Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kefir Starter for Gluten-Free Sourdough


the rather pretty little kefir starter

Quite a long time ago someone in our family ordered the ebook "The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking" by Sharon A. Kane.  It must have gotten piled under hundreds of other useful email announcements.  It surfaced last week.  I printed it out and am finally getting around to reading it and starting the starter.

A couple of years ago we visited our son who when he was living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  He and his roommates were joyously creating everything you can imagine from experimental sourdough: bread, pizza crust, even pie crust I think.  One level of their fridge was full of mason jars with various levels and colors of sourdough starter.  The counter always had a skiff of flour on it.  Wheat flour, of course.  Organic, but wheat flour nonetheless.  And this was ironic since the family he lived with had a history of celiac disease, at least one member with a full-blown example of it.  So my son began to take what he knew of sourdough and what he knew of the 'flours' available to persons trying to deal creatively with celiac disease and he experimented with gluten-free sourdough recipes, but without much success.

Besides, he moved and the urgency was no longer there.  He just continued to eat wheat sourdough, even though he was becoming convinced that wheat flour left him feeling less than well.  That must have been around the time we (someone) ordered Sharon's ebook.

So, long-long story a little shorter: I hopefully begin reading through this ebook with a great deal of admiration for Sharon's diligence (making the same recipe over and over and over before she is satisfied that is ready to be shared) and her generosity (updating the purchasers of the ebook with her more recent improved recipes and additional recipes to what is in the original ebook).  I get together what I think I need for a 'kefir starter'.  We have no 'water kefir' in our local stores.  I settle for regular dairy kefir from Superstore's "health food" aisle cooler.  She states that if one doesn't have a problem with dairy products, it's okay to use dairy kefir for the 'boosted brown rice starter' that she mostly uses.  I am probably going to look on the Internet for the dairy-free kefir to order because, in fact, my husband and I both have a few issues with dairy (that we occasionally deny).

So, I follow the directions and add the raisins and lemon slice to the full jar of kefir mix. I stir the kefir with a metal fork and feel that I have done something wrong, not sure where I read that you don't mix kefir with metal (my son later assures me that that is okay-- probably you don't stir with metal because the kefir itself is quite acidic and maybe damages the metal utensils?)  Then I set it over on the kitchen counter near the stove, fussing a little each time I check because it is quite cool in the kitchen, and because I am almost sure that the kefir is not working (my past bread-baking experiences have been variable-- mostly poor or non-descript-- I lack confidence).

A beautiful pillow of white foam-- like yogurt-- forms suspended between the top clear fluid and the bottom where the fruit lays lodged.  I watch every day (1 - 4 days) hoping that the fruit makes its way to the top of the jar, apparently the perfect thing to happen with the starter.  Day 4 (I'm thinking of it as Day 3 1/2) and the fruit is still somewhat stuck a the bottom, but there are signs that it is moving upward.  You can see where it looks like a sort of yummy confection in the picture.

I order this from Amazon. You can too.
Tomorrow I shall remove the fruit and move on to the part where I begin feeding the kefir with brown rice flour (which I made myself in my Vitamix from a bag of basmati brown rice that my husband's neice and husband left for us in the summer when they visited-- I'm thrilled at how it turned out.  The woman at the Vitamix site said that over the course of a year making her own rice flour she saved enough to pay for her Vitamix).

Sharon now has her book "The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking" available in hardcopy and you can get it from her site at
Disclaimer:This blog reflects my own personal beliefs about the health benefits of being gluten-free. I am not a Medical or Health Care professional and any information or products contained in this blog are not meant to replace your responsibility to consult with the appropriate health care provider about your own circumstances and concerns.
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  1. Hi Cynthia,
    Thank you a thousand times over for your beautifully written post that included my book and my work!!! I found it because someone in France read your post and bought my book! So now I get to thank you and support you a bit.

    Re: the dairy kefir, you don't need raisins in that mix because the milk has enough of what it needs to easily ferment. The yeast on the raisins help the water kefir culture get going. From your experience we now know that raisins will make their way up through the thick, fermented, kefir milk.:-)

    I highly recommend Cultures for Health for water kefir culture. If you buy it email me for some extra directions for using her culture with my recipes. Here's the link to her fabulously generous product.

    Let me know how many pages are in your copy of my book. Let's make sure you have the up-to-date version.

    I will join your facebook page and here's the link to mine:!/pages/Art-of-Gluten-Free-Sourdough-Baking-Sophisticated-Peasant/116205171731043

    Also, let me know if you want to be added to my private google group for book buyers. Lots of good chat and info there.

    Wow, thanks again for your great post,

  2. What a wonderful surprise, Sharon! I'm pretty shy about asking for help (shy or proud? :D)but am so appreciative when it is given so generously. Thank you! The ebook of yours I have has 55 pages and also 4 pages re adjustments for flour grinds, and information and a recipe for Chia bread.

    Thanks for joining my facebook page and I shall join yours-- my thrill for the day! I am happy to have the link re the water kefir and will get on to that immediately!


  3. Thanks for linking this post and blogspot! I also make many kinds of pizza with milk kefir, and post pictures on my blog, but mine aren't gluten-free. I am going to experiment more with that at a later date. I am on the journey to learn more about gluten-free and carb free baking. I also have water kefir grains, but I haven't tried to leaven anything with them.


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