Monday, February 23, 2015

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

A gluten free sourdough starter isn't much different than wheat based starter. Both start with flour and water and over time produce a healthy batch of natural yeast for sourdough bread. I have tried several different flour combinations for the starter you see above. Finally coming up with one that I really like! It's simply two parts sorghum flour, one part white rice flour and one part teff flour. This combination makes for a really healthy starter and a good tasting sourdough.

There isn't any special measuring to be done, just add about 1/2 cup of the flour mixture to a mason jar or glass bowl and then pour in enough filtered or distilled water to produce a pancake batter consistency. Avoid using tap water, the chlorine it contains can kill the yeast before it gets going.

Cover the jar with a coffee filter and poke a few holes in it.
If using a glass bowl, drape it with a piece of cheese cloth. 
Then place it in a warm spot to get it going.

Over the next three days or so, you are going to stir and then pour out half of the starter and replenish it with enough flour and water to bring it back up to the same volume and consistency. You do this once a day. Depending on the conditions in your home, heat etc...the starter may need a couple more days to get bubbling. Mine came to life on day 3. It should have a beer like scent. If it smells bad or is a weird color, throw it out and start over.

I found that once the starter got going, it needed more frequent feedings. I fed it 3 times a day for a few more days to ensure that I had a very healthy starter. It needs to be fed at least every 8-12 hours, but more frequent is better. Look at how bubbly it is.
Unless there was a thick layer of watery hooch (lactic acid) on the surface, I only poured off half of the starter once a day, not at every feeding. I wanted to build up the starter to 2 cups or so, making sure I would have one cup for a loaf of sourdough and enough left over for the next go around. Regular small feedings produce a very healthy starter with very little hooch. The lactic acid is what gives sourdough it's sour taste, but too much will result in very little yeast and encourage bad things to grow in your starter. This is why you need to throw out part of the starter every day.

By the fifth day you should have a very bubbly starter and be ready to make your first loaf of sourdough. If you aren't planning on baking again within a few days, feed the starter and loosely place the original lid back on the jar and place it in your fridge. There is no need to waste flour by keeping it going. Once refrigerated, it only needs to be fed once or twice a week. If it's been stored for several months and you aren't planning on using it any time soon, just throw it out. The longer it is kept in this dormant state, increases the chance that it will grow undesirable bacteria or mold. After all, it only takes a few days to get a fresh batch up and running again!

Here is my favorite gluten free sourdough bread recipe using this starter. I hope you enjoy it!

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