Our blogger tells the story of one woman’s mission to create classic sourdough bread—gluten-free—despite doubts from all around her.

Sharon Kane loves sourdough. When she was first diagnosed with gluten allergies nearly 20 years ago, her doctor told her she’d never eat it again. When she went to a well-known foodie blogger asking why there were no gluten-free alternatives to classic sourdough, she was told “because it can’t be done.” When she wondered if she would ever again eat foods she loved, she was told by a host of well-meaning people, “Fat chance.’’ In sum, she was told to give up.

Her response? “It can be done. And I will do it.”

That has been Kane’s mantra for 17 years. Don’t say “It can’t be done” to the founder of the Gluten Free Sourdough Co., because this woman has made perseverance and patience her watchwords—the foundation for her health, her joy, and her success. 

To walk into her beautiful little bakery in Ashland, Mass., is to walk into a haven of healing smells and amazing foods. Having sampled her sourdough at the Gluten-Free Allergy-Free Fest (GFFAF) in Stamford, Conn., I was excited to visit. I didn’t realize her story was as rich as her baked goods.

Kane’s bakery is beautiful. From the pristine stainless counters to the natural light filtering through wide windows to the aroma of chocolate and ginger and the sharp tang of sourdough in the air, her workspace is proof enough that baking can lift depression. And this is not just any baking. It’s authentic sourdough and sweetbreads in the oven: altogether gluten-free, altogether dairy-free, and—through painstaking work—a balance of fewer than five key ingredients.

 Mass.-based Gluten-Free Sourdough Co.

Sourdough bread by Sharon A. Kane

From a brain-fogged, chronically fatigued, constantly ill woman, Sharon Kane has become the picture of health herself—as bright and orderly as her bakery, with an easy smile and pink in her cheeks.

“How?” I ask her as I follow her to the cooling rack. “How did you do it?”

She casts a glance back at me, and goes into an inventory of what it took: 17 years of getting to know her own body and needs. She was put on over 20 different antibiotics for various infections during a 10-year period. At the beginning, one doctor diagnosed her need to ditch the dairy and sugar, seeing her body suffering from candida—and somehow missed the gluten.

“It’s funny,” she says. “Now that I know the symptoms, I can see the celiac in my history… migraines…other food allergies…”

Listening to her reminisce about the darkest struggles in her life, sitting in her bakery stacked with sourdough English muffins, awash in the aroma of cinnamon and cocoa, I can hardly imagine her peaked and in despair.

But that contrast brings up the key to her story: her perseverance.

Kane didn’t despair, not really. “They said I’d never eat sourdough again! And that blogger, bless her, said, ‘Gluten-free? It can’t be done.’ Well it can be. I said then, 17 years ago, ‘It can be done! And I’ll do it.’”

 She did do it, with dedication and a lot of patience.

Good sourdough and good gluten-free food take time. So does self-care, and so does authentic healing. Kane has put an enormous shot of patience into both, and it shows, because her products are as buoyant, authentic, and real as her health. 

The process of fermentation mirrors Kane’s journey. It takes time—days of sitting, and close observation. But when it’s finished, the cultures and bacteria created actually pre-digest food for us, aid in healing our entire body, and help populate our guts with a balance of healthy microflora. 

But even after 17 years, it’s not all smooth sailing—or perfect dough. “I sometimes get a batch of teff that’s a little different,” she says. “Somehow the weight or milling just throws off a whole batch!”

The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking

She laughs. It takes more than some bad teff to throw Sharon off.

“After years of being so sick I couldn’t move, I actually get off the couch these days,” she says. “And I do what I love and eat what I love. If an off batch of flour is my only problem now, I’m good!”

“Not just good,” I say, chewing on a sample of sourdough chocolate bread that tastes like heaven. “Amazing.”

I forget as I leave, weighted down with samples, to tell her how much I admire her. She personally corresponds with all of her customers. She has written two books, The Art of Guten Free Sourdough Baking, and my favorite, Highly Digestible Beans.

She has made good out of some serious sickness—and through it, she’s managed to make the best sourdough I’ve ever tasted, gluten-free or otherwise. It’s not by flash-in-the-pan good-luck, but by a patient perseverance that allowed her to hold onto hope when her celiac diagnosis, her doctor, and even her fellow foodies said, ‘Give up.’

If you have celiac disease or a severe food allergy, it can be done: You can live fully. After meeting Sharon Kane, I’m inspired to say, “I will do it!” I’m going to do it while eating sourdough, though. Real sourdough. Because now even that, thanks to Kane, can be done.

Author C.J. Williams

C.J. Williams has made her own celiac diagnosis “a gymnast’s tumble,” as she says, “instead of a bone-breaking free-fall.” Williams writes a blog (TumblingGlutenFree.blogspot.com) to explore travel and celiac-safe restaurants, to discuss the joys of whole foods and whole life, and to promote the idea of building an identity beyond a disease. She also contributes to GlutenFreeandMore.com, having told the stories of teenager Sema Dibooglu’s unique outlook on living with celiac disease; Robert Goodman’s launch of Goodman Food Products, and Jennifer Kurko’s development of her gluten-free Kiss Freely products.