Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cookies: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Egg-Free Sugar-Free Sourdough

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More experiments: Gluten-Free Sourdough Cookies

This is my first attempt at making cookies with my gluten-free sourdough technique. I minimized the sour taste by feeding the starter very often, every 4-6 hours. I used my rice starter, some buckwheat flour, a bit of quinoa flour, coconut oil, a little lemon juice, stevia, vanilla powder and crushed fennel seed. I used a melon baller to scoop the dough onto parchment paper. They spread nicely while holding their shape well.

They reminded me of Vanilla Wafers, remember those? They came out great although the recipe needs a bit more work.

I think if I can get this recipe just right it could be the basis for limitless variations.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Experiments

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Last week's experiments
Clockwise from left:
Holiday Fruit Bread, Banana Corn Bread, Chili Pepper Corn Bread, Olive Quinoa, Quinoa

The Holiday Fruit Bread needs some more work as does the Banana Corn but the others really turned out well!

Look at the color of the Holiday Fruit Bread! Purple Bread!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gluten-Free Sourdough Quinoa Breads: Plain and Olive

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I'm experimenting again and am working with 100% quinoa breads. The quinoa's natural sponge-ability lends a nice texture to the breads.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What in the world is Water Kefir?

Water Kefir is a cultured/fermented product that can easily be made in one's kitchen. I use it to kickstart the bacterial/yeast activity in my gluten-free sourdough starters. The natural acidity in the water kefir also protects the starter from spoilage. (I had a lot of spoiled starters when I began experimenting with gluten-free sourdough starters, water kefir prevents spoilage)

Water Kefir is loaded with natural probiotics and is used by many people as a tasty tonic to strengthen the digestive system. Examples of other cultured/fermented products are yogurt, milk kefir, cheese, beer, wine and sourdough bread.

Photo, top: Water Kefir Cultures
Photo, middle: Ingredients to make water kefir liquid. (water not shown)
Photo, bottom: Finished water kefir liquid. Notice the raisins are floating due to the natural carbonation!

I use water kefir in my gluten-free breads because I am sensitive to all dairy products and water kefir is free of dairy.

You can order water kefir culture from: Cultures for Health.
They carry an excellent product at an excellent price.

Here is my water kefir recipe:

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Restaurant Review: Nevaeh Cuisine

Recently I had the pleasure of having dinner at an amazing little café/bistro in Pleasantville, N.Y. called Nevaeh, (that’s Heaven backwards) I found this excellent place through the Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide. I was on my way to vendor at a conference and we were ready for dinner after the first leg of our trip.

I’ve had so many problems dining out that I mostly avoid it. Dining at Nevaeh was a completely different experience. Most of the dishes were gluten-free as well as dairy free. Everything was already cooked and stored in refrigerated cases and we got to look and taste before we ordered. These two fabulous chefs, knew their ingredients hands down and when I mentioned multiple food allergies they were able to instantly give me a run down of what I could eat.

The food was very high caliber, in my humble opinion, fine-dining quality! The seasonings were well-balanced without the high amount of salt that is often found in restaurant food. We also bought some food “to go” to supplement us through the weekend, which worked really well.

How fortunate for us that we were able to be served fine-dining quality food at a relaxed, everyday establishment. If you’re traveling through Westchester County it would be well worth your while to check out this wonderful gluten-free oasis.

Nevaeh Cuisine
146 Bedford Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gluten-Free Sourdough and Perfect Loaves, Yeah Right!

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HI All,
Lately I've been asked many questions about various technical aspects of making my bread. It seems the universe decided to remind me of some of the challenges so I could answer your questions from the best experience possible.

I'm preparing to vendor at a conference in a few short weeks.

Let's set aside that I decided to revise my book so the books I sell will be the most current and needed to have that done in time to self-print many books.

Let's set aside that my editor had to let go of my project about 10 pages into the book.
(My wonderful daughter took over the editing while she was preparing to move out of my house. The first night in her new apartment she stared at her computer for many hours, faithfully editing my book. I owe her big time)

Let's set aside that the ink I bought, at a good price online, has been delayed. When it finally arrived, I wasn't home and the delivery people needed a human to sign for it so it is still in their truck. (got ink from different site, not the best price, no shipping, next day delivered. I'm printing books as we speak, or as I write)

Let's set aside the logistics of packing my car for the conference: books, bread samples, humans, our own food, (we're all on special diets) rice cooker, toaster, hot pot, special pillows.

Now we come to what I wanted to really write about: I'm making samples, Mock Rye Bread. I froze some starter last week, took it out on Friday and planned to bake on Monday. The starter was sluggish, minimal bubbles, not much ferment smell at all.
Gave it an extra dose of water kefir but it didn't really help. (someone just wrote to me about just that).
Then I had to be out for a whole day so fed the starter and refrigerated it. (someone asked about that recently).
Still sluggish, no smell. I kept feeding it worrying it wouldn't be ready or perhaps it was never going to ferment properly. (Now that it's Fall the ambient temp in the house is cooler, probably part of the problem) (3 cold aspects, frozen starter, refrigerated starter, cool house)

Monday morning comes, I hoped to have Peggy videotape a Mock Rye Bread demo for the online course but the starter is just sitting there. We switch gears and do a Feeding Technique #1 and #2 video.

Early Monday evening I feed it once more rather than dump the whole thing in the compost.
Late Monday night the starter starts rumbling and quaking and is in danger of overflowing its 16 cup bowl. (someone just asked about batters overflowing their pans)

I divide it into quart measuring cups, feed, cover and plan to bake on Tuesday morning. I'm left with 5 batches, a lot to do at once but hey, a baker's work is never done.

As I assemble the ingredients for the first loaf I see the starter is a bit too thick, so I add a little water to the next 4. They seem to be alright but instead of a slow pour into the pan, they plop in to the pan. Nowhere in my book do I mention "plop" as a batter texture.

Of course, my schedule for Tuesday does not allow for a proper rise. I will get home one and a half hours later than a 7 hour rise but I really can't get around it. As I'm driving home I visualize that the breads should stay nice and risen, hold their texture, be tall but when I come home they've fallen quite a bit. (someone just wrote about too short and too long rise times).

I bake them, they seem okay. I cut them open using a hacksaw (like someone just wrote about) Although they rose they're not fully cooked through on the top in the center of the loaf. (some wrote about that, too) I would have cooked them longer but they started to get a scorched smell.

A lot of it was usable, though, I cut off the uncooked pieces, hacksawed the rest into slices and froze them for the conference. I feel 99% sure they will be fine after thawing and toasting.
Luckily I also have some perfect loaves I made a few weeks ago.

I saved the uncooked parts and will see if they respond to double toasting. (more info for future questions)

So, All, if you thought I made perfect loaves all the time, you now know the truth. I'm still working with this fluid animal called Sourdough.
And Loving It.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gluten-Free Mock Rye Bread for the Weston A. Price Conference

Getting ready to vendor at the upcoming Weston A. Price conference, the weekend of Nov 12, in Pennsylvania. I'm baking samples of my bread. The pics below are for 5 loaves of Mock Rye Bread. More photos later when the breads are baked.

5 bowls of starter
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5 parchment-papered pans
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5 loaves ready to rise
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Student's Success!

I received this photo from one of my very industrious students. This photo was taken after a particularly complex cooking/baking session.

Back row from left:
Water Kefir, Kombucha Tea, Red Cabbage Sauerkraut with her new airlock jars, fermented tomato pepper salsa (I have to get that recipe from her.)

Front row from left:
Gluten-free sourdough pancakes, Mock rye gluten-free miniloaves and Buckwheat Buns.

This photo makes me just smile!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy Accident-25 Lbs. of Teff Flour-Part 3

I just scraped the bottom of the 25 lb. sack of teff flour. I like grinding my own teff grain into teff flour but since I accidentally bought 25 lbs. of teff flour instead of teff grain and then another 10 lbs. of teff flour instead of teff grain, I haven't had to grind any in months.

I was concerned the ground flour had less nutrients in it than fresh ground but the breads came out just the same and I certainly didn't notice any differences in my health or energy.

I really liked scooping through the sack of teff flour whenever I needed it. There was so much of the never ending teff flour and it filled me with a deep feeling of abundance. Scraping the bottom of the barrel left me a bit sad. I liked that rich abundance of pounds and pounds of flour to use up. Since there was so much I was a bit more aggressive in my experimentation and came with some fabulous breads: Teff Carob, Teff Coconut, Teff pancakes, Teff Zucchini Sourdough pancakes where I actually fermented the zucchini in the starter. I'm still perfecting that one and will post it soon.

I have a couple of single pounds of teff flour left in the freezer and soon will put in an order for Teff Grain, not Teff Flour, and begin the grinding process all over again.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starters: Starters of a Different Color

When I began working with gluten-free sourdough I began with brown rice flour. After 3 years of experimenting I was able to make more than 20 variations of bread, muffins and sweet breads using the rice starter.

I began to get requests for rice-free starters and began experimenting with different flours. I had great luck with a Teff starter, which makes fabulous pancakes, and a 2-flour starter, Buckwheat and Sorghum. The buckwheat gives it sponginess and the sorghum gives it some elasticity. This starter also makes great pancakes.

The photos shows 3 starters, the light colored one being brown rice, the medium colored one being buckwheat/sorghum and the dark one being teff.
I have already made some exceptional breads from the buckwheat/sorghum and the teff. In some ways they are even better than my rice starter recipes. A bit spongier, a bit lighter and somewhat more flavorful.

The photo on the left was taken after a few feedings when the fermentation activity became newly active. The photo on the right was taken after a few more feedings when the fermentation activity was very strong.

I love how puffy the starter gets at the height of its activity.

Feel free to tell us about your favorite starter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Post Dental Surgery Food


I recently had dental surgery and needed to eat soft food for a few days. Being allergic to many foods I needed to think through what and how I was going to prepare for myself in advance of the surgery. My main midday snack was a slice of my Teff Coconut Sourdough Bread (more of a dessert bread), toasted and dunked in almond milk until it was mush. It really worked well!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Lineage of my Gluten-free Sourdough Starter

When people think of sourdough starter lineages they often think of the famous San Francisco or Alaska starters originally brought over from Europe. I imagine the people who brought starters along with them were courageous people looking for a better life. I imagine they dehydrated their starters in the old country and carried small amounts of it in pouches or tiny clay pots carefully tucked into whatever belongings they could carry with them in the boats. When they got to the land of opportunity it is said their bread starters took on a new flavor, the flavor of their new locale. Hence the fame of the San Francisco or Alaska sourdough flavors.

I first learned to make sourdough using an old-fashioned 7-day rye bread recipe. It was a goopy, no-knead recipe that produced a rich, malty, dense loaf. The starter was built over seven days, yielding a giant bowl of sponge-like starter. When it was time to assemble the breads rye flour, water and salt were incorporated into the starter. This “goop” was then spooned into the loaf pans as this bread did not stand up by itself, it needed “walls” to hold it up. It was so sticky that the less handling involved, the better the finished product.

When I began to work with gluten-free starter possibilities I used this spongy, goopy technique as a guide and after a year of many failures, had great success while incorporating a few important changes through trial and error:

• extra daily feedings to prevent spoilage
• boosting and preserving it with a bit of an old fashioned fermented drink, water kefir.

I found the starters to be rather delicate and did not regularly store well. I found that I could easily begin a new starter so using it up was never a problem. In fact, I found the fresh starters resulted in breads having a consistently fresh taste while the stored refrigerated starters often carried some “off tastes” I associated with over-fermentation. The over-fermentation also seemed to result in less than satisfactory leavening.

This sponge-goop technique is very different than wheat sourdough techniques that benefit from extensive kneading and shaping. Unlike their rye counterparts traditional wheat breads also stand up, rise and bake without the support of the walls of a loaf pan.

Some seasoned wheat sourdough bakers have had poor success with my technique when they apply their years of experience with wheat sourdough to my rice starter. They expect to take a small amount of starter and knead large amounts of flour into it, shape it, let it rise and bake it. My technique, however, is the opposite. I grow a large amount of high-moisture starter by feeding it at least twice a day. I then stir in a small amount of flour and pour or spoon it into a loaf pan or muffin tin. From there I let it rise and then bake it.

I think the main reason the wheat technique doesn’t work for my recipes is that my technique was originally derived from the 7-day sourdough rye sponge-goop technique which is really quite different than the wheat technique.

One definition of lineage is “the descendants of one individual”. The descendants of the San Francisco and Alaska sourdough starters are available for sale and supposedly retain some of that “genetic” material referring to the local bacteria and yeasts that grow in the starter. When one purchases those starters they know the lineage of their starter.

I don’t sell starters, I sell a technique. I think about my technique as a “technical” lineage, much like a technique or practice handed down from teacher to student, or master to apprentice. My “technical lineage” is a descendent of the 7-Day Sourdough Rye Technique.

I am deeply grateful for the people willing to try my technique because in addition to feeding ourselves we are also keeping alive a technique that could easily be forgotten in these modern times. We keep it alive by learning it, practicing it, feeding our families with it and teaching it to others.

We successfully unite the past with the future when we reclaim an old-fashioned technique like 7-day rye sourdough and successfully, and palatably, use it to address the modern dietary challenges of gluten intolerance.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Accident-25 lbs of Teff Flour-Part 2

After last week’s fabulous teff pancakes I continued building the starter even though I sorely needed a break from bread baking. I was busy and thought it would be a good opportunity to practice growing starter in the fridge as this would cut the feedings from 3 times a day to twice.

The starter grew beautifully with a mild aroma. I would take it out for about an hour in the morning, feed it, let it sit another hour or so and put it back in the fridge for 12 hours. I’d repeat the sequence at night before bed. I noticed some thickening and some small bubbles but nothing dramatic.

I had been thinking about creating bread that was mildly sweet without any sweetener beyond 1 teaspoon of stevia powder. I used small amounts of carob and maca (a malty flavored root) and used buckwheat flour for one loaf and shredded coconut for the other. I also used coconut oil for the fat. The batters were rich looking, like cake batter. The aroma in the kitchen was heavenly and the resulting breads were fabulous. Sweet without any added sugars, so no blood sugar spikes. The bread is satisfying and the taste is complex. I found the taste getting sweeter each day.

My daughter, who named Sourdough Bread #1 “Mommybread” said this Teff Carob bread was the best ever and I should make it exclusively. Forever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Accident-25 Lbs. of Teff Flour-Part 1

I thought I was ordering Teff Whole Grain but I obviously made a mistake somewhere along the line because when my order arrived I opened a 25 lb. bag of Teff Flour! I went back to my original order slip and saw that, indeed, I had ordered 25 lbs. of flour. I just looked at this massive amount of flour and wondered how long will it take to use this up. Ugh.

I usually buy whole grain teff and grind it up as I need it. Teff is a potent high protein seed grain and has been a blessing after learning I had to go off gluten. I also use whole grain teff for a power breakfast. I soak the teff grain the night before, 1 cup teff to 3 cups water, add a little water kefir to boost the enzyme activity, cover and let it sit overnight. The next morning I simmer it for about 15 minutes to cook. Mixed with chia gel, flax seed oil and soaked nuts, I'm off and running. I'll often pour the leftovers into a loaf pan where it becomes like polenta. I'll slice it and toast or saute it. Using spices and herbs it could be made sweet or savory.

Since I was missing my teff breakfasts I ordered some more whole grain, this time only 10 lbs. To my horror, I opened a box of 10 lbs. of teff flour, again! I really must slow down, I'm making way too many mistakes.

Anyway, what to do with my 35 lbs. of teff flour?
My book, The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking, is based on brown rice flour starters. I'd begun to experiment with buckwheat sorghum starters and have had some great results. I figured I better move on to Teff starters so I wouldn't have pounds and pounds of teff flour either stuffed into the freezer or sprouting critters with legs.

I began a new starter using only teff flour and water in a ratio of 1 to 1. I chose this because teff absorbs a lot of water. I usually use teff to thicken and give structure to some bread recipes. I was surprised that this starter was actually very soupy but I continued along with my 1 to 1 experiment, feeding it every 8 hours or so for a couple of days.

I used the bubbly starter to make Teff pancakes and was pleasantly surprised that they were as good as or even better than the rice pancakes! They were naturally slightly sweet with a great cake-like texture. The leftovers were great toasted the next day. Since I can't eat sweet stuff I used them as an accompaniment to a bean stew. I'm sure they would be great with maple syrup or fruit.

Starter Recipe:
Make a starter by mixing equal amounts of teff flour and water. Add a tablespoon of water kefir or other fermented liquid.
Feed every 8 hours or so with equal amounts of teff flour and water.
After 2 days it should be ready to use.

Pancake Recipe:
One cup of starter makes about 4 pancakes.
Add a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoons of any oil or fat and 1 tablespoons ground flax seeds.
Mix let it sit about 10 minutes and cook.
The pancakes will not show bubbles so flip it when it starts to dry out around the outer third.
Sometimes I cover it while it's cooking. It cooks faster and more thoroughly.

My next experiment will be making breads using this teff starter. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grain Mills for Gluten Free Seeds and Grains

I’ve been wanting to try a new grain mill for 2 years and just recently bought one and wanted to share about my grain mill experiences.

I started off with a Kitchen Aid grain mill attachment because when I started baking I already had a Kitchen Aid mixer. This attachment is excellent for large grains like rice and buckwheat but cannot grind small gluten free grains like amaranth, quinoa and teff. These tiny grains just fall under the grinding worm and sit there.

The rice flour wasn’t nearly as fine as store bought but my breads were still good thanks to the long sourdough fermenting periods. Then I learned, from someone on this forum, to grind once at medium and then again on fine. Much, much better!
I like the Kitchen Aid but I can only do 3 cups of rice, twice, before the machine gets very hot and needs to cool off. I don’t mind that, just have to plan my time accordingly.

I used a Krups coffee grinder for my small grains, which did an excellent job. The downside is that only ¼ cup can be ground at a time, which was fine initially but now I bake in 4 loaf batches and need large quantities.

Then I tried a Barista coffee mill for the small grains which was bigger, fancier and with a larger capacity. I was happy with that for a good while but lately noticed the grind isn’t as fine as when I started. I think the blades must be getting dull.

After a year of reading blogposts about grain mills I finally purchased the Blendtec Grain Mill. It grinds the small grains really well, excellently in fact but I had to dig out my chain saw ear protectors because of the high decibel level. As it finishes grinding it sounds like a plane taking off.

It also makes a bit of a mess as it sends flour out through small vents and slots, much messier than my other mills which hardly sent any flour out at all. Now when I use it I cover it with a cloth to contain the flying flour. Beyond that it seems to be an excellent machine. I can grind many cups of grain, and the holding basin holds about 20 cups of flour before needing to be emptied.

I continue to use my Kitchen Aid for rice and buckwheat but will use the Blendtec for the others.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Growing Sourdough Starter in the Refrigerator for a Milder Sour

Growing starter in the refrigerator is said to minimize the sour taste of sourdough. It also enables us to reduce the feedings from 3 times a day to twice. I find my starters ferment very quickly these days making me wonder if I have enormous invisible colonies of yeast and bacteria in my kitchen. I also ferment water kefir, milk kefir, and kombucha so I assume there is quite a bit of activity going on.

A friend of mine, Peggy, likes to tinker in the kitchen. She experiments with many recipes and techniques and documents them in great detail. She tried growing a starter in the refrigerator, something I haven’t had time to see all the way through.

Here are her notes:

“I decided to go with a simple loaf of bread using quinoa and sorghum flours.
I had a small amount of rice-sorghum-teff starter left over from making multigrain bread and fed it for four days with alternating and equal amounts of quinoa flour and sorghum flour. I chose to use these because they were what I had on hand. I also was going for a lighter colored bread.

I gave it a little boost with 1 tablespoon of water kefir to perk it up on the second day.

After 24 hours of feedings I put it in the fridge because it was very bubbly and soupy! I didn’t want a strong sourdough flavor this time as I just baked two batches that were strongly fermented.

I continued to feed it 3 times a day continuing to keep it in the fridge.

36 hours later, I removed it from the fridge because it looked flat and dead But four hours later, when I next looked at it, it was furiously bubbling away!!! I had been deceived by the chilled mixture. I fed it and returned it to the fridge.
8 hours later when I took it out to feed it, it was actively bubbling even though it was so cold. I think it liked the fact that I had taken it out that first time for a few hours.”

She said that the finished bread had just enough sour taste to let you know you were eating sourdough. Not overpowering at all!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Water Kefir in the gluten free starter

I recently received this question:

“ In your Gluten-free sourdough starter you use Water Kefir to boost the starter.
Is it possible to start the Water Kefir culture from scratch at home?
Or can I leave out the Water Kefir entirely and still get a successful sour dough starter?”

My answer:
I use water kefir because I had a lot of spoilage in my rice starters before I used it. It acts as a preservative while quickly boosting the bacterial/yeast activity.
After the initial purchase the water kefir culture can live indefinitely with at least monthly feeding and refrigerated storage. You buy it once and use it for all your starters that you begin fresh.

Water Kefir is known in the fermenting community as a living potent drink that gently introduces probiotics, enzymes and vitamins into the digestive tract. This is good news for many people who have taken antibiotics as well as people with unresolving intestinal issues. Making the drink costs pennies and sipping a couple of ounces daily will begin a gentle process of detoxification and repair.

I chose Water Kefir as my booster because it is dairy free, (I’m allergic to all milk products) but one could use Milk kefir, Milk kefir whey or home made active Yogurt.

Order Water Kefir culture at:
Cultures For Health

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooking Gluten Free on the Road

After many years of minimal traveling due to health problems and stringent food needs, my daughter and I took a road trip together. In the last few years I had traveled by car to Maine for weeklong vacations by the ocean. With practice I mastered the art of packing the car: Kombucha tea into its special box, loaves of home made bread, frozen Highly Digestible Beans, vegetables from the garden, water kefir, milk kefir, grains, nuts, dried fruit and olive oil. I had the packing pattern down pat.

This trip was going to be different, however, as we were traveling by plane. Some people, when faced with a flight across the country followed by an 8 day road trip ending with a family wedding, pack lots of clothes and shoes. I, on the other hand, pack lots of food and equipment. I packed an Elite Rice Cooker with steamer attachment, a small toaster and a few plastic containers for soaking and storage. In the suitcase I used clothes for cushioning around the equipment.

The day before we left I baked 3 loaves of gluten free sourdough chia bread and sliced it into 30 slices. My chia bread recipe is extremely long lived so I knew it would last the week. I packed it in a plastic container lined with wax paper. (My daughter is also allergic to gluten so I packed enough for her) I also packed dry rice and lentils, rice cakes, nuts and a homemade amaranth/teff mix for breakfast which is simply a 50/50 mix of whole grain amaranth and teff. I brought 2 Ziploc screw-on containers to soak the grains and lentils.

I also packed provisions for the full day of traveling:
I cooked extra bluefish the day before mixing the leftovers with olive oil, salt, lime juice and a Cajun pepper mix. I added some lightly steamed broccoli and layered it over bed of rice. I also packed a bag of fresh cut celery and carrots. For snacks I toasted 6 thick slices of bread right before leaving the house to have with Applegate Farm sliced chicken.

A few days before the trip I cooked a pot of Highly Digestible Beans putting some portions of it immediately into the freezer. One portion had rice so it was almost a complete meal. I also froze 2 portions of cooked amaranth/teff hot cereal. My plan was to have 24-36 hours of prepared food so I wouldn’t have to think about cooking until I had a good rest. The only thing I would have to do was soak nuts before bed.

When it was time to go I packed the frozen beans and amaranth/teff in the bottom of the lunch bag. These would defrost slowly keeping the fish, chicken and veggies cold.

The food worked better than I had hoped. The toasted bread was great for snacks and was even great without anything on it! My fish lunch was perfect. Satisfying and unusual. When we had a midday stopover in Detroit we bought nori rolls at a Sushi Restaurant in the airport for dinner later on the connecting flight. This worked perfectly with the cut veggies. We arrived a little weary but well fed.

In the hotel room I began unpacking and realized that I had a minor luggage malfunction. There was brown rice scattered all over everything. No big deal. It could wait till morning. The frozen food had defrosted but was still very cold. They went right into the mini refrigerator. I made up 2 portions of nuts to soak for the morning.

As we were wired from our trip and unable to sleep my daughter and I went out for a walk in the cool San Francisco evening around Fisherman’s Wharf and unexpectedly found some colorful plastic plates from the Rain Forest Café that we could use for our meals.

In the morning I dug out the rice cooker from the suitcase, pouring off the scattered rice. I heated water in it and reheated the cold amaranth/teff mixture. I mixed it with the soaked, drained nuts and had a normal breakfast minus flax oil and cinnamon but I was very happy with it.

We would spend one full day in San Francisco and move on. I soaked some lentils for the next day of traveling. I gathered some more of the scattered rice and soaked some of that, as well. I would cook later in the day, probably when I needed a rest from jet lag.

My regular diet includes beans nearly every day. They are an excellent source of protein and add variety to my meals. My Highly Digestible Beans cause me no intestinal distress whatsoever whereas if I eat beans without my usual preparation I have a lot of discomfort. I didn’t want to give up beans but I knew that the cooking time would be difficult in a hotel room so I decided on lentils because they soak and cook more quickly than other beans. Usually I add a fermented liquid to the soaking water and cook my beans with seaweed but I was able to cut those steps out without any intestinal distress.

Using the steamer I planned to steam veggies during the last part of the cook time. We could make a few meals and store them in the lunch bag with ice in a Ziplock screw top

With my lentils and rice happily soaking I began a bit of sightseeing. My daughter had already begun catching up with friends so I was on my own. I was concerned about having bouts of sudden jetlag fatigue. The last time I traveled to California, pre-gluten and food sensitivity diagnoses, it took seven days to recover from the jet lag. Huge blood sugar swings, huge fatigue, huge hunger. After I finally recovered I only had 3 days of vacation time left only to begin the jetlag process soon after arriving home. It is a testament to the power of a body to heal because on this trip I only had one hour of jetlag in both directions!

I began walking along Fisherman’s Wharf and saw an enormous seal lounging on a dock. Then I took a trolley to the Ferry Building which now houses unusually beautiful shops and artisanal food markets including an organic farm store where I bought some veggies for the big hotel room cooking experiment. There was also a push cart selling gluten free breads and treats by Mariposa. So beautiful!

After a few hours I felt the fatigue set in and headed back to the hotel. After a short rest I began my cooking adventure. The cooker has two settings, “cook” and “warm” which translate as really high and really low. I brought the lentils to a boil on cook and turned it down to warm. This probably works well for slow cooked rice but resulted in barely simmering lentils so I turned it up to cook again and kept my eye on it for about an hour, stirring often with a small wooden spoon. This worked well. Using my pocket knife I cut up the veggies from the organic farm store, swiss chard and turnip, and steamed them during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. I realized I couldn’t cook the rice in time to eat dinner because the rice cooker was full of very hot lentils so I toasted a piece of multigrain bread and had that with the lentils. Dinner was really excellent. When they were cool I stored the leftovers in lunch containers and stored them right next to the little freezer in the mini fridge.

The next morning I cooked the rice and had it for breakfast. It was nice break from amaranth/teff and helped me continue rotating my food.

As we began our road trip down the coast we happily ate our leftovers for lunch. We had some meals out, carefully questioning our servers but by day five I wasn’t eating my own food any more and began to feel sluggish and spacey. I repeated the soaking and cooking routine again and got myself back on track, feeling much better.

After driving past many mountains and elephant seals we arrived at our family event, the wedding. I had already sent my food requests to the hostess who forwarded them to the caterers. Turns out the groom was gluten intolerant as were a handful of others! Our little gluten free club included some vegetarians, some sugar-frees and some dairy frees. The caterer did a fantastic job of accommodating us with beautiful food of great culinary height. There were gluten free challah rolls, (egg bread) that I hesitated to eat, being sensitive to eggs, but decided to take a chance after being off of eggs for 3 years. They were very nice and doughy. The “wedding cake” was a tower of gluten free cupcakes! I scraped off the sugary frosting after having a little taste of it. The cake part, which had walnuts in it, was a beautiful texture with very delicate spicing. It also probably had eggs in it so I got to test myself a little further. I did have a moderate reaction the next day and now feel sure that eggs should stay out of my regular diet.

It was a blessing to go to an event and receive such good care around our food needs. I also have tremendous gratitude for the many advances in alternative medicine and gluten free awareness which has made it possible for me to regain my health and travel again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soaking Gluten Free Grains and Flours for Optimum Digestibility

I first learned about soaking grains for optimum nutrition and easy digestibility from Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. I tried her suggestion to soak brown rice for 7 hours before cooking. I noticed that the finished rice was softer and smoother but I did not notice any difference in the way I felt. After a few weeks of diligent soaking I had a busy day and skipped the soaking step. I was clearly aware of the rice “being worked” in my stomach. There was a roughness to the digestive process. I realized that the soaked grains digested smoothly and effortlessly where the unsoaked grains took work and energy for digestion.

Soaking is a process that mimics the natural germination cycle in nature. A fully mature grain plant has plump grain seeds after a long and bounteous season. The grain seeds are essentially little packages of nutrients protected in a hard shell called a seed coat. The seed’s mission in life is to reproduce and needs certain conditions to germinate. A grain seed left on the stalk of a spent plant, or on the ground, withstands extremes of temperature and moisture. Each seed needs a specific temperature and amount of moisture to allow the seed coat to soften, absorb water and then move towards germination. This process fosters nutrients to become available to get ready to feed the newly germinated sprout until it has its first pair of true leaves and can make food through photosynthesis.

When we soak grains before cooking or eating we mimic this process, allowing the grain to move towards the germination process enabling those nutrients to become available for us to eat. We can allow the grains to soak all the way through to germination and eat them as “sprouts” or we can eat them shortly before germination as cooked whole grain. We can also apply the principles of soaking to ground up grain, or flour, with similar results. When we “soak” flour in water for 7-8 hours, the bacteria and yeasts in the air and on the flour predigest the flour, thus fermenting it. This is known as the sourdough process. One of the byproducts of the fermentation process is carbon dioxide, which leavens the bread.

As I began to understand the process of soaking I realized that most currently available recipes and retail breads are not made this way. The bread ingredients are assembled as quickly as possible and depend on the added yeast or baking powder for a quick rise. Some gluten free recipes also utilize the carbon dioxide in sparkling water to enhance the rise. These methods foster a successful rise but allow little or no soaking time meaning that the finished breads will not nearly be as digestible as they could be. They might even be harmful to people with highly sensitive digestive and immune systems.

The sourdough recipes in my book, The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking, are structured to allow proper soaking time in the starter phase and again in the rising phase fostering premium digestibility, good taste, good texture and long shelf life.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ingredients used in The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking

Here are the ingredients used in the recipes from The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking:

For the Water Kefir:
Water kefir culture (purchase at Cultures for Health)

The ingredients in the starter are:
water kefir
brown rice flour

I am currently working on starters that do not use rice as a base as some people are allergic to it.

Arrowroot (it really is a root starch)
Brown Rice,
Chick Pea
Oat (gluten free)
Potato flour (not starch)
Sweet Brown Rice
Tapioca flour

Flax seed, whole
Chia seed, whole

Kosher, sea or Celtic

Your choice of oil, butter or fat

Most of the recipes have no sweetener at all.
Stevia powder is used occasionally
Sugar, used in Holiday Chocolate Bread

Miscellaneous ingredients:
Spices and herbs
Dried Fruit
Coconut, shredded
Vanilla extract
Vanilla powder
Poppy seeds

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Chocolate Bread from Sourdough Starter

I decided to stop being so pure and create a bread with all the ingredients I avoid all year long: sugar, chocolate, etc. I wanted it to still be highly digestible so I used my basic gluten free boosted sourdough starter. I was concerned that the "sourness" might conflict with the sweet but it worked out really well.

I had an interesting time developing the recipe. I wanted to use cocoa powder, chocolate chips and dried cherries. At this point I have enough experience to have some "instinct" about what basic ingredients to use without following a recipe. By now, I have made enough breads that resulted in excellent texture that I know what I'm looking for in the batter texture: like thick oatmeal. I hand mixed it with a wooden spoon so I could feel the texture change with each addition. At certain times I could feel it needed a bit more arrowroot or flax or water. It was satisfying to choose based on my perceived need and watch and feel it shift to its next stage. I had a rather special experience from it all. I felt connected to centuries of many other bakers who never used written recipes perhaps because they didn't have access to paper and pen or were too busy to write anything down.

The first try was too bitter and not sweet enough. The second was just right! Someone in my family asked why I called it a bread and not a cake. I told him that this bread was not as sweet or light as a cake might be but was more like a sweet bread that wouldn't crash one's blood sugar or turn one into a couch potato. The bread is also made from whole grains and properly fermented so it is highly digestible.

The splurge happens in the chocolate chips and the cherries but the bread itself is not overly sweet. The resulting loaves were very good and were consumed by my family in record time. I made the breads the day before the family came, sliced them, toasted them and served them with a bowl of sweetened whipped cream. They were consumed in record time.

Holiday Chocolate Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups boosted brown rice starter
(boosted with water kefir)
(I wanted a lighter starter so I began it with brown rice flour and used sorghum flour for the other feedings)
½ cup chia gel
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown rice or sweet rice flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or other oil or butter

¾ cup sugar (I used organic light)
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

¼ cup tapioca flour
1-2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
3 tablespoons flax seed, ground
½ dried cherries
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used vegan chocolate chips)
½ cup chopped walnuts

A few hours before making bread soak ½ cup dried cherries in water, then drain (this hydrates the cherries making them less likely to burn)

Measure out starter into a mixing bowl
Add chia gel, salt, rice flour and mix.
Add cocoa powder, ¼ cup water, oil and mix.
Add sugar, coconut flour, ¼ cup water, vanilla, cinnamon and mix.

Add tapioca flour and 1 tablespoon arrowroot and mix. If the batter seems very thin, add another tablespoon of arrowroot keeping in mind you will next add the flax seed next which will thicken it considerably.

Add ground flax seed. The batter should now be medium thick. If it needs another tablespoon of arrowroot add it now.

Fold in the cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Carefully spoon into 2 loaf pans only half full. (I used parchment paper with the paper higher than the sides of the loaf pan so I could easily lift the loaf out when it came out of the oven)

Let rise 7 hours and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.
Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes and lift the bread out of the loaf pan for the rest of the cooling.

This bread rose well during the rise but lost a lot of height during the baking so it became a dense almost brownie-like bread/cake.
It was very good right out of the oven.
It’s best warm so after it’s fully cooled it can be reheated by toasting in a toaster or oven.

I also tried slicing half a loaf when it was only out of the oven about 10 minutes. Then I put the slices back in the oven for about 15 minutes. They got a nice outer crust, on the road to Biscotti but not so hard. These were good later on without toasting or reheating.