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!

Simple, Perfect Bread

Simple Peasant Boule

I made cheese soup for Sunday Dinner this week, and baked a nice peasant boule to go with it.

The cheese soup recipe is one my sister gave me many years ago. It was one of the specialty dishes of a restaurant in the town where we grew up (The Brown Jug in Decatur, Illinois). It’s one of my favorites, especially during the autumn and winter, with cooler weather.

The bread is the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Claudia had requested the book for Christmas many years ago, but didn’t really get into it. At some point I became interested in trying to rely less on “manufactured food” and picked up the book, thinking that I would bake bread for us every day.

I haven’t picked up that habit yet, but I do love the way these loaves turn out, and nothing could be much simpler to make, once you get your hands on a Danish Dough Whisk, a wooden peel and a baking stone (which are all pretty necessary to the process).

I used 5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat. That gets stirred together with 3 cups of lukewarm water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons each of kosher salt and yeast. Once it rises overnight, I’m ready to bake, and the dough that’s left will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. I usually get three or four nice sized boules per batch.

One of these days, I’d like to try my hand at sourdough. Claudia gave me a copy of the Tartine Bakery’s book, and I may delve deeper into it one of these days. But it is honestly hard to beat the AB5 bread for ease of preparation, time invested, and the simple, delicious beauty of the finished product. It has the combination of chewy crumb and crunchy crust that I adore, and the addition of some whole wheat flour, or whole wheat and a little rye, gives it just enough funk for my taste.

The bread board was my mother’s, and I believe that it had originally been her grandma’s, so it is likely over 100 years old. It’s something else that I love for its simple beauty.

Potato Curry and Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Potato Curry, Puri, Field Roast Apple SageI’ve just begun to learn to cook Indian fare. Spicy, plant-based dishes seem to give my body what it craves, and I’m enjoying exploring a cuisine that I’d not spent much time with in the past.

I had made potato curry for a weeknight meal on the spur of the moment awhile back, and it turned out right, so I decided to make it this week for Sunday Dinner. Also, I wanted to try out some Field Roast sausages on the recommendation of my friend, Eban Crawford. I picked up a package of their Frankfurters (saving those for tomorrow’s Labor Day cookout), some Brats, and the Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at Kankakee Natural Foods Friday in anticipation.

I also wanted to try making puri, which is an Indian whole wheat bread that has been rolled thin and then deep fried to puff up. The potatoes and puri combination would have been standard prasad at Kainchi Temple in India where an entire generation of Westerners went to learn from the great Indian Saint Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s and 70s. The vegan sausages would not have been served, but I figured they would make a nice accompaniment, and add a little protein to the meal.

Everything turned out right. The curry could have used a little more kick, as far as I’m concerned. The puri bread was good, though I think for the bother, I would just opt for store bought naan from here forward. Maybe it’s one of those things you get a knack for and can speed the process up with experience. At least I’m no longer afraid to deep fry things.

The sausages were outstanding. Texture was amazing – so very much better than TVP products, and no soy involved for folks who are watching their intake. They delivered on a beautifully balanced sage and smoke flavor. They were just a tiny bit sweet to my taste, but I think that’s because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m really looking forward to cooking the franks on the grill tomorrow.


Potato and Vegetable Curry

Sauté two big onions, rough chopped, in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Add several cloves of garlic and a couple pieces of fresh ginger, minced, and cook until fragrant.

Add these spices and toast until fragrant and well distributed.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • 1/2 t Paprika

Add 1 Can diced tomatoes.

Add 1 package frozen mixed vegetables.

Add 3 pounds of potatoes, cubed.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock.

Cover and cook on low simmer until potatoes are tender.

Make a slurry with one can of coconut milk and 3 T cornstarch, add it to the pot and cook uncovered until the curry thickens.

I think next time I would add some red pepper flakes at table to kick up the heat a bit.


I followed Swasthi’s recipe for these, as shown in the video below.

The frying was easy once I got the oil hot enough, and after the first two or three, the rest of the batch puffed up fine. It was pretty time consuming to prep and roll the dough out, though. As I mentioned above, maybe that’s a matter of experience. I’m glad that I tried them, but not sure I would invest the time again.

Another Detroit Pie and Some Old School Cheese Soup

Weekend of January 5th and 6th, 2019

We had dough left over, so I had another run at Detroit Style Pizza for supper on Saturday Night. I picked up a cheap steel cake pan at the dollar store (made in the USA, yet) earlier in the day, browned some Italian Sausage, and made the sauce.

For the sauce, just crush everything together with a potato masher.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 1 pressed clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes

I use the Basic Artisan Pizza Crust Recipe for the dough.

  • 3 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups (scoop and sweep) unbleached all-purpose flour

This makes enough dough for several pies. I had just enough left to cover the bottom of the pan when stretched. It was much easier to stretch this time, after having rested in the fridge for nearly a week. This is one of the things that I love about the AB5 dough.

I sprayed the bottom of the cake pan, then drizzled olive oil and coated it well. I also sprinkled it with a little corn meal to add to the buttery taste, and pressed dough over bottom of pan. The Monterray Jack cheese (an 8 ounce block, grated) went on next. I got the tip on that from Cook’s Country. They did tests and it came closest to the characteristics of the Wisconsin Brick Cheese that would typically be used in Detroit. The sausage crumbles went on next, then the three iconic stripes of tomato sauce. The pie baked at 500 °F until the cheese was bubbly and brown, about 17 minutes this time.

I was amazed at how easily and quickly this pizza came together, and at how delicious it was. Our grilled pizzas are still my favorite, and we’ll continue to make the Malnati style deep dish from time to time, but I think the Detroits will be our go to, especially to use up leftover dough, and for a quick weeknight meal. I’m anxious to taste a slice of Chef Garibaldi’s again one of these days to see how ours stacks up to the authentic.

For Sunday Dinner, I made cheese soup. The recipe is one of my favorites, and comes from a restaurant in Decatur from the old days, called The Brown Jug. My Sister Marge gave me the recipe years ago and it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook.

Brown Jug Cheese Soup

I sautéed some diced celery and onion, then added them to a crock pot with some veggie and chicken stock (maybe a quart and a half altogether), and a couple 12 ounce bags of frozen mixed vegetables. Once that all got warmed up, I added 5 diced potatoes and 2 diced carrots. Finally, after all of that was cooked through, I added two cans of cream of celery soup and a pound or so of Velveeta cheese. Once everything is melted and combined, it’s ready to serve.

I baked a largish peasant boule with the leftover dough from earlier in the week. Again, the AB5 dough that’s been resting in the fridge for a few days takes on some great characteristics. It almost tastes like a sour dough.

Claudia made a nice salad, and we had Wisconsin Supper Club relishes, including marinated olives, marinated mushrooms and cornichons. The wine was Sharon Weeks’ Cattoo Red, which was just perfect. Later on, Aunt Pat and Caroline picked up some soft serve from DQ to go with Christmas cookies for dessert.

My sons were with us for a little while in the afternoon, and had their soup with a bit of hot sauce. 🙂