I have been a “Bread-head” for a very long time. In fact, before my Celiac diagnosis, I baked my own bread every week, and even milled my own flour from organic wheatberries. Eventually I began working with sourdough and had a very robust starter for 6 years. But you know what happened next. Once I learned that I had Celiac disease it all came to an abrupt end, and I had to go back to square one.
*In case you were wondering, you cannot convert a regular sourdough starter to gluten free. Even after many feedings, the starter will still harbor gluten*
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That brings us to today’s post. Gluten Free Sourdough bread has been at the top of my 2024 recipe bucket list, but first I needed an active starter.
Take a look! After 2 weeks of feeding, she is bubbling away and ready to go to work. I’m so excited (and hungry) for all the breads Sophie and I are going to make together! We are already having fun with sourdough discard recipes. So, stay tuned for more of Sophie popping up in my kitchen adventures this year. And when you do, you can always come back to this post to read about how it all “started” (hehe)!
Key takeaways for establishing a sourdough starter:
- Maintain a steady 75-80 degrees.
- Use filtered water (not tap water)
- Use whole grain gluten free flour, either sorghum or brown rice
- Feed twice a day 1/4 cup (30 g.) flour and 1/4 cup (60 g.) water.
- Discard between 1/4 and 1/2 cup daily.
- Be patient, it takes longer for a gluten free starter to activate.
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- dried starter
- sorghum flour (you can also use brown rice flour)
- filtered water (not tap)
- 2 wide mouth ball jars, quart size
- proofing box (see notes)
- measuring cups
- wooden spoon
- I opted for a dried starter because I just wasn’t having any luck with flour and water alone. Try without it if you’re brave!
- I fed the starter with Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Sorghum flour. You want to use a single whole grain flour, not a blend that contains starches and gums. I love the flavor of sorghum, but you can use brown rice flour if you prefer.
- I used bottled water (filtered) because our tap water isn’t the best.
- You need at least 2 wide mouth Ball jars, so that you can transfer the starter to a clean jar every couple of days.
I ordered a proofing box. I know, expensive but so worth it!
- This proofing box was a game changer for me. My New England kitchen is chilly during the winter, and I was not about to turn up the heat to 80º for 2 weeks! This proofing box maintains just the right temperature and folds for storage when not in use.
- You will need measuring cups for feeding your starter and measuring the discard.
- About those wooden spoons-
**Old wives’ tale – you should never touch your starter with a metal instrument. I am superstitious and only use a wooden spoon!
After several failed attempts at establishing a starter, I purchased this dried gluten free sourdough packet from Cultures for Health. It worked like a charm, not a huge investment, and they have a 60-day guarantee.
- Feed 1/4 cup (30 g.) flour and 1/4 cup (60 g.) water every 12 hours. Stir vigorously after each addition. The consistency should be like a pourable pancake batter.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth and place in a warm 75-80º spot.
- Each day, before feeding you will notice that a layer of liquid has formed on top of your starter. It’s the alcohol (a/k/a hooch) formed during fermentation, and it gives the starter that sour taste and aroma. Don’t throw it away, just stir it back into the starter.
- After the first few days, you will need to discard between 1/4 to 1/2 cups each morning before feeding. Stir the starter first, then measure out and discard 1/4 cup at a time until you have just one cup remaining in the jar. Feed as usual and transfer to a clean jar. This step is necessary to encourage growth of the wild yeast and good bacteria, I try to maintain about 1-1/2 cups of starter at all times.
(If you’re like me, you hate throwing anything away, so I’ll be sharing a few sourdough discard recipes!)
- When the starter is ready to use it will be loaded with little air bubbles. Mine was ready after 14 days of twice daily feeding.
- Once your starter is established, you can store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week. Cover it loosely, never tighten the lid.
♪ No proofing box? You can try making an inexpensive one with a Styrofoam cooler and 25-watt bulb. I had one like this that I used for years. Alternatively, you can create a warm, draft free environment by placing your starter in the oven with the light on (may not be practical for the 10+ days needed to activate a starter). Some people use the microwave or even the clothes dryer! (again, not practical if you do laundry every day).
♫ For the bread scientists 🙋♀️ I fed my starter with equal parts whole grain sorghum flour and water by volume (1/4 cup), but this is actually a 200% hydration starter by weight, that is, 60 g. water to 30 g. flour per feeding.
♫♪ With just a little care a starter can live for many years. If you are not baking often, be sure to feed your starter on a regular schedule, discard the excess and move it to a clean jar every week.