Review By Marjorie Tietjen
Being able to properly digest our food is one of the main factors which determines the state of our health. Some foods are easier to digest than others and how we prepare our food can make a huge difference in the availability and assimilation of the nutrients from our food. Proper preparation can also destroy toxins which are naturally present in many vegetables and grains. Traditionally our ancestors soaked, sprouted and/or fermented their fruits, beans, grains and vegetables...and sometimes even meat.
Sharon Kane, the author of The Art Of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking, discovered through food sensitivity testing that she was intolerant to many foods, including gluten. Sharon loved baking sourdough breads but the gluten in the grains and some of the other ingredients in the breads were stressing her system and making her ill. She was advised to avoid these substances. This news of course was very disappointing. However, the author was not discouraged for long. She was determined to create sourdough breads free of many allergens, including eggs, gluten, and dairy so she could again enjoy the taste, comfort and health benefits of properly prepared grains. Sharon experimented for a year with different flours and starters...with many failures...before she finally created a bread that she thought had the properties she desired. The results of her fortitude and persistence has been greater health, several books on traditional food preparation, online instructional videos, and the Gluten Free Sourdough Company that sells the delicious gluten, egg, dairy, soy free products that she has created.
I first bought the Kindle version of The Art Of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking but then decided it would be easier for me to have an actual hard copy to read and refer to....so it is the hard copy that I will be referring to in this review. First of all, to get people aware of the health properties and other positive qualities of the ancient process of sourdough baking...I will include the 6 benefits the author lists on the back of her book.
1. High Digestibility
2. Excellent Taste
3. Nutrient Density
4. Long Shelf life
6. Allergen Friendly
I would also like to include a paragraph from page 21 of the book which describes why soaking and/or the fermenting of grains is so important.
"Soaking foods mimics the early stages of a seed's germination cycle. 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 to allow its seed coat to soften and absorb water which facilitates germination. This process allows nutrients to become available 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. The nutrients that would have fed the young sprout now become available to us after soaking."
The flours which are included in her recipes are teff, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, brown rice, and coconut. Sharon lists all the ingredients and equipment that you will need to succeed in gluten free sourdough baking. The author's instructions are very clear and detailed and she also includes photos which demonstrate the different steps and what the starters, batters and breads should look like. Sharon uses minimal sweeteners in her recipes and includes a conversion chart so a person can use the sweetener that best suits their needs. In the photo to the right you are shown what a bubbling starter looks like, what the bread looks like when it is rising and what the finished loaf should look like. This is very helpful in being able to gauge one's progress.
Gluten free sourdough baking uses "starters" to help the bread to rise. The book carefully explains the different properties of the various starters and batters so that the baker knows what to look for. The author includes a section on grinding your own flour. On page 43 there is an important chart which shows the amounts of grain, the amounts of flour it will convert to when ground, and then how much starter that amount of flour will create.
In the process of creating the gluten free starters the author noticed that her starters were going "bad" or becoming moldy. Through further research she learned that you can boost these starters with fermented beverages. Sharon tried using water kefir as a starter and that is when things began to turn around providing her with more successes. She refers to the water kefir starters as "boosted starters." Kombucha tea can also be used as a booster for starters or if you are not dairy sensitive you can use milk kefir or yogurt.
Everyone has different food sensitivities. Sharon has been asked by others to create certain breads for people with specific allergies and as a result she has divided the recipes into sections. Two of these sections are rice based recipes and rice free recipes.
Some of the delicious recipes included in the book are Pancakes, Banana Walnut Muffins, Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins, Cranberry Nut Muffins, Buckwheat Buns, Herb Sourdough Bread, Scallion Pepper Bread, Mock Rye Bread, Chia Onion Bread, Multigrain Carob Bread, Teff Carob Coconut Bread, Corn Bread, Dessert Breads, Quinoa 100 Bread ...and much more.
Sharon's website she has many baked items for sale, along with equipment, starter boosters, books and more. I have tried her English muffins, muffin tops, dessert breads and I actually tried one of her mixes as a first step in learning sourdough baking. I found the pumpernickel bread mix to be absolutely delicious! I put off making the bread from this mix because I thought I would fail. However, the whole process went very smoothly and the bread was a success! I was pretty impressed with the organization and directions of the mix itself but I was also pretty proud of myself because I actually succeeded in making sourdough bread! The next step for me will be trying one of the recipes in this book with my water kefir made from my new water kefir grains which I bought from Sharon. The author does not use baking powder, baking soda, or yeast in her recipes, preferring the most natural leavening method possible. Sharon advises people to toast the sourdough breads to get the best flavor and texture. When in a hurry I have eaten her breads untoasted but toasting does seem to improve texture and taste.
The book includes sections on definitions, differences between the various flour starters, refrigerated starters versus starters grown on the counter, feeding your starter, different stages of a starter, a large recipe section with photos, how to make chia gel and what it is used for, how to make pizza dough, conversions, troubleshooting, and where to get ingredients and equipment. Sharon shares her experiences and how she has learned from her failures. I am finding the book to be very thorough, easy to read, and written in an enjoyable manner. Everything she does seems to be very organized and well thought out. I admire this quality because I am definitely not an organized person.
Sharon has written this book to empower others to create healthy food in an economical manner. Too many people are experiencing sensitivities to gluten and other foods , which were once considered to be healthy. We desperately need to figure out the main causes of this predicament but in the meantime we must learn to prepare the foods that we can eat in a manner that releases the most nutrition possible. Our ancestors somehow knew that soaking, sprouting and fermenting not only preserved their foods but made them much more nutritious and digestible. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like more control over their own health which offers less dependence on our failing medical system. To purchase Sharon's book and other products, check out her website . Through her persistent experimentation, she has come up with unique products that will help to improve our lives.