Friday, November 8, 2013

Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Mixes...At Last!!!

Bake a Gluten-free Sourdough Bread Mix in your own home!! Pumpernickel, Cinnamon Spice, and Simple Dark Bread.
Old-fashioned sourdough technique adds complex flavor, easy digestibility and long shelf life.
Mixes are fully fermented and free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, commercial yeast and gums.
Ingredients: Unsprayed, high-protein Teff flour and Organic flavorings.
Assembled in a dedicated gluten-free vegan facility.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Story about a Child and Food Allergies

Just a quick story to balance the many difficult stories associated with food allergies and our children. I was giving a Healing with Food presentation at the Ashland, MA Farmers Market and was offering samples of Lacto-Fermented pickles donated by The Real Pickles Company. A dad was gently coaching his son to ask me if the samples contained...and then the boy quietly and sheepishly recited the list which sounded like the big 8 allergies.

I turned around to a member of my team and said "Food Allergies, let this boy read the ingredients". My team member motioned for him to come to the back of the booth and although the boy was hesitant, his dad came with him and they read the ingredients together and found he could indeed have a sample. It seems like such a simple thing but I know this was an important step in this boy's learning to take care of himself in a world that could make him very sick...or worse.

So many children have to be ultra-careful about what they put in their mouths. So many parents have to literally micromanage their children's coming and goings around food in schools, birthday parties, soccer games, etc. in order to avert disaster and simply keep them safe.

I have been on the receiving end of wait staff who say they understand my food allergies and then bring me dangerous food.
I have been on the receiving end of people who say "just taste a won't hurt you".
An extended family member who is a nursing student said the eating gluten-free is a life style choice! Is that what they are teaching in nursing school?
And though I would not call it bullying, I have also been on the receiving end of someone saying I wasn't cool because I have to watch everything that goes into my mouth. 

These people were all unfortunately ignorant and need training in awareness and compassion. As more and more people are diagnosed with food sensitivities and anaphylactic allergies, we must support each other in these areas, looking for the opportunity to help where we can.

My new bake shop will have a big sign outside the entrance stating "Allergen-Free Facility. Please do not bring any food or drink into this kitchen".  When I have my bake shop launch party, I will keep my new facility safe by providing all the food and drink rather than have a pot luck (which is the norm for my friends).

Back to the shy boy learning to ask for what he needs to keep him safe. I was proud of my team for making this happen for him. I was proud of his father's coaching and support. I was proud that even though the boy was nervous about asking, nervous about coming into the booth, nervous about the whole thing, he stayed with it and empowered himself to keep himself safe.

Look for the opportunities in your life to support and educate others about food sensitivities and allergies. We need to grow a strong safety net for all of us!

Here are a couple of photos from the Healing with Food event:

A demo table full of pickles and jars ready to be filled.

Sarah offering samples to the crowd.

Thanks again to my team: my husband Allen, my friend Laurel,  and my assistant Sarah. It was a really great day!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reader's Questions: Weight vs. Volume, Convection vs. Standard in Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread

I occasionally receive questions about measuring ingredients using weight rather than volume in gluten-free sourdough breads. Using weight is considered by some to be more accurate and is used by most professional bakers and cooks. I bought a scale to learn about using weight and found that the weight of finely ground rice flour is different than of coarsely ground rice flour. 

I bought different brands of rice flour and found they were all slightly different weights. How could I possibly give an accurate weight measurement when people purchase different brands that are also different grinds thus will be different weights? 

I had already realized that readers were having varying types of results using fine commercial flour while I was using slightly coarse home milled flours to develop my recipes. I spent a couple of years learning and working with the differences. 

I put that info into my book and updates so people could learn to compensate for those differences. I would love to sort out the proper weights for all the recipes but probably won't be doing it any time soon.
Meanwhile, a reader had some specific questions about measuring by weight that I was able to answer.
He also had questions about using a convection oven rather than a standard oven. We had a few back and forth emails over a few weeks, testing and sharing information. Have a read:

C.L., Northern Ireland:
Hi, Sharon. I must say how much I am enjoying your book, it is really interesting and informative. I have been very encouraged to have a go. I am in the middle of making Sourdough Bread #2 new (brown rice-quinoa), and a couple of questions have occurred to me.
In the UK, we measure ingredients by weight instead of volume. I have been using 250g for one cup for water, and 130g for flour. These measurements seem to work quite well on other gluten free recipes I have tried, but do you know the exact conversion between cups and grams for your recipes?

Glad you wrote, C.L.!  I just happen to have a gluten-free sourdough thick starter fermenting now! It is made with rather fine commercially milled brown rice flour.

The ratio of flour to water is 2:1. 
Here are the weights I came up with:

1 cup water = 228 g
1 cup brown rice flour = 138 g

C.L.: And when you say to add four cups of 'new thick starter', what weight in grams would you think it would be? I used 1000g but it seems a lot. 

Sharon: I believe 1 cup of thick starter would equal 230g, so 4 cups would be 920g, somewhat less than the 1000g you arrived at.

C.L.: I am using a convection oven. My wife says I need to reduce the oven temp by 10°C (about 25°F); does that sound like the right conversion for sourdough, or would I need to shorten the time in the oven as well?

Sharon: I have not used the convection feature in my oven yet. Each loaf is so precious and I don't have the courage to risk losing a loaf. I have more than enough failures already. I think your wife is correct to reduce the temp by 10°C. You may need to reduce the baking time as well, but I'm not sure by how much. 

Keep in mind that gluten free breads are high moisture breads and need longer rather than shorter baking times. You may need to test the bread often for doneness. If you arrive at a good baking time using a convection oven, please let me know what it is.

C.L.: Here is a picture of my first gluten-free sourdough loaf. I had already started this before I got your email with the weights.
Using my convection oven, I cooked it covered for the first 40 mins at 140°C (275°F) and then uncovered for the next 1 hour and 10 mins. I used the temperature probe and when it registered 99 deg C, I took it out. I read somewhere that if the loaf temp reads  99°C (210°F), it is cooked, but using the probe, you can tell if it is still too damp - just like using a skewer.

 Was it successful? You have to understand that I am now coeliac and before now had never eaten sourdough bread of any sort, so I have nothing to compare it with. I think the crust is really quite bitter but the main body of the bread wasn't too bad, quite a nice texture with an unusual but not unpleasant taste. Is this what it’s supposed to be like?

Sharon: The bread looks really good for a first try!!! The density and tight crumb suggests it has a bit too much water which would confirm too much water in your first experiment. The recipe makes a somewhat dense bread but still slices well and holds together.

I'm surprised the crust was bitter, however quinoa can have a bitter taste if you are not used to it. Just speculating here… the fan in the convection oven may have dried out the crust a bit perhaps concentrating the bitter taste. On the good side, it seems the convection gives some nice browning to the crust.

C.L.: The loaf is a bit scrappy at the top as it rose much higher than expected, so it was a bit of a session trying to stop it running over before it went in the oven. I used a non-stick metal 9" x 2 ¾" x 4 ½" loaf tin.

Sharon: The fact that it rose so much is good news! It means you are creating a really active starter! Good Job! The extra water in the recipe would increase the volume possibly causing a spillover. The amount of batter may be a bit too much for your loaf pan size. Sometimes I line the pan with parchment paper and leave the paper high on the top. The high paper creates a “collar” that can often hold the batter in place as it rises.

C.L.: I was reading more of your book and was thinking of trying the gluten-free sourdough tapioca bread - I think it was described as a 'sandwich bread', and I think this is really what I am after but am open to trying anything. I feel quite amazed that I got any result at all, first time round.

Sharon: The tapioca bread is a milder bread and has a nice spongy quality. I think you will like it. It was a commissioned recipe for a young boy.
C.L.: I have been trying the tapioca bread. I have had lots of success and made and eaten quite a few loaves. I think it’s terrific. The texture is brilliant. I took your advice and reduced the water a little.I cooked it at 170°C (340°F) for 1 hour and 10 minutes.My wife really liked it too and she isn’t coeliac!

Sharon: It's great when non-coeliac people appreciate gluten-free bread. My non-coeliac husband prefers my bread because it's so substantial. Thanks for sharing, C.L., and keep us posted about your future bread baking!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reader Share: Migraines, Gluten-Free and Detoxing

M.P. from Massachusetts recently bought my bread book in the hopes that she could go gluten-free and make nourishing gluten-free sourdough bread. She decided to try going gluten-free to see if it would help her chronic monthly migraines. I mentioned Kombucha Tea which has helped some people detox their bodies and strengthen their immune systems. Here is what she had to say:

    Kombucha sure does keep you regular! I began sipping the Kombucha tea in small amounts about 1 week ago. I had 2 days of major migraines in the beginning of that week. They were severe which is unusual. But since then, 5 days of bliss! Could the kombucha be purging toxins? Could this be a solution?? If so I am unbelievably grateful. I am hoping.

Sharon:     When we stop eating something that does not agree with us (like gluten), we release toxins that we built up from eating that food. When we add kombucha tea to our diets, we stimulate our bodies even more to release toxins. Between going gluten-free and adding kombucha to one’s diet, a whole lot of toxins could be released, maybe more than the body can handle. This can result in various symptoms that may seem like we are getting worse rather than better. When boosting the detoxification of our bodies, it is most important to drink lots of water and to get all the rest we need in order to facilitate clearing the body.

    Switching to gluten free is no problem at all! We had a chicken dish with rice noodles last night and my husband was moaning it was so good!!! Today is Day 2 of my bread starter and it has mushroomed nicely. I will add buckwheat tonight for pancakes in the morning - can't wait!!! I plan to have them available for a nice toasted snack. 

    I need to make sure I don't get too hungry as that was when I'd grab the cheese and crackers or a wheat snack. I have other options now like rice buckwheat pancakes.

    Here's a photo of my first rice buckwheat pancakes!!

   Sharon, Thanks for all your help,


 You are so welcome, M.P. Here's hoping you become completely migraine free soon!

Free Starter and Pancake Recipe Download

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

July Newsletter

This month's newsletter features an article on baking Gluten-free Sourdough Bread in the heat of summer!

Also a recipe and video for Marinated Tomatoes using home made Kombucha vinegar. Yum!

Click here to read! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

May Newsletter

May Newsletter has photos of readers' baking creations and their personal variations!

Also a piece on getting ready to ferment vegetables as we move into the gardening season.

Click here to read newsletter!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thoughts from a Reader

Thoughts from Readers What is "Normal" bread? Hello baker friend, The other day I had dinner with a friend and she made a paleo yeasted bread. She is quite the explorer in the kitchen and especially around baking. Though she hasn't shown much interest in sourdough yet. She was hoping to make a paleo challah. She said the dough wasn't the right consistency for challah so it came out as a loaf. It was very beautiful and delicious, almost cake like. She also expressed that she wanted to make a high rising bread. (Her bread had risen quite well and looked like"normal" bread.)

I share all this with you because I think that we are culturally bred (pun intended) to regard bread as being big, grown into something with a particular shape and consistency. While exploring and enjoying my sourdough loaves, which are not big and light and fluffy, my partner and I often reflect that it's like working with a different artistic medium. Pastels and oils can make a portrait, but the effects are quite different. It's a reminder that sourdough gluten free baking is just different. It's not meant to look like Wonder bread. Just like Wonder bread isn't intended to have the same nutritional or digestive properties GF sourdough does.

My partner and I like to reflect upon the origin of bread and what early loaves might have been made from and how they were discovered. It's easy to imagine that some ancient woman had porridge left over and it sat in some corner of her hut for awhile as she was unwilling to throw precious food away and as it aged and fermented, rather than throw it out, she patted it together and put it on the fire somehow and came by bread. Looking at the origin of breadmaking like this, makes me feel that what I am eating is actually closer to its origin, than the fluffy light yeasted loaves we regard as "normal" and desired today.

That's my tangent for today. Wishing you happy baking, J. Oregon

Sharon's Response:
Here is my opinion about light and fluffy bread:

I totally agree with your opinion that we are culturally "bred", (excellent pun, by the way) to expect bread to be light, fluffy and tall. This is what most of us in the US grew up with. Wonder bread is the epitome of light and fluffy but even the "real Jewish rye' breads from bakeries in Brooklyn, where I grew up, were light and fluffy.

There was light rye and dark rye. I asked a baker what the breads were made of, (this was before the era of mandatory labeling). She said mostly white flour with a small amount of rye flour. I asked what was in the dark rye bread and she said it was the same ingredients with a little caramel color added to make it dark.

Wow, was I surprised! I had this fantasy that the dark rye was some ancient recipe handed down from baker to baker. In reality it had a bit more substance than Wonder Bread but probably no more nutrition.

We all know that that gluten makes a wheat bread rise. To create a light and fluffy bread, one must have a variety of wheat that has a high amount of gluten in it. Over the last 50 years, perhaps, I believe wheat growers have been selectively seeding for strains with more and more gluten in them to fill the desire for light and fluffy.

Humans can adapt to selective seeding over long periods of time but the amount of gluten in current strains of wheat has been increased so much and so quickly it is probably more than most of us can adapt to. As a result our digestive systems are stressed. If we continue eating these strains of wheat we may develop Celiac intolerance and end up with the autoimmune disorders and many other serious diseases our population is dealing with.

To have the expectation that good bread is light and fluffy may mean that we have been greatly mislead. The breads of our ancestors, no matter what our lineage is, was coarse, dense, fermented, nutritious and with a long shelf life.

When I set out to make my breads my first goal was to make a nutritious bread using only food ingredients. Using an old rye sourdough technique made it possible. The bread was not light and fluffy but was chewy and substantial. I didn't need to eat much of it to feel sated.

When people taste my bread, the ones have only light and fluffy as a reference point don't care for it. The people who appreciate old world breads love it. The people who appreciate sourdough love it. And of course, the gluten-free people, who are looking for something beyond potato flour and tapioca starch breads, are really happy to have it.

Bread has sustained humans for perhaps 5,000 years. Fluff never sustained anyone!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Free February Newsletter

February Newsletter

This month features:
"Throw-together Pancakes" using leftover frozen starter and whatever flours are left in the fridge.

Soft Food
I needed to have some dental work a few weeks ago and needed a whole week of soft food. Using my blender I transformed nutrient dense, highly digestible and tasty food into sustaining mush. It's not so much about the blending but about the food choices.

Photos of bakers' successes!

Here's the link: Newsletter


Monday, January 7, 2013


This newsletter features some of the recipes that were published in 
Living Without Magazine last month. Enjoy! 

Click here to read!