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Gluten Sensitive? Try Sourdough Focaccia

Recent studies suggest that many people who are sensitive to gluten can better tolerate sourdough than regular bread. The sourdough process--complete with wild yeasts and friendly bacteria--helps to break down the gluten in the flour, sort of like pre-digesting it. In addition, the sourdough process enhances the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the flour. The key for many people is the long rise time for sourdough. The long rise gives the yeasts and bacteria time to work their magic.

That means you need to bake your own sourdough bread, or at least you need to be careful of the type of sourdough bread you buy. Many store and bakery sourdoughs are made with sour flavoring and baker's fast-rising yeast. The bakery breads also are quite expensive and loaded with salt.

Making your own sourdough needn't be a huge project. You can do it quite easily once you have an active starter. I've experimented with multiple types of sourdough bread and multiple rise times. I've learned that you can pretty much set your own rise times--extending the time, if you need to do so, to make your breads more digestible (just punch the dough down and let it rise again or keep it at a lower proofing temperature for a longer time). If you don't have any problems with gluten or FODMAPs, you might be fine with a shorter rise time. In any case, sourdough bread rise times will be longer than those for breads made with baker's yeast. That's fine for me. I find I can start the bread process and forget about it for the next 12 to 24 hours, generally. The dough mostly does it's own thing without my intervention.

To get you started with a great, easy bread or to add to your sourdough collection, I'm including a recipe below for focaccia, a flat, chewy bread that's similar to pizza dough. You can top the focaccia with herbs, tomatoes, cheeses, or whatever you like. The version I'm including below is pretty basic. Nonetheless, it bakes up fragrant with rosemary and garlic, slightly crispy on the outsides, and chewy in the middle. The focaccia is great with Italian meals or alongside a salad.

Sourdough Focaccia

Focaccia -- Makes a 10 x 15-inch Pan

1 cup of sourdough starter/discard

1 cup of water

1 1/2 cups of white whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoons of canola oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of Italian herbs

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sourdough starter/discard, the water, the white whole-wheat flour, the canola oil, salt, onion powder, and Italian herbs and mix them well. I use a wooden spoon to blend everything. Add the all-purpose flour. You can mix in most of the all-purpose flour with a spoon, but knead in the last 1/2 cup of flour by hand and continue to knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Then pour half of the olive oil on the bottom of a 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking sheet and spread the oil out evenly on the bottom of the baking sheet. Put the dough onto the baking sheet and press it evenly out to cover the entire sheet. Smooth the dough out, and then drizzle the dough with the remaining olive oil. Rub the oil all over the top of the dough. Use your finger tips to press little dimples in the dough. The dimpling also will help stretch the dough out. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the rosemary and garlic powder. Spritz the top of the dough with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil (I use a Misto) and cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 4-12 hours. The rise time will depend on the temperature in your kitchen. I left my dough for about 6 hours in an 80+ degree sunroom, and it was ready to go when I returned from the gym and running errands. Generally, the rise time will be longer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the focaccia dough for 25-35 minutes or until firm to the touch and golden brown on top.

Sourdough Focaccia

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