next time. Feed it every 2 weeks by taking it out of the refrigerator, letting it come to room temperature, feed it with a small amount of flour and water, whisk and refrigerate again.

If you plan to make sourdough products a few times a week you may want to use an ongoing starter kept at room temperature on the counter. When you’re ready to cook/bake, remove a small amount ¼ - ½ cup of starter and put it in a clean bowl. Feed 2-3 times a day with roughly equal amounts of flour and water and whisk smooth. Cover and set it aside to continue fermenting. This will be your starter for your next batch. Proceed with your recipe with the remaining starter.

Free Starter Recipe Download! 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Slow Food Catering

I was asked to cater an event showcasing the traditional and unusual cooking techniques I teach in my classes. I had never catered before and was feeling somewhat apprehensive.
My menu was simple enough:

-Gluten free sourdough bread toasts topped with kefir cheese and home cured salmon, also know as Gravlox*(recipe below)
-Four types of highly digestible beans for dips:
Baked Beans,
Italian White Beans,
Frijoles Negroes (Spanish Black Beans)
Indian Lentils
-Veggie Plate of raw vegetables not commonly eaten raw
-Lacto-Fermented Vegetables
Small bowls of seasonal lacto-fermented vegetables which at this time of year, was swiss chard and summer squash & onions.
-Amaranth Bread Pudding

Since I learned about these foods I have gained a better sense of using seasonal and fermented foods and what that really entails. For produce it means using and eating what is in season. For fermented foods it means having patience as the food can take hours or days or even weeks to reach perfect palatability. For sourdough bread it means planning a starter well in advance of when I want the finished bread. For beans it’s about carefully planning some simple steps.

Cooking this way is a very different process than going to the market and buying cans of beans, tubs of cream cheese, loaves of bread, already smoked salmon and vacuum packed jars of pickles. This food is very different as everything is carefully hand made from scratch, rendering it highly nutritious, easy to digest and exploding with flavor. When I serve some of these foods to Europeans they get very excited because it reminds them of the foods their grandmothers made. These old fashioned techniques, practiced around the globe for centuries, seem to preserve the inherent integrity of the food. Since most of us have not grown up with these foods they may initially taste unfamiliar or even strange. Perhaps it is an acquired taste and many of us notice that the body begins to crave these foods after having them a few times.

These foods can take from a few hours to almost a month to be finished. With careful planning it doesn’t take much more time, just a different usage of time. It only takes a few minutes to create bread starter. It takes just a few seconds a day to feed the starter. It takes half a minute to put kefir grains in a jar, fill it with milk and cover it. Timing is everything for lacto-fermented pickling. I boil and salt the water the night before so it will be room temperature when the vegetables are ready to be harvested or brought back from the farmer’s market.

So when I agreed to cater I got out my calendar, marked the day of the event and started counting backwards:

- 3-6 weeks before the event start lacto-fermenting seasonal veggies.
- One week to start the kefir milk in small batches
- Four days for the bread starter plus one day for rising.
- 2 days to cure the salmon.
- 24 hours to soak the beans and slow cook.
- 7 hours for soaking the amaranth with water kefir before cooking.

Additionally, I like to use my fresh or fresh ground herbs and spices whenever possible:

- Make garam masala for the lentil dish.
- Harvest dill, thyme and parsley from the garden. Rinse and let dry for easy chopping at the right time so it can be used well before it loses its vitality.

I like to attend to every aspect of the menu; every ingredient should be a quality ingredient. I once ate a layered cake that became part of the model for my cooking. There were 4 separate layers to this cake: the cake itself, the outermost hard-shell frosting, an inner frosting layer and an inner jam layer. I decided to taste each layer separately and found each layer was a completely satisfying taste in itself. Then I took a bite that included all the layers. I experienced all 4 layers of tastes and textures in a beautifully artful balance. Together they became a perfectly balanced contrapuntal experience. This became an important model for my cooking. Every aspect of a meal or menu would be of high quality and properly prepared without hurry.

So with this intention I began my tasks: counting days, doubling and tripling recipes, making shopping lists, making a daily task schedule, and soon enough it was time to start preparing food. Throughout the tasks I was aware that people I did not know would be eating this food. I felt honored to create this beautiful food for them. The question “would they like it” popped up many times but I just continued forward with my tasks.

The day of the event arrived. My helpers and I carefully packed the food, transported the food, unpacked the food and set up the food. I was nervous.
At most events most of the socializing centers around the food. Soon there was a small crowd around the table. People began eating. Some people just happily ate the food. Some people with food restrictions were happy to know they could safely eat the food. Some people realized the intricacies of the food and slowly tasted everything with eyes closed.

One man made comments on each layer of the salmon cheese toasts, the sourness of the bread, the sweet and sour nature of the kefir cheese and the delicate texture and salty-sweet taste of the home cured salmon. Another woman pondered the strong, though not overpowering, blend of Indian spices (homemade garam masala) in the lentil dish. People kept nibbling at the lacto-fermented veggies trying to identify all the tastes. I heard questions like:
“What makes this sweet?
What makes this sour?
Why doesn’t it taste like it has vinegar in it?
How did you get it be so delicate?”

When I told them the only ingredients were vegetables, dill, salt and water they had trouble believing it but continued nibbling.

I was very happy that almost all the food was eaten and appreciated. The one dish that wasn’t quite right was The Amaranth Bread Pudding. I had used sourdough bread and the characteristic sourness of the bread clashed with the sweetness of the honey-sweetened amaranth. Since then I have learned some tricks for minimizing the amount of sour taste in sourdough bread.
I continue to deeply enjoy creating all types of slow food. Seems there is always more to learn, share and enjoy.

Home Cured Salmon/Gravlox Recipe

1 lb fresh salmon, a uniformly thick piece from the middle of the fish
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1/2 bunch of dill or cilantro
A flat dish
Clear plastic wrap
Small bowl

Line the flat dish with a piece of clear plastic wrap large enough to wrap up the salmon so it’s tightly closed
Lay the salmon skin side down on the plastic wrap
Mix the salt and sugar together in a bowl
Take the dill and rinse it, leave it to dry, then chop the leaves off the large stems discarding the large stems (use for soup)
Mix the chopped dill leaves with the salt and sugar mixture and lay it on the salmon flesh so it completely covers the flesh.
Wrap the fish and dill mixture firmly in the clear plastic wrap.
Cure in refrigerator for 1 ½ -2 days.
After 1 ½-2 days unwrap the fish and scrape off the dill mix. Wash off the fish and blot dry with a paper towel.
Slice fish thinly on an angle.
Fish will keep for a few days.

Some people make 2 pieces at a time laying them on top of each other flesh side touching with dill mix in between and on top.

Some people also make an entire side at a time. Just double or triple the ingredients.

Water Kefir for boosting Gluten-Free Starter

Water Kefir for Boosted Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter
(water kefir is the booster for Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Fermentation time: 2-3 days

Ingredients
2-3 tablespoons Water Kefir grains
2 tablespoons sugar (I find organic dark sugar works the best, but any sugar works)
20 raisins (or a comparable amount of figs or prunes)
1 quart of filtered or spring water
1 slice of lemon

Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.
Add the water kefir grains to the jar.
Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band.
When raisins float to the top, after around 24-48 hours, use a nonmetal tool and scoop the raisins and the lemon slice out and discard.
Ferment the water kefir for 6-12 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.
Then store, covered, in fridge and use as needed.

To replenish:
When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar, with water, sugar, raisins and lemon. Then pour the water kefir grains plus the remaining small amount of liquid right into the new jar, cover with paper towel or cloth and ferment.
Stays potent in the fridge 2-4 weeks.



Resources: Water Kefir Grains from www.culturesforhealth.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gluten Free Sourdough Bread as an Intuitive Art

After nearly 4 years of gluten free sourdough experimentation and observation I can now intuitively work with the never ending variations that emerge during the sourdough process. Much like people, every gluten free sourdough starter is unique. They respond to temperature, humidity, air flow, and miniscule differences in measurements.

Lately, I’ve become so adept at this kind of baking that I can “correct’ the starter or bread dough as I move through the tasks rather than dutifully following the recipe and ending up with a brick.

I can tell by the smell of the starter if it’s fermenting too quickly and needs to be fed more often. I can tell by the density if more flour blending is necessary. In a heat wave I can correct before over-fermentation sets in. The way the pizza dough comes together tells me if I need more arrowroot flour to attain that stretchy doughy quality. The quality of sponginess of the nearly finished bread batter tells me if it needs more ground flax seed.

My hope is that people who bake my bread will get a feel for working with a gluten free starter and the resulting dough so that they can correct as they go. My other hope is that they will be brave enough to try variations so that they can turn my bread recipes into their favorite breads. I love when people tell me they experimented with dried cherries instead of raisins and sage rather than coriander or used mini loaf pans instead of muffin tins.

My new motto is “Go forth and bravely bake!”.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gluten Free Sourdough and Weston A. Price Principles

After a number of years of building Weston A. Price principles into my daily life I learned I had multiple food sensitivities and had to let go of some beloved foods, namely butter and homemade sourdough rye bread. Unable to find suitable store bought gluten free and allergen free breads I began a journey of culinary discovery that taught me more about gluten free sourdough baking than I ever could have imagined . I coupled Weston A Price principles with modern gluten free baking principles and came up with some lovely breads, muffins and pancakes that have become nutrient dense, highly digestible comfort food for me and my family.



It took me one year to perfect a 7-day Sourdough Rye bread. It required an easy starter: equal amounts of rye flour and water whisked smooth. The starter had to be fed additional amounts of flour and water every day for the next six days. I watched in awe as the starter bubbled and took on the appearance of a sponge. The recipe said the dough should be like goop, and it was! Kneading was not necessary or even possible. I wasn’t sure this heavy goop would rise but it nearly doubled in size in 12 hours. As it baked it filled the house with a beautiful malty aroma. The first warm slices out of the oven were flavorful and dense without being heavy. I began to regularly bake this lovely bread. At first I bought bagged rye flour but soon I purchased the grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and bought 25 pounds of organic whole rye berries. I believed that my bread had its nutrients still alive in the freshly ground flour.

My family enjoyed the bread toasted with butter, jam, and nut butter. While some people couldn’t appreciate the bread because of its density, others really loved it. Some people commented that the bread reminded them of bread their grandparents used to make. My daughter brought home a Serbian friend on college break. I watched them cut thick slabs of the bread, toast it, slather humus on it and top it off with my home made sauerkraut. These two kids were in heaven, especially after all that dorm food. The friend proclaimed with wonderment that this bread was just like the “Serbian bread” his grandmother made and could they please take some back to college along with some “Serbian sauerkraut?”

I happily packed them off with a few loaves. I hesitated on the sauerkraut, though. I had visions of it blowing up in their backpacks.

I was flattered and deeply satisfied to feed people this wonderfully healthy food. I was also very pleased to have my food fondly remind people of their traditional ethnic foods.

I started making this bread to improve my health. I had been on a long journey of recovery from various illnesses and a friend gave me “Nourishing Traditions” as a gift. Each new food or technique I tried seemed to boost my health to another level. Some symptoms, however, persisted. I went to a Holistic MD who tested me for food allergies. It turned out I had an extreme gluten sensitivity as well as sensitivities to cow and goat’s milk, eggs, and soy. I was deeply distressed that in order to feel better I had to give up my sourdough rye bread. I was already off of all milk products except butter so that meant just letting go of the butter. I wasn’t happy about giving up eggs but was willing. I had already stopped eating soy months before after reading about it in “Nourishing Traditions”. Back then, I had muscle tested myself for it and having registered an extreme loss of strength, dropped it out of my diet and lost 1 pound a week for 8 weeks without dieting!

But my beloved bread! I discussed it all with a friend over tea and unexpectedly put my head on the table and started sobbing. When I finished crying I resolved that I would figure out a way to make a Gluten Free Sourdough bread.

I had my last slice of rye bread that night, perfectly toasted, sweetly aromatic, soaked with warm organic butter. I expressed my gratitude for this wonderful nourishing bread and butter, both of which had fed me well. I said my goodbyes and moved forward. Within 48 hours all the persisting symptoms I had up until that point disappeared! I began to understand the significance of the gluten allergy and how gluten was damaging my intestines and consequently my overall health.

I took a break from bread baking while I adjusted to my new diet. I looked at different store bought gluten free breads. Some of them used white rice flour and I wanted whole grain flour in my bread. Most of them contained milk or eggs for leavening. Just what I needed to avoid. The ones that didn’t use milk and eggs used commercial yeast for leavening, which, from previous experience, I did better without. In addition, many of the breads contained added sweetener, something I was trying to stay away from. I became frustrated looking at all these gluten free breads and still not being able to eat them.

There was also the issue of digestibility. I was not convinced these breads were highly digestible given that they were essentially “quick breads”. Dry flour mixed with wet ingredients, mixed with commercial yeast and risen for a few hours at most. According to Weston A. Price principles, soaking grains and flours neutralizes the antinutrients, generates lactobacillus and enzymes, gives a full bodied taste that increases with age and has a long shelf life. These were the qualities of my beloved rye bread and I was ready to have that again. I wanted a bread free from the foods I was sensitive to, free of commercial yeast and sweetener in any form, complete with great taste and high digestibility.

I began to experiment with Gluten Free sourdough, using the same sourdough guidelines substituting brown rice flour for the rye. My first attempt seemed to be spoiled. The starter harbored a greenish tinge towards the end of the 7 days. The finished bread smelled awful and I spit out the little bit that I tasted. Besides seeming spoiled, the bread was dense, compact because it had hardly risen!

I continued to experiment by trying different combinations of flours and different ways of working with the starter. During this time I had been trying water kefir as a morning tonic. It was nicely potent but really too alcoholic for me to drink. I continued making it to boost the soaking water for beans and grains. One morning as I was taking my daily walk, an activity that generates problem solving as well as new ideas, I wondered if the water kefir, being too alcoholic for me to drink, might be strong enough to leaven bread? I emailed an experienced fermenter from Australia, who said that he and his family often used water kefir to leaven their sourdough products. He gave me some tips for the starter as well as the bread and I started to have success. I continued to experiment with different combinations of store bought gluten free flours until I came up with a really tasty and dependable one. This whole process from the first spoiled bread to the successful, dependable bread took one whole year!

I began to bake four loaves at a time and freeze some. The bread was excellent even after 4 months in the freezer! I could toast a piece in the morning, pack it in a lunch container and eat it right out of the box six hours later. It still had a freshness about it even after all those hours. I used the bread for toast with nut butters. I used it in soup, stew and bean bowls where it nicely soaked up the juices. At the winter holidays I even used the starter for a chocolate cake. I didn’t let it rise long enough so it became a gluten free brownie! My crew ate the entire tray in five minutes…

I shared the bread with people on gluten free diets and watched their reactions. Their eyes closed, inhaling the aroma right out of the oven or toaster. I think I even saw someone swoon. Some people wanted to buy it! They said “this is what I’ve been looking for. Gluten Free, good taste, beautiful texture, long shelf life, and even freezes well”. I wasn’t ready to begin baking full time but I began to teach bread baking classes.


I was ready to branch out. I researched gluten free muffin recipes and cobbled together a recipe using the same rice starter for leavening. The results were exciting. The muffins were great and were a nice change from the bread. There was a little starter left over so I tried some sourdough pancakes. I was careful to make sure the batter fermented for at least 7 hours before cooking so any fresh flour I added was properly soaked. They were quite good. I still had a little starter leftover so I dropped spoonfuls of it into soup and got rather amorphous looking but great tasting dumplings!

After two years of euphoric bread eating I started to show symptoms of sensitivity again. One of the principles of healthy eating is to eat a variety of foods. This ensures a mix of nutrients, micronutrients and enzymes. One of the challenges of having multiple food sensitivities is that it becomes difficult to eat a wide variety of foods because we must avoid so many foods and food products. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity impairs the intestinal system thus making us that much more sensitive to foods we consume often.

I muscle tested for all the ingredients in my beloved bread and found I was sensitive to three of the five flour ingredients! The two I was most sensitive to were highly processed flours, chick pea flour and tapioca flour. I was less sensitive to the third ingredient, sorghum, something I had never eaten before using in my bread. I tested fine for the fourth ingredient, potato flour although it is also highly processed. Thankfully, I tested well for the organic brown rice flour which I ground in small batches in my grain mill and refrigerate for short periods of time to preserve the nutrients.

I started to think again about the Weston A. Price principles around using organic ingredients with as little processing as possible. I felt sure I had to begin experimenting again using only organic grains I could grind in my grain mill. I was happy to grind as much of the bread ingredients as I could ensuring a “nutrient alive” bread. As much as I loved my bread I had never been completely comfortable using flours that were not organically grown.
I was also concerned about the length of time the flour may have sat on the market shelf. My ingredient options were not exactly what I preferred but I worked with what was available and the knowledge I had at the time.


Again I took a break from bread baking to ponder. During that time I attended a Gluten Free Culinary conference taught by professional chefs, pastry chefs and cookbook writers. Through the information they shared I got a clearer understanding of general baking principles as well as gluten free baking principles. I started to understand that each gluten free flour had a specific property to give to the finished product. The chick pea flour gave the bread a nice buoyancy. The tapioca flour gave it lightness. The sorghum flour gave it a spongy texture. The potato flour binds it.

Now the challenge would be to substitute new flours for the flours that the Gluten Free Baking movement has grown to depend on. My question became “Which fresh ground flours would give me the properties needed to make an excellent product?” I decided to experiment with small batches of pancakes rather than bread in the hopes that in the event of failure the losses would be minimized.

I made a new starter with brown rice flour and made a few batches of pancakes using teff, amaranth and buckwheat flour. The teff and amaranth grains were too small to be ground in my mill so I used a coffee grinder which worked very well. With each new batch I saved some rice starter for the next batch. Each batch had very different qualities. The teff pancakes had a very dense texture. The amaranth pancakes were light and delicate. The buckwheat pancakes were thick and cakelike. I even tried some ground up gluten free steel cut oats which nicely fluffed them. I went one week feeding the starter twice daily, making pancakes every 2-3 days with no sign of diminished freshness in the starter. Previously, I would begin each batch of bread baking with a new starter as the old starters seemed to die in the refrigerator between batches. I assumed this was a characteristic of gluten free starters.

Looking to experiment a bit more, I decided to try adding different flours directly to the starter. With the addition of each new flour I watched the starter change texture and density. I learned not to use the same flour more than twice in a row because the pancakes would be too cakey or too dense or even too light! After a few more batches the pancakes themselves seemed to take on a melding of characteristics from this mix of grainy genetic material. They became more full bodied and, perhaps, more satisfying. By this time my starter had been alive for 3 weeks.

I was scheduled to teach an upcoming bread making class and began new rice starters. Since I hadn’t baked for 3 months I decided to make extra starter to experiment with after class. I would teach my tried and true original recipe even though I would no longer eat it.

Bread class was a success and everyone took home a loaf to rise overnight and bake the next day. I gave everyone ¼ cup of rice starter with instructions to sit it on the counter and feed it twice a day with equal amounts of flour and water, changing the bowl every 2-3 days. I hoped that with this starter they could begin baking soon while class was fresh in their minds.

The day after class I was ready to experiment. I ground more buckwheat, amaranth and sweet brown rice flour. I had some leftover potato flour but only enough for 3 loaves. I put those loaves together and was happy to see the dough had a spongy texture similar to the original recipe. I decided to try a fourth loaf without potato flour. The dough was as thin as cake batter so I added more sweet brown rice flour. It thickened but it was still thinner than I had ever worked with. I didn’t think it would rise properly but to my surprise it rose beautifully, baked well and was the best loaf of the four!!!

Later that week my students let me know that their breads rose beautifully, and baked well. They said the good taste seemed to get better with age. In addition, they were dutifully feeding their starters twice a day.

I continue along with my experiments. I tried mini muffin tins because they are a better size for a snack than standard size tins. Using the rice starter I will try another chocolate cake for the holidays. It will be gluten free, dairy free, egg free, sweetener free, yeast, baking soda and baking powder free using stevia rather than sugar. Next, I’d like to try rolls and scones, maybe a holiday fruit and nut bread and after that, maybe an onion bread.

Two and a half years after giving up gluten I have achieved what I had hoped. I have successfully created my own nutrient-dense, allergy-free bread products using a combination of ancient sourdough technique and an ancient fermented drink. It is encouraging and comforting to me that as we move into the future and have to deal with some of the very difficult challenges of our day, we can fall back on the wisdom of the ancients to strengthen and nourish us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Bread That Would Not Die (Secret Ingredient: Chia Seed)

I tried one of my newest gluten free recipes and came up with a very tasty bread. It had a nice crumb, a nice rise and a nice crust. When I travel I always bring my own bread. I was getting ready to travel to a family event. I sliced up one loaf and packed it in my suitcase. To be sure I would have enough bread I also took the loaf I had previously sliced and frozen the week before. When I got to my hotel room I unpacked the still slightly frozen bread, leaving it to thaw in the open air. Meanwhile, I happily ate the fresh slices as I moved through the weekend’s events. I had forgotten about the thawing slices in the open air until I began packing and saw them. Being unsure they were still good but unwilling to dump them, I repacked them and brought them home. When I got home I toasted up a piece and Wow! it was still fantastic! There were a few pieces left so I wrapped them in a cloth and set them on the counter to see how many more days they would still taste good. They were still excellent even 2-3 days later. So this was a previously frozen bread that had thawed in the stuffy air of a hotel room, inadvertently left in that same stuffy air for 3 days, repacked and traveled a total of 700 miles. The bread just would not get stale, old, or gross!

For a gluten free bread to be treated this way and still taste so good is very, very unusual. Most people who must eat gluten free bread, whether they bake their own or buy it fresh, eat it fresh for one day and put the rest in the freezer because it dries out so quickly. My gluten free sourdough bread stays fresh on the counter for 5 days wrapped in a cloth, sitting in an open plastic container. It keeps 10 days in the fridge if it hasn’t been eaten up by then. It also freezes, thaws and toasts up beautifully. I have always been proud of the long shelf life of this palatable bread.

The packed, frozen, thawed, repacked, retoasted loaf that was inadvertently ignored in the hotel room was an experimental loaf. I used one of my standard recipes and added 2 tablespoons of chia seed gel to it. Recently I baked another loaf using this same recipe, with chia added, and tested the limits of its shelf life. It lasted 10 days! stored on the counter, in a cloth, in an open plastic container. By day 8 it lost a little of its bounce but gained a great crispiness in the toaster.

Chia seed is a wonderful addition to baked products. Adding 2 tablespoons of chia seed gel to baking products will extend the freshness and shelf life. The chia seeds attract moisture which is retained in the baking product.

To make chia seed gel, take 2 tablespoons of chia seed and mix it into 8 ounces of water.

Stir with a whisk or fork every 5-10 minutes for a half hour.

It is suggested to let the chia seed gel sit for 12 hours before using.

It keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.

It's also good in gluten free hot cereal, like amaranth and teff.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gluten free, Dairy free, Egg free, Sourdough Pancakes

Most people associate pancakes with maple syrup, butter and fruit. Since I have had to stay away from sweets I have begun to use pancakes in a different way. I use them as a savory grain side dish to accompany soup, beans, and stew, sometimes even tearing them up, putting them right in the soup or stew. I use them as part of a snack with unusual toppings and spreads like peanut butter, tahini, chopped liver, salsa or gravlax (home cured salmon).
The high proportion of nutritious ingredients makes these pancakes a substantial part of a snack or meal.

We normally flip a wheat pancake when bubbles form around the edges. With gluten free pancakes we need to wait another few minutes after bubbles form because the extra moisture and density of the batter takes more time to cook properly.

Allow at least 7 hours of fermentation time after feeding the starter before using the starter in cooking. This will ensure your flours are properly soaked before cooking and eating.
So that means if you feed the starter in the morning the batter will be ready for pancakes for dinner. If you want pancakes in the morning feed the starter the night before.


Sourdough Pancakes – Basic recipe

For pancakes: prior to cooking, have the last feeding of the starter be ½ cup of buckwheat or gluten free oat flour and slightly less than ½ cup of water. Let ferment 7 hours. A pure rice flour starter tends to be on the thin, soupy side and buckwheat or oat flour will give the pancakes some needed density.

For 4 pancakes:
1 cup mature brown rice flour sourdough starter (including the last feeding of buckwheat and water)
1 tablespoon oil, melted butter or fat
A large pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons freshly ground flax seed (grind in a dedicated coffee grinder)

Mix oil, salt and ground flax seed into starter
Let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flax to thicken the batter. The batter should be like a thick cake batter.
If the batter is too thick whisk in a little water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get the desired consistency
(The batter can also sit for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. The finished pancakes will be thinner and lighter)
Oil pan or griddle and heat to fairly hot
Spoon or ladle out the batter onto the pan
These take longer to cook than wheat pancakes so flip a few minutes after bubbles show up or the edges start to dry out.
Cook another 1-2 minutes and serve.

You can also cool them on a rack and refrigerate in a container for a 3-5 days. Just reheat them in the toaster.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yeast free, Gluten free, Dairy free Sourdough Starter

I see a lot of sourdough starter recipes that call for commercial or dried yeast. For those of us who chose not to use yeast it is possible to create a starter without it. Before the invention of commercial yeast all sourdough starters and breads relied on the natural yeast in the air for leavening. I’ve made many successful wheat and rye starters with just flour and water. They fermented easily and made wonderful breads. After I learned I was gluten (and dairy) intolerant I tried to make gluten free starters using the same technique I had grown accustomed to for the wheat and rye breads: a 7 day sourdough starter. With gluten free flours 7 days did not work well. The starter turned a moldy shade of bluish green. I experimented, searched the webs and learned that gluten free sourdough needs to be fed 2-3 times a day unlike wheat/rye starter which can be fed as little as once a day.

I was able to create a brown rice starter in about 4-5 days using only brown rice flour and water but it smelled almost spoiled and the bread was unpleasantly sour. (one wonders why I would go forward and bake something that smelled almost spoiled, but I was determined to follow through so I could learn all the ins and outs of this) Someone suggested that I try a small amount of Water Kefir, a non-dairy fermented drink, to give the starter a boost. This made all the difference for me because it cut the fermenting time down to 3-4 days and never moldered. I have come to greatly depend on this success-every-time starter.

Fermented drinks are an important part of my diet. They have helped me repopulate my digestive system with probiotics and enzymes enabling me to fully recover from health challenges. Water Kefir culture is a colony of bacteria and yeast that, when fed sugar, creates lactobacillus into the liquid which then becomes available to us in the form of a drink. It can also be used to soak grains and beans before cooking. It then boosts the predigestion process that happens when grains and beans are soaked. It does the same for the flour in the starter making the finished bread more digestible. It also speeds the fermentation process.

Kombucha Tea is another fermented drink I make at home, that can be used to boost a starter, although I find the fermentation time to be slower than with the water kefir. For people able to eat dairy products, Milk Kefir or active Yoghurt could be used to boost a gluten free starter. Just add 2 tablespoons of any of these fermented products to your starter when first mixing it up. I save a bit of this starter to start the next batch and store it in the refrigerator. If I haven’t used it after 2 weeks I take it out, let it come to room temperature, feed it with rice flour and water, let it sit (and ferment) for 4 hours and store it back in the fridge. Creating a new starter with this bit of previously fermented starter cuts the fermentation time from 4 days to about 2 days!

I make a quart of water kefir at a time and use it to soak grains and beans before cooking. I also drink it in small amounts as a digestive aid before meals. It becomes effervescent and is very refreshing. I bought my first batch of water kefir culture for under $30 including shipping. With care these can last indefinitely and as they add probiotics into my diet I save money as I no longer need to buy bottles of probiotics.

Here are very succinct directions for making Water Kefir:
Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.
Add the contents of your bottle of water kefir grains into the quart jar.
Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band.
When raisins float to the top, around 24 hours later, use a nonmetal tool to scoop them and the lemon slice out and discard.
Ferment the water kefir for 6 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.
Then store in fridge and use as needed.
When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar and pour the water kefir grains plus the liquid their in right into the new jar, cover and ferment.


You can order water kefir culture from Cultures for Health

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Gluten Free Sourdough?

I created these breads and bread recipes to cope with my own multiple food allergies and sensitivities. After mastering and enjoying old fashioned sourdough rye bread I learned I was gluten intolerant and could no longer eat rye. I learned I was also allergic to eggs and dairy products.

Wanting to continue eating bread, I looked at the ingredients in retail gluten free breads and found there was at least one ingredient I needed to avoid in each one. If I was going to be able to eat bread I needed to be able to control the ingredients.
I began experimenting with the sourdough techniques I had mastered for the rye bread.

Sourdough baking is a time tested bread baking technique that was used exclusively until the discovery of modern commercial yeast. It 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 “soaked” in the starter and 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.

For those of us who are gluten intolerant and have other food allergies these sourdough bread recipes can be a welcome addition to our diets.
The recipes in my gluten free recipe book are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, yeast, sugar, baking powder/soda, and xanthan and guar gums.
It can be purchased at: www.glutenfreesourdough.com

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gluten Free Sourdough Bread Recipe

Sourdough Bread #1

This was my first successful gluten free bread. It has wonderful taste and texture, freezes well and has a long shelf life. It is a rather dense bread and although I happily ate if for 2 years I now prefer Sourdough Bread #2 and Sourdough Bread #3, from my book because they have a lighter, spongier texture. I have gotten mixed feedback from people about this recipe. Some have easy success with it and others find it less than dependable. The last time I made it, it was perfect!

Yield: 1 loaf Prep time: 20 minutes Rise Time: 7-24 hours
Baking Time: 350 for 60-75 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup Boosted Brown rice starter
1 ½ cups room temperature filtered water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
½ cup chick pea flour
½ cup potato flour (not potato starch)
½ cup tapioca flour

Directions
Measure flours into a bowl and whisk together
Measure starter into mixer bowl
Add water and salt and stir to dissolve salt
Add dry flour mix to starter mixture and using an electric mixer, mix on low speed for 15-20 seconds until spongy. You can also mix by hand and do some simple finger kneading at the end to make it all come together
Do not overmix!
With a spatula gently push dough into oiled loaf pan
Use a hard spatula or potato masher to gently press into pan being careful to preserve sponginess of dough
Smooth top with hard spatula
Let rise 12-24 hours in cool oven or other warm place without drafts
The longer the rise, the better the texture
Bake at 325-350 for 60-75 minutes
Test for doneness using a skewer. The skewer should go into the bread evenly and come out mostly clean
Cool the bread in the pan on a rack
Remove from pan after at least 30 minutes
When completely cool, store either on the counter wrapped in a cloth and set in an uncovered plastic container or in the refrigerator in a cloth and covered
Freezes very well. Great toasted after freezing



Boosted Brown Rice Starter
Gluten free, Casein free

Prep time: 5 minutes
Fermentation time: 3-4 days

Start with one cup of brown rice flour and put it in a ceramic or glass bowl
Pour in slightly less than one cup of water and whisk smooth
Add 1-2 tablespoons of water kefir (water kefir recipe below)and whisk again
Cover with a cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band
Leave it on the counter away from drafts or extreme temperatures

Feed the starter, with 1/3-1/2 cup of flour and little less water, roughly every 8 hours, 3 times a day, for a total of four days, whisking smooth and covering. If you know you won't be able to feed it after 8 hours, put it in the refrigerator after feeding. You won't have to feed it for another 12 hours if it's in the fridge.

After two days put the starter in a clean bowl and continue feeding. (change the bowl so that the dried out starter that clings to the sides of the bowl stays out of the living starter)

After about 48 hours the starter should show signs of viability.
If you don’t see any bubbles or hilling you can add another tablespoon of water kefir

By the third day you should see small bubbles especially during stirring

By the fourth day you may see bubbles of different sizes and there may be a hissing, bubbling sound when they come up from the bottom of the bowl

It should take about 4 days for a brand new starter to be ready for cooking. It may take less time in warm weather and more time in cold weather. With a little practice you will get to know when your starter is ready.

You can store a small amount of starter, ¼ - ½ cup, in the refrigerator for next time. Feed it every 2 weeks by taking it out of the refrigerator, letting it come to room temperature, feed it with a small amount of flour and water, whisk and refrigerate again.

If you plan to make sourdough products a few times a week you may want to use an ongoing starter kept at room temperature on the counter. When you’re ready to cook/bake, remove a small amount ¼ - ½ cup of starter and put it in a clean bowl. Feed 2-3 times a day with roughly equal amounts of flour and water and whisk smooth. Cover and set it aside to continue fermenting. This will be your starter for your next batch. Proceed with your recipe with the remaining starter.

Starter recipe from The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking recipe book, available at www.glutenfreesourdough.com




Water Kefir for Boosted Brown Rice Starter
(water kefir is the booster for Brown Rice Starter)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Fermentation time: 2-4 days

Ingredients
2-3 tablespoons Water Kefir grains
2 tablespoons sugar (I find organic dark sugar works the best, but any sugar works)
20 raisins (or a comparable amount of figs or prunes)
1 quart of filtered or spring water
1 slice of lemon

Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.
Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.
Add the water kefir grains to the jar or if this is your first batch add the contents of your bottle of water kefir grains into the quart jar.
Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band.
When raisins float to the top, after around 24 hours, use a nonmetal tool and scoop the raisins and the lemon slice out and discard.
Ferment the water kefir for 6-12 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.
Then store, covered, in fridge and use as needed.
When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar and pour the water kefir grains plus the liquid their in right into the new jar, cover and ferment.
Lasts about 1 month

To replenish:
Use up the water kefir to about an inch of water kefir and water kefir grains left in the jar.
When you are ready to make a new batch just a fill a clean jar with 1 quart of water, add sugar and dissolve, add the last inch of water kefir and water kefir grains, trying to get all the grains into the new batch. Add fruit, cover and let ferment.

Other uses for Water Kefir:
tonic, a small amount through the day
supplies lactobacillus and serves as an inoculant for lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, chutneys 2 Tablespoons per quart -2 cups for 2 gallon crock
soaking grains before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins
soaking beans before cooking (2 Tablespoons) predigests and increases availability of enzymes and B vitamins

Resources: Order Water Kefir Grains from Cultures for Health

Gluten Free Dairy Free Sourdough Quickbreads



Gluten free dairy free and other allergen free sourdough quick breads.
Cranberry pecan muffins, coconut muffins, buckwheat buns and sourdough bread

These wonderfully light and delicious sourdough quick bread recipes use low process ingredients. They are free of gluten, dairy, egg, commercial yeast, corn, soy, gums, baking soda/powder, and sugar. Compared to other sourdough breads they assemble quickly, have a short rise and are highly digestible. They are available in The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking at:
www.glutenfreesourdough.com





Starter bubbling activity


Gluten free dairy free pizza. The toppings are Italian white beans, chopped pecans and raw onions.