Monday, February 23, 2015

The Making of Gluten Free Sourdough Bread

I am a bread lover! I can't help it! However, my bread eating days came to a screeching halt after a realization that gluten was the reason for several chronic health problems that I was having. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out. In the beginning, gluten free bread was just depressing for me. A far cry from the wheat bread I loved and made several times a week. I thought that I would never again enjoy a sandwich made with tender, flavorful bread. Though, as time went on, I learned to make pretty good gluten free bread. Mastering this art had become an obsession for me. Everything that I knew about bread baking had to be relearned. Gluten free bread is nothing like wheat bread. I tried in vain to create a dough that could be kneaded, yet still produce a soft loaf of bread that was edible the next day. That never happened!

I love all breads, rye, pumpernickel, whole grain, but one of my favorites has always been sourdough. There is nothing else like it! The tangy flavor and chewy texture is heavenly! I have tried several gluten free recipes in the past. They all tasted wonderful, but every one baked up heavy with a dense crumb. Most likely caused by baker error. They were pale in color as well, not brown and crispy like I remembered a really good loaf of sourdough being.

Once again, I decided to attempt gluten free sourdough bread baking. Over the past few weeks, I have baked several loaves of gluten free sourdough, putting to use all of the techniques that I had relearned over a three year period. I was determined to get the color and texture right this time! I made a beautiful loaf of sourdough in a bread pan, but I was on a mission to make a free formed loaf of Artisan sourdough. I pressed on. After the forth loaf, I found that adding in a little psyllium and oat flour made a workable dough that could be shaped! And as for the pale color, adding in 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey helped with browning. Traditional sourdough recipes don't contain sugar, however, there is nothing traditional about gluten free bread. A little sugar turns a pale unappetizing loaf of bread into a beautifully browned one!

I used a natural dough enhancer in all of these breads to extend their shelf life. It was a combination of organic sunflower lecithin and powdered ginger. Gluten free sourdough bread will stay mold free for quite some time without any additives, due to the lactic acid that is produced. The acidity also helps to gelatinize the starches in the dough, trapping in the gas bubbles for a better rise. The crumb however, even in sourdough, will continue to harden each day, due to the starches recrystallizing. This effect is magnified without gluten. This is why lecithin is very beneficial in gluten free bread baking. Lecithin keeps oil and water bound together and delays the recrystallization of starches, resulting in a loaf of bread that remains soft days longer. That is a definite plus for gluten free bread!

Here is the recipe for the starter I used and the sourdough bread recipe for the final loaf I made.
Below are several photos I took along the way so that you could see my progress.

Loaf #1 wasn't even photo worthy, sorry. It was a pale brick and went straight into the trash!

Loaf #2 (on the right) browned nicely with the addition of a little honey and tasted pretty good.
I let it rise a little too long however, and it deflated somewhat as it baked, but remained soft for days.
The loaf on the left is a vegan gluten free sandwich bread that I made for my daughter.

This was loaf #3. I must say, it looked perfect! It rose beautifully, had a delightful sour flavor, crispy crust and the texture was much lighter. It just wasn't the free formed Artisan loaf I wanted.

Loaf #4 was my first attempt at a free formed loaf, using the same recipe as loaf #3.
The dough was very soft and sticky,
but I decided to bake it anyway to see what would happen.

As you can see, the dough spread quite a bit as it baked, not much height to it.
I must say though, it was delicious!

This was the making of loaf #5. I decided to throw in a little psyllium and oat flour for structure. Look at how the dough held it's shape and stayed mounded.
Much different that the previous batch of dough. I was on to something!

Loaf #5 was the clear winner!
 This was by far the best loaf of gluten free sourdough that I have ever made!
I wish you could smell it! Have Mercy! I'm a very proud baker!

Now comes the hard part! Allowing the bread to cool before you dig in!

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