Monday, 23 September 2013

Getting 'Started' To Make A Gluten Free Sourdough.

The first step in the sourdough process is getting a starter together. Gluten-free sourdough starter can be made in as little as seven days using gluten-free flour, water and a medium-sized bowl. I personally have successfully made gluten-free sourdough starter with sorghum flour, but I've read others have had success with buckwheat flour, teff, and millet.


Making a gluten-free sourdough starter isn't any different than making a regular sourdough starter.
  • Both start with flour and water.
  • Both take a few days and both get bubbly.
  • The only real difference comes when you're ready to make sourdough bread and you have to pull out all the various types of gluten-free flours.

Here’s a very simple explanation of the process:
  1. flour + water –> natural enzymes break down starches into glucose (sugar)
  2. natural bacteria (tang) + glucose = food for natural yeast
  3. natural yeast + food = carbon dioxide –> natural leaven
  4. natural leaven + more flour + more water –> more natural leaven
A good sourdough starter takes time and patience. Gluten free sourdough starter takes a little coaxing and a lot of patience. There are a lot of variables involved and if you are interested in making a gluten-free starter be prepared to make adjustments to account for the moods and whims for your particular starter.

Several things depends if your starter will thrive:

  • Temperature:  It is important to keep your starter in a warm place; if it gets too cold it won't be active enough to work.  Maintaining warm temps throughout the starter creation process helps to establish good yeast and bacterial multiplication and a healthy starter ecosystem.
  • Water:  Non-chlorinated water like filtered of spring is best for a sourdough culture. Tap water has been treated with chlorine for the nasty microorganisms lurking in the water supply. The chlorine also kills other microorganisms – the bacteria and yeasts you need to keep a lively starter. Using a filtering system removes the chlorine as well as heavy metals that can also damage the beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts present in a sourdough starter.
  • Flour properties: Any gluten free flour, provided it’s a grain-based flour, will work for making a sourdough starter. Keeping in mind it will be the bulk flour of what you bake with it, therefore the bulk flavor. Depending on what flour you use will deliver different results so bare that in mind and be prepared but don't be disappointed. 


Gluten Free Sourdough Starter


The Initial Starter:
Whisk 50g gluten free flour and 50g warm filtered or spring water in a small bowl. Pour this into a clean, sterilized glass jar. Cover with a cheesecloth securing it around with an elastic band and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature.

After 12 hours, whisk the starter and add 50g flour and 50g water. Cover and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature. Continue adding 50g flour and 50g water every 12 hours for up to a week. Your starter should start bubbling within a few days. As you feed your starter, take care to whisk in the flour and water thoroughly into the established starter – aerating the starter will help to yield the best and most reliable results.

The starter should be “spongy” in appearance with maybe some foamy bubbles on top and some air pockets in the mixture. It should have a slight sour smell. Your starter is now active and is ready to be used. If not needed immediately cover with cheesecloth and refrigerate.


Feeding Your Starter:
Once the starter is officially created, it enters maintenance mode. The frequency of feedings is determined by how much starter you need and how often you plan to use it.
  • At a minimum, the starter can be kept in the refrigerator and fed once a week merely to sustain life (the yeast).
  • You can continue to feed it daily as you have been, and in another seven days there will be enough starter for another batch of bread.
  • You can also feed it daily with as little as one tablespoon of flour and water – enough to continue daily growth but not produce a large quantity of starter.
However frequent or infrequent you decide to feed your starter, the yeast thrives best when it’s fed regularly and consistently.  Choose your time frame and quantity and stick with it as best as you can.

Using Your Starter:
Use your starter when it is active. An active starter is one that has been fed within the past 12 hours, and is active enough that it was able to double in size after that feeding. If you fed your starter and it didn't double, you should feed it a few more times before using. The best time to use the starter is somewhere between the time it reaches its peak and before it starts to fall.

Maintaining And Reviving Your Starter:
If you bake less than once a week, you can store your starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. When needed, remove starter from fridge and bring to room temperature. Feed and stir well to combine. Leave for 12 hours before you plan to bake. If you bake every day or a few times a week, you can store your starter at room temperature and feed it every 12 hours or twice a day to keep it alive. This is very important.

Try at least feeding the starter with as much flour as there is starter.  You don't need too much starter at a time, so for instance use 25g starter, 25g flour, and 25g water for the first feeding out of the fridge. The next feeding 12 hours later start with all of the starter from the previous feeding (75g), add 75g flour and 75g water.  You should see really large bubbles in the starter with this feeding schedule. When it's really bubbly bake with it. You will have 225g of starter to work with - that should be plenty. Just make sure you have at least 10g starter left when you're done to build up the new batch of starter.

Considerations For Your Starter:
Using a whisk helps to aerate the starter more thoroughly. Aeration of the starter is essential to ensure that the bacteria are well-distributed throughout the starter and can, begin to ferment the new flour and water added to the starter at each feeding.  Proper aeration of the sourdough also helps to ensure that the production of hooch – a thin liquid that sometimes rises to the top of sourdough starter – is minimized.


If a hooch does appear, don't worry, it is harmless. It often signifies that you've overfed your starter with water in relation to flour or have let your starter go too long between feedings. Sourdough starters are relatively resilient, and bounce back quickly once you resume proper care of them.

Do not ever cover your jar airtight. The mixture is harvesting the yeast from the environment and needs the air to breathe. Even while in the fridge. Furthermore, the process of fermentation releases carbon dioxide which can build up in a tightly lidded jar and explode. Remember your starter will expand and rise to twice its volume after a feeding once it’s well-established so the jar you choose should have double the capacity of an un-fed starter.


 The internet is filled with gluten free sourdough starter recipes. Some call for odd ingredients like pineapple juice, orange juice, cabbage leaves, grapes, potato flakes or water kefir, to make a truly good sourdough starter you need just three things: flour, water and time. 

2 comments:

  1. Samantha, the blog is great and I found it just in time :)
    I am trying to make a sourdough GF bread for my son. Can you post, please, which flours do you use? I would like to make bread with 80-100% whole flours.
    Thank you for the blog again, it is very useful.

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    1. Hi Maria, Thank you for the comment. I have just posted a detailed post of my gluten free sourdough with recipes. Check it out http://theworldofglutenfreebread.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/baking-gluten-free-sourdough-loaf.html

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