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Guide To Gluten Free Sourdough Making

With a little patience you can make some great gluten free sourdough breads.  This guide provides some additional background to our gluten free sourdough recipes and you may also find our Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Table helpful as a tool for tracking your starter feeding times.

There are three stages to making gluten free sourdough:

To make sourdough bread you have to first create a gluten free starter. This is a flour and water paste that must be refreshed daily by adding or ‘feeding’ small amounts of flour and water for several days. The aim over these days is to capture the wild yeasts which will eventually help raise your loaf. 

Once a starter is active it can be used to make a gluten free ferment for the second stage of gluten free sourdough bread making (see the notes below for how to tell when your starter is ready to begin bread making). At this crucial stage some of the starter is removed and a larger quantity of flour and water is added to help condition the starter for bread making. 

When the bowl of ferment becomes active the ingredients for your gluten free sourdough bread are added and the dough is left to prove before baking. The amount of time needed for each stage can vary depending on a combination of several factors, including the temperature of the starter or ferment, when it was last fed and watered, the vigour of the wild yeast activity and the room temperature. With regular sourdough baking you will become familiar with the effects of temperature and time at each of the stages and learn how to control these to make the best bread.

Don’t be disappointed if your first sourdough bread isn’t perfect. Do persevere because much like making pancakes, the first attempt isn’t always perfect but with a little practice things will improve. 

Gluten Free Starter 

  • Buckwheat, Brown Rice Flour, Teff Flour, Quinoa Flour or other gluten free whole grain flours are best for making and feeding a gluten free starter.
  • The starter needs to be fed with the regular addition of gluten free flour and water which will stimulate activity. To help you remember the time of your last and next flour and water feed you could print out and complete our Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Table, use a kitchen timer or set your phone alarm.
  • Keep and feed your starter in a glass bowl, loosely covered with some cling film or a clean, wet tea towel. Avoid keeping the bowl tightly sealed.
  • The ideal temperature for all of your sourdough stages is a warm place at 22-24°C/70-75°.
  • In cooler room temperatures the starter will take longer to become active so allow for more time between feeds.
  • At warmer room temperatures the starter will become active more quickly and will need feeding more often.
  • Small or large bubbles, a lumpy appearance, a honeycomb texture beneath the surface and a pleasing sour or slightly alcoholic aroma are all signs that your starter is becoming active.
  • If your tap water smells of chlorine it may be difficult to establish an active starter, so try using bottled water instead.
  • After feeding the starter with gluten free flour and water it should have the consistency of thick custard or porridge and amounts of flour and water can be adjusted to achieve this: if necessary, slightly increase the flour or water to achieve the desired consistency.
  • A larger quantity of starter will need a bigger flour and water feed than a smaller quantity.
  • A dry, flat, sweaty or watery looking starter usually means a feed of flour and water is urgently needed.
  • If a dark, alcoholic smelling liquid forms on the surface of the starter it means your starter has been active but is getting tired so pour off the liquid and feed with flour and water.
  • Remove and discard any mouldy looking crust at the edge of the bowl.
  • Feeding a starter when it looks active (i.e bubbly) will encourage increased activity.
  • To use up any left-over starter, why not make some gluten free sourdough flatbreads or gluten free sourdough pancakes. Otherwise dispose of any unused starter, or keep it at room temperature and feed it regularly until your next baking session.
  • An active starter can be kept in a refrigerator and will need feeding every 7 – 10 days. It can also be frozen but needs a warm place, and flour and water feeds to re-establish its activity.

Gluten Free Ferment

  • Follow your recipe and only add the quantity of ferment required in your recipe. Don’t be tempted to add more or less than instructed as this will not necessarily improve your final result.
  • An active ferment which looks bubbly, possibly like frogspawn with a sweet yet sour aroma, is ready for gluten free sourdough bread making.
  • The most active ferments will develop the most open texture in sourdough bread.

Reviving Old Timers

If you are not going to use your starter regularly, put it into a lidded container at the back of your refrigerator.  It should go into a dormant state and can last for many months without attention.  When you are ready to revive the starter, follow this procedure below:

  • Pour off any dark liquid which may have been accumulated at the top.
  • Remove the dark and discoloured top layer.
  • Spoon out the starter into a clean bowl.
  • Feed with flour and water to make a paste.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature.
  • Feed with flour and water every 12 hours.
  • When small bubbles start to appear it is ready to make a ferment. 

Gluten Free Sourdough Bread

  • Gluten free sourdough breads can be raised in a 1kg/2lb banneton and turned out on to a baking tray or risen and cooked in a traditional 1kg/2lb loaf tin.
  • If using a banneton, it should not be used for baking your sourdough bread. Turn the bread out onto a lightly floured baking tray before baking.
  • Follow one of our gluten free sourdough recipes!
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