Want to know the secret to really delicious, soft gluten free bread? A loaf of gluten free bread that is full of flavour and slices well?
It all starts with a good gluten free sourdough starter!
Why use a gluten free sourdough starter?
Gluten free bread suffers from one big issue… the lack of gluten! Gluten provides structure that is usually replaced in gluten free breads with starches and additives. However, starches and additives aren’t very tasty.
Baking with sourdough improves the taste and texture of gluten free bread by:
- Breaking down whole grain flours so that they become lighter and stickier.
- Providing a delicious nutty flavour that comes from using wholegrain flours rather than bland white flours.
- Adding the complex sourdough flavour.
- Whole grain gluten free flour (see notes)
- Filtered water (do not use chlorinated tap water)
- Large glass container (metal and plastic won't harm the sourdough, but the acidity of the sourdough might harm the container).
- Put equal parts of water and flour into a glass container. This could be 1 tbsp of flour and water, or 1 cup of flour and water. It really depends on how much starter you need.
- Mix the flour and water together with a fork. Loosely cover with a tea towel and leave it to ferment at room temperature (your kitchen counter is perfect).
- Stir with a fork twice a day until it is actively bubbling. This usually takes 3-5 days.
- If you want to keep the starter going, see section below about feeding your starter
- Buckwheat flour is great at catching a sourdough starter. Using straight buckwheat, it only takes about 2 days to get a good vigorous starter. However you will still be able to make a good starter with rice, oat flour, millet, sorghum or teff, it will just take up to 5 days.
- The 1:1 ratio of flour and water is approximate. Some flours will absorb more water (for example buckwheat and white rice) some flours absorb less water (oat and brown rice). Adjust the recipe so that you have a thick, yet still pourable consistency.
- Most of my recipes start with 2 cups of active sourdough starter, so use at least 1.5 cups of flour and 1.5 cups of water if you are following one of my bread recipes.
- I recommend using my gluten free bread flour mix for all your gluten free breads, however, don’t use it for your starter. You just want to use wholegrain flour or white rice flour for your starter.
- I only make bread about once a month, so I usually just start my gluten free starter from scratch every time. It only takes me a few days to catch a vigorous starter.
- If you are baking bread regularly, you may want to keep your sourdough starter going. If you keep your starter out on the counter then it will need a daily feeding. Feed it half of its volume in water and flour. For example: if you have 1 cup of starter, then you will need to feed it 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour daily.
- If you store your starter in the refrigerator then it will need feeding every 5 days.
Fun Sourdough Facts:
- The flavour and properties of your sourdough starter are based on the local strains of yeast and bacteria. This variability in yeast influences the flavour and leavening time, which is why every region of the world will produce a very different type of bread. Some areas have famous strains (Montreal, San Francisco) but most regions should be able to make a decent sourdough starter. However, poor air quality might result in a bad tasting, or under active culture. If you have a hepa air filter in your home then it might be difficult to catch a sourdough culture. In that case, I recommend making a quick sourdough starter.
- It only takes about 24 hours for a store-bought culture to be taken over by local yeast and bacteria, so that is not a good solution for poor air-quality. However, buying a sourdough culture is a good way to avoid taking 5 days to achieve an active culture.
- Gluten free sourdough culture has the tendency to get a pink or blue hue based on yeasts and molds in your home. While it’s not a good thing… it’s not bad unless it smells bad. The colour should go away as your starter becomes more active. Don’t use a bad smelling or moldy starter… if it’s gone bad, then you have to throw it away and start over.