How to Make Gluten-Free, Yeast-Free Sourdough Bread From Scratch (from a starter)
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
In an attempt to cut my grocery bill, I decided that this week instead of paying $9 for a loaf of Grindstone Bakery gluten-free, yeast-free bread (which I love!), I would try to make my own. I usually react to packaged active dry yeast, but I don’t react to the Grindstone bread, which does not have any added yeast and is made using natural slow fermentation (attracting wild yeasts from the air). Since I live in the San Francisco Bay area, the home of the original sourdough bread, I decided this was the way to go. I did a lot of research online, searching for recipes or information on making a sourdough starter. I found recipes for regular sourdough bread and some for making a gluten-free starter, but I could not find any recipes from start to finish for a gluten-free, yeast-free sourdough bread. The sites I found most helpful were from Ginger Lemon Girl and from Helen UK on the wholeapproach.com forum. I tried to gather as much information as I could to come up with my own recipe, and this post is a documentation of my first experience trying to bake gluten-free, yeast-free sourdough bread from scratch.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a perfect recipe!! It turned out pretty good but there is definitely room for improvement. I am opening this up for comments and advice from people who have also tried baking bread, and hopefully together we can come up with an ideal recipe. I will update this post with each future attempt, creating a detail of the process from start to finish. I appreciate all of your help!
Making the Starter
Things you will need:
A glass mixing bowl and a towel to cover it
A wooden spoon
Room-temperature filtered water
About 4 cups gluten-free flour (I chose to use brown rice, sorghum and millet)
5 days (for slow fermentation process)
The Process: How I made it
Using a clean glass mixing bowl, combine your first cup of flour and about 3/4 cup of filtered, room-temperature water, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then you’re going to cover it with a towel, leave it in a warm, dark corner of your kitchen and let it sit for 24 hours. For the next four days, you will add another cup of flour, 3/4 cup water, stir and repeat. This is called feeding (and watering) the starter. You can choose whatever gluten-free flours you like – I look forward to experimenting with different types. For my first day, I used brown rice flour. On the second day, I added sorghum flour. On the third day, I ground up some millet and a handful of flax seeds in my coffee grinder to make a cup of flour. On the fourth day, I added some more brown rice flour. By day five, it was ready to bake.
- You should first sterilize the mixing bowl and spoon with boiling water. You are going to be letting the flour and water ferment for 5 days in this bowl, so you want to make sure that you don’t have any nasty germs on your equipment.
- Ginger Lemon Girl recommends using a wooden spoon because metal does something to inhibit the fermentation process.
- Always use room-temperature, filtered water. Water that is too hot or too cold can kill or harm the cultures that are fermenting the flour. Chlorine in the water can harm them also (and yourself as well!).
- You will notice, starting on the second day, that your starter will give off a slightly unpleasant odor. That is normal.
- The starter will also begin to collect liquid on the top and become bubbly underneath. This is also normal. You can just stir it back together when you add more flour.
- My measurements of 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup water are also approximate and you can adjust them as necessary in order to keep a similar texture to how it started out.
- At one point I also mixed in a few raisins, because I read that the kind of wild yeast that grows on raisins is very flavorful. Not wanting the raisins to start fermenting, I removed them later that day.
- By the morning of the fifth day, your starter will start to smell like traditional sourdough bread. That’s how you know it is ready to bake!
Making and Baking the Bread
These are approximate measurements. I confess I did not actually measure the flours! I just kept adding some until I felt it had the right texture. My best guess is that I used about 2/3 cup (this time I measured 1/2 cup) each brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and millet flour (ground from grain in my coffee grinder). I also added another tablespoon of ground flaxseed, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a tablespoon of xanthan gum. (Luckily, I can buy xanthan gum in bulk from my health food store. If you must buy a package of it, it can be quite expensive. But usually a package will last you a long time.) Mix these dry ingredients together first, then add it to the starter along with 1/2 cup of lukewarm (not hotter than 110 degrees F) filtered water. (On my second loaf I adjusted the amount of flour and did not add any water.) It should be somewhat sticky, enough to form a large ball. Add a touch more flour or water if necessary. Now you are ready to knead.
Kneading the Dough
Keep some extra flour and filtered water on hand, because you may need one or the other in order to have the right texture to knead the dough. Dust a mat or other space for kneading lightly with flour. Begin to knead the ball of dough on the mat, adding more flour if it sticks to your hands or the mat, or adding more water if it is crumbly. After kneading for about 5-10 minutes and the dough forms a pliable ball that is not too sticky, shape it into an oval, cover it with a towel, and set it back in that warm corner of your kitchen for 12 hours.
Baking the Bread
After your dough has had a chance to rise for 12 hours, check it out and press and reshape it. Turn on your oven to preheat it, and move the dough to a baking sheet. I baked my bread at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes. This is the part that I am not sure about and could use some recommendations for the next time I bake it. UPDATE: I just successfully baked my second loaf, and it turned out great. This time I actually baked it for an hour and a half at 400 degrees F. Quite a bit longer than the first time! I think that was the key. I covered it with foil for a half hour of the cooking time to prevent the crust from burning, and it came out very crispy on the outside but moist on the inside. I used a meat thermometer to check the inside temperature when I pulled it out and it had reached 180 degrees F. I would recommend doing the same if you are trying to bake a loaf. Once it has baked for an hour, start checking it every 10-15 minutes until you get a similar temperature reading.
How it Turned Out
When I removed the bread from the oven, it smelled lovely! The crust was kind of hard and crispy, so I figured it was done, although it was not very brown. I let it cool for about an hour, and then I couldn’t resist slicing into it. While the crust was dry and crispy, the inside was soft and doughy. It was also very dense. I am not quite sure if it was done all the way on the inside, although it tasted great and held together very well! UPDATE: As I cut near the center of the loaf, I noticed parts where it definitely seemed undercooked, so I discarded a few slices. The ends were much better. I will definitely increase the baking time and/or temperature the next time I try it! For an update on my second loaf, please read the above paragraph.
What I Would Do Differently
Next time I bake this bread, I am going to try a couple of different things. First, I am going to lightly brush the top of the loaf with olive oil before baking. It definitely didn’t have that golden-brown color of freshly baked bread, and the outside was a little too dry. Secondly, I might try increasing the baking temperature or leave it in the oven for longer, since the inside was a little doughy and perhaps slightly undercooked. Other than that, I am very happy with the taste and my choice of flours, although I am curious what others would taste like. UPDATE FROM THE SECOND LOAF: Changing the baking time and temp to one and a half hours at 400 degrees F and reaching an internal baking temperature of 180 was definitely the key. The outside was still somewhat dry, but the inside was perfect. I am definitely happy with my results!
So there you have it, my first (and second!) experience baking a gluten-free, yeast-free sourdough bread from scratch. I would consider it an 80 or 90 percent success! I look forward to reading your comments and hearing about your experiences as well.
Happy baking, and HAPPY INAUGURATION!!!