Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread

Gluten-Free Sourdough BouleFor many years, I made fun of the trend toward gluten-free foods. I would quip “I’ve only been gluten-free for three days, and already I’m a jackass.” I was convinced that unless someone had an actual diagnosed allergy, or a health condition such as Celiac Disease, that there was no health benefit in maintaining a gluten-free diet, and chalked it all up as just another dietary fad.

As time went on, evidence began to creep over, under and around my mental block. There is at least some reason to think that our grain-based manufactured foods are so high in gluten that they pose issues with digestion and inflammation to much of the general population.

So when I received an email not long ago touting the benefits of gluten-free sourdough (and, of course, offering to sell me everything I need to start baking it) I was intrigued. I decided that I would give it a try (although, sorry, I did not buy their kit).

This was my first attempt at developing my own sourdough starter of any kind. The artisan bread that I’ve baked over the past decade or so has all been yeast based. I researched online and settled on using the process described on the Bakerita site. I picked up some brown rice flour and Mason Jars, and got started.

Here’s the starter process in a nutshell.

Day 1: In the morning, mix up 50 g of brown rice flour and 50 g of water in the jar. Cover it with something porous (I used an inverted paper coffee filter, held on by the canning jar ring), and let it sit out on the counter. In the evening, incorporate another 50 g of flour and water.

Day 2: Feed again morning and evening, 50 g each of water and flour. I used filtered water that had sat in an open jug for a couple days to let any chlorine eavaporate.

Days 3-7: Remove and discard half of what is in the jar. I used an empty jar to tare the kitchen scale, and then placed the starter jar on the scale and removed mixture until it was about half of its original weight. After this discard, feed with 50 g flour and 50 g water. Continue to do this morning and night for the next five days.

This is how my starter looked the morning of Day Three, before discard and feeding.

Starter in Jar

The rubber band on the jar shows the level of mixture after feeding the prior evening. As you can see, it had nearly doubled in size, and had a lot of nice bubbles.

By the end of the first week, it was very active like this, and had a lovely sour aroma. I switched to once per day feedings, in the morning. The ratio was 100 g of starter, 100 g flour and 100 g water. By day 4 of the second week, I was ready to bake.

Baking Process

Mixing Preferment: This mixture of starter, flour and water is the basis for the bread’s rise. I put 150 g of starter, 100 g water and 100 g flour in a clean canning jar at 3 PM, covered it with a paper filter and ring, and let it sit out overnight.

Baking Day: At 7 AM I combined the following in a medium glass bowl, whisking until it was well combined.

20 g psyllium husks
20 g honey
300 g water
10 g olive oil

While this stood for a bit so the psyllium husks could hydrate, I combined the following dry ingredients in a large glass bowl.

80 g potato starch
60 g arrowroot flour
80 g sorghum flour
60 g brown rice flour
12 g sea salt

Then, I mixed the preferment and wet ingredients together well, then added them to the bowl of dry ingredients. I used a wooden spoon to mix it all together at first, then used my hands to mix and knead, until it was a nice, smooth, even textured ball.

The dough went into a small rattan basket (called a banneton) that had been dusted with brown rice flour. You could use a glass or pottery bowl if you prefer. I covered it with a cloth, and left it sit on the counter until time to bake, about 7 hours later.

Here’s how it looked when first placed in the banneton.

Dough in Banneton

Here’s how it looked at 2:30 PM.

Rising Dough in Banneton

I pre-heated the oven to 450 °F, and gently turned the basket upside down onto a piece of parchment paper on a wooden pizza peel. I used a knife to score an x across the top, so the bread could expand without cracking apart.

Dough Ready to Bake

I baked this on a pizza stone, since that’s the process I use for other breads – sliding the dough off of the peel onto the stone, and then pouring about a cup of water into a baking pan on a lower shelf. The Bakerita process uses a Dutch Oven instead.

Once the bread was in the oven and water in the pan, I pulled the heat down to 425 °F and baked for 70 minutes. This was the result.

Bread Boule, Cooled and Sliced

The bread was excellent, with a crunchy crust, chewy crumb and classic sourdough tang. The only tiny complaint I would have is that it was just a tad bit gummy. This can be remedied by cutting back slightly (maybe 10 g) on the water for the dough, perhaps adding a little more brown rice flour to the mix, or baking for a few more minutes. When toasted, or used for grilled cheese sandwiches, the texture was fine.

I’ve baked several loaves since, and it’s been a lot of fun experimenting with the scoring to get a pretty design on top. There’s also a lot of satisfaction from taking a product like this from zero to table in a little over a week, and then maintaining, using (and sharing) the starter.

Since our family doesn’t seem to be sensitive to gluten, and the ingredients take up a lot of pantry space, I’ve decided to move on from this experiment in gluten-free baking. Happy to have learned how to do this, though, and will bring the experience to the next bread baking project. I may try to find an heirloom flour without the amped up gluten, but I’m going to try my hand at sourdough bread using Tartine Bakery’s recipe. Wish me luck!

First Mixed Grill of the Season

Mixed Grill on Weber Genesis

We served this over spaghetti for Sunday Dinner last weekend. Onions, zucchini, and various bell peppers, seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and some Italian herbs – nothing could be simpler or more delicious.

Vegan Carrot Cake

Vegan Carrot CakeApparently I am in my cake era.

I saw this recipe in the March 23rd issue of the Wall Street Journal and it looked cool. Figured it might be nice for Easter Sunday.

Just a few changes from the original recipe, and I was able to make it without eggs or dairy, just for fun. As luck had it, it turned out really delicious.

The original recipe was from Vallery Lomas. Here are her ingredients.

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for greasing pan
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ packed cups peeled and grated carrots
  • ½ packed cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

I used non-stick spray oil on the pan instead of butter, substituted 6 T of aquafaba for the two eggs, and made the buttermilk with a quarter cup of oat milk and a teaspoon of white vinegar.

The aquafaba, oil, curdled oat milk, vanilla extract, sugar and salt all go into a bowl for whisking until they are thoroughly combined and a bit thickened.

Next come the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, and more whisking until it’s all incorporated into a batter consistency.

Finally, I added the carrots, coconut shreds and pecans and incorporated them.

I baked it for 40 minutes at 350 °F, but should have left it a bit longer. It was delicious, but still a bit too moist, and I had difficulty getting it out of the pan in one piece.

For the frosting, instead of using Lomas’ recipe for cream cheese icing, I found this one from the Roasted Root. I used honey instead of maple syrup, oat milk instead of almond, and added an extra tablespoon of lemon juice for extra tang. I also screwed up and only used 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, but I think that actually made it taste a little more like actual cream cheese icing.

  • 2 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • 1/3 cup + 1 t honey
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup oat milk
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t sea salt

This all went into the Vitamix and blended for about a minute until it was the right consistency.

Like in Lomas’ original, I sprinkled some toasted coconut shreds on the top after icing, and added some half pecans for decoration.

This is definitely one that I would make again. Other than having to get the cashews soaking the night before, it went together pretty quickly and since there’s only one bowl involved, and no need for a mixer, cleanup was quick too. The non-vegans liked it, and said that the frosting was indistinguishable from a full cream cheese version.

Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

Stroganoff PlatedFor Sunday Dinner this week, Claudia made a recipe she found on a Vegan Recipes Group on the Book of Faces. It was incredibly delicious and hearty.

She made a double batch, and it fed four of us nicely (we each had seconds). This was a huge hit with everyone at the table, and it was better than any Stroganoff I’ve ever eaten (including the decidedly beefy variety that we used to make).

We served this over wide noodles, and garnished with paprika and parsley.

Ingredients (for the double batch):

2 pounds of mushrooms, sliced (she used button and cremini)
2 onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil for sautéing
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T tomato paste
2 t paprika
2 cups of cashew crème fraîche (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste


Sauté onions and garlic.

Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they release their moisture and start to brown.

Whisk together vegetable broth, cashew crème fraîche, soy sauce, tomato paste, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Cashew Crème Fraîche

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked overnight then drained
1/2 cup water
3 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 T nutritional yeast
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried thyme

Blend for about a minute in Vitamix or other high speed blender.

The crème fraîche on it’s own would make a fantastic Alfredo style sauce for pasta.

A Purple Birthday Cake

Purple Velvet CakeWe made a special cake in Claudia’s favorite color for her Birthday this year.

Almost every year since we have been together, Claudia has requested an Angel Food Cake with berries and Cool Whip icing for her birthday. Since it falls just after the holidays, she has said that she’s had enough of rich foods by the time her birthday arrives.

In October of last year, she shared a recipe from the Shaireen’s Delight Facebook Page, tagging me and our child, saying “My next birthday cake?”

I’ve only baked cakes from mixes in the past, and those only rarely, so I was thankful that I had a couple of months to review the recipe and work out my anxiety about before actually baking.

It turned out really good, although quite moist and dense – almost like the texture of brownies. I think this is because I overworked the batter, adding the purple food coloring a little at a time and remixing it each time. If I were to make the recipe again, I would just go for broke when first adding it, and hope for a little airier crumb.

Not bad for a first attempt at a scratch cake, though. Kid did the decorating, and it turned out right pretty.

We used sparkler candles, and they were quite trippy. Would probably opt for something simpler next time.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Blue Corn Tortillas

Blue Corn Tortilla With Pintos, Salsa and CilantroOur friend, Kristin, gave us some ears of Blue Corn from her garden recently, so I decided to cook up nixtamal and press some tortillas. It was my first time working with quicklime.

The kernels weighed out at a little over half a pound after shelling the ears, so I added them to two quarts of boiling water and a couple tablespoons of pickling lime. After boiling for half an hour, I covered the pot and let the corn soak overnight in the solution.

After rinsing and scrubbing by hand, the cooked nixtamal went into the food processor with 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of raw sugar and 2 tablespoons of avocado oil. Processed smooth, it was ready for the tortilla press.

Six smallish ears made eight nice tortillas. I considered cutting them into triangles and deep frying into chips, but decided to just load them up with some pintos and salsa. They were very, very good.

There’s something especially satisfying in taking a home grown product through an old fashioned process like this, rather than just mixing up store bought masa, no matter how high the quality. This is definitely something I’ll take the time to do again.



CataplanaI’ve been listening to the Spirit of the Camino podcast lately on my morning runs. In the first season, there’s a lot of discussion about the culture of Portugal, where Nick and Wendy live. They mentioned Cataplana at some point, and I was intrigued.

I researched recipes online and ran across a couple that were either Vegan or nearly so, and adapted them.

It seems like the three essential ingredients are tomatoes, bell peppers and onions, so those feature prominently in my version. I’d love to try the “authentic” dish one of these days, to learn whether or not my spice and herb mix was close. I can’t vouch that this recipe would pass as a genuine Cataplana in Portugal, but it sure was tasty.

I didn’t have an actual Cataplana dish to cook in, so I used a 6 quart stock pot.


  • 2 Large Onions, Chopped (I used 1 yellow and 1 red), Salt and Ground Black Pepper
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic, Minced (after the onions are pretty well cooked)

Season With:

  • 2 T Paprika
  • 2 T Cumin
  • Some Red Pepper Flakes and Oregano
  • 1/2 Can Tomato Paste

If you wanted, you could probably use Tarragon instead of the Oregano. It might be a little more typical of Portuguese seasoning.

Once all of that mess is combined and fragrant, I added some garden fresh green beans that we had on hand, and stirred them around in the mixture.


  • 1/2 Cup Sherry (you could use white wine if you want)
  • 2 Cups Veggie Stock


  • 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
  • 2 Bell Peppers, Chopped
  • 6 Medium Potatoes, Cubed
  • Some Miso Paste
  • 1 Sheet Nori, Cut Into Small Pieces

Cover and cook until the veggies are tender. I added some frozen peas toward the end, so they could warm through, but not get mushy.

You could also add or substitute whatever other vegetables you would like. Zucchini and Eggplant would be good choices. Perhaps Snow Peas or Chick Peas as well. If you wanted to add some spicy peppers, they should work fine too.

We served this with some “take and bake” Italian bread from Aldi. The soup was savory, tangy and nicely sweet. It must’ve been beginner’s luck, but this goes right onto my list of favorite soups.

If you’re not Vegan, you could add some shrimp, clams or whitefish.

Here are links to some of the recipes I reviewed.


Paella de Verduras

Paella de VerdurasPaella is one of those dishes that seem to put everyone in a festive mood. When I first began making it five years ago, I did my best to keep it as authentic as I could, which I thought meant including pork, poultry and shellfish.

As our family moved more and more toward plant-based cooking, I substituted Vegan Chorizo for the pork, but always included shrimp and chicken atop the pan for the folks around the table who still consumed them, thinking that it really wouldn’t be Paella without them.

I was delighted to learn recently that Paella de Verduras is also a traditional dish in Spain. I decided to try this vegetable-only version for supper the last evening that my sons were back in the US for a visit. From start to finish, the meal took about an hour and a half to prepare, so it’s not a quick weeknight meal, but I was still able to pull it off in time to eat at a decent hour even beginning after the work day ended.

Broth for the Rice

Sauté 5 cloves of garlic in some olive oil. Add 3 T of tomato paste and 1 1/2 T paprika and let it caramelize just a bit. Add 2/3 cup of Sherry and a quart of veggie stock. Since I was leaving out clam juice this time to keep things Vegan, I added a splash of apple cider vinegar and some soy sauce to kick up the umami a bit, and then let this boil for a few minutes to bring all the flavors together.

On the Grill

I fired up the Weber Genesis gas grill and started by grilling some strips of Red Bell Pepper, and some chunks of Zucchini and Eggplant that I’d hit with olive oil, salt and ground black pepper. Then I got my Paella Pan good and hot, and sautéed a couple of Spanish Onions in some olive oil. 3 cups of medium grain rice went in next, and then the broth. Once it cooked with the grill closed for 15 minutes, I rotated the pan a quarter of a turn and put the grilled veggies on top. After another 15 minutes, I turned the pan again and topped it with jarred artichoke hearts, some pimiento stuffed olives and frozen peas. From there on, I just checked and rotated the pan every five minutes or so until it looked like things were pretty well done. I grabbed a spoon of rice to check for doneness, and then brought the pan in to rest at table for a little while before we ate.

I think everyone enjoyed this, as there were few leftovers. It was every bit as tasty as the meat and seafood version. The only thing I will change next time is to get a little more seasoning into the broth. Maybe some salt and some red pepper flakes or cumin or somesuch.

Ingredients list is below, in case you want to try it yourself. If you don’t have a Paella pan, you could use a large iron skillet or Dutch Oven and cut the recipe in half or thirds. One of the tricks is to not stir the rice after you add the broth. The dark, almost burnt crusty rice closest to the pan is part of what makes the dish unique and tasty.


  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Crushed and Diced or Pressed
  • 3 T Tomato Paste
  • 1 1/2 T Paprika
  • 2/3 C Sherry
  • 1 Quart Vegetable Stock
  • 3 Red Bell Peppers cut into strips
  • 1 Medium Eggplant cut into rounds, then quartered
  • 4 Small Zucchini cut into rounds, then quartered
  • 1 Jar Quartered Artichoke Hearts, drained
  • 1 Jar Spanish Style Pimiento Stuffed Olives, drained
  • 2 Cups Frozen Peas

¡Buen Apetito!

Mexicali Rice and Beans

Beans and Rice PlatedThis made for a tasty weeknight meal, that came together in about 45 minutes.

I chopped up an onion, a green bell pepper and a red bell pepper in the Cuisinart, and sautéed them in a 6 quart pot with a sprinkle of salt. Once they were caramelized pretty well, I added a couple cloves of minced garlic. Spices went next (some red pepper flakes and about a teaspoon each of paprika and cumin), then a can of fire roasted tomatoes.

Once those flavors started to meld, I added a cup of vegetable stock, a can of drained black beans, a can of drained sweet corn and a cup of brown Basmati rice. When this mess began to boil, I turned down the heat and put on the lid.

As the rice was cooking, I mixed up some Masa Harina, water and a pinch of salt and pressed it out into tortillas, cooking them in an iron skillet with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.

The rice wasn’t done at 30 minutes, so I covered it again and left it another ten before killing the heat.

The recipe I adapted said that it serves 4, but two of us ate our fill and there was a lot left over, so I think you could probably feed six with this, especially if you include tortillas or other sides. The dish reminded me of a grownup version of the “Spanish Rice” my mom used to serve when I was a kid. Same basic flavor and texture profile, but a lot heartier and more complex.

Would highly recommend making the homemade tortillas, by the way. So much better in all ways compared to storebought, and worth the time it takes to mix the batter, press them out, and fry. Claudia gave me a Victoria tortilla press for Father’s Day this year, and it makes the process a breeze.

I wasn’t sure what to call this, because it’s not authentic Mexican cuisine, and not even really Tex-Mex. Gene Autry’s “Mexicali Rose” came to mind for some reason while I was cooking, so there you go.

Vegan Coney Dogs

Vegan Coney Dog and FriesThere is a “hot dog and root beer stand” type of restaurant in our town that is renowned for their Coney Sauce. They are called Jaenicke’s. They’re only open in the warm weather months, so opening day each spring is a much anticipated event here in Kankakee.

When Claudia and I were first dating, it was a sort of rite of passage for our relationship to have a “sauce bun with cheese” together at Jaenicke’s.

I still miss the sauce buns, and feel a little nostalgia for “Wiener Wednesdays” in the summer months. So I figured I would try to replicate the fare using plant based ingredients.

I had used the Jaenicke’s knockoff recipe from Geek Eats TV before, substituting black lentils for the ground beef. Although I like the lentils as a substitute in Moussaka, I wasn’t nuts about the sauce. This time I used Beyond Burger, and it was quite a bit better, and very close to the original, except for that characteristic BB aftertaste. I think Impossible Burger may be the way to go, and I’ll try to make the sauce again using that product soon.

Two other components that were not quite spot on this time. First, I really should have steamed the buns. Our teenager, Caro, says that one of the great things about the buns at Jaenicke’s is that they are so soft that it’s always a risk that they will fall apart in your hands.

Secondly, the “cheese” sauce came out a little too thin, and just a tad vegetal tasting. I think that this is because I added a splash too much of the steaming water to the Vitamix.

All in all, not a bad attempt. Field Roast franks stood in well for the dogs, and I have no complaint at all about those.

Stay tuned!