It seems like the world is staying busy right now in the kitchen and I am totally ok with that. If you don’t try to make bread, are you even quarantining? I have always wondered how to make gluten-free sourdough starter, but I have never really had the time to ponder the process. It seemed like a daunting and mysterious project, but it turned out to be really quite approachable and easy. Jump to Recipe
The Sourdough Research Phase
Before I started my starter, I tried to read as much as I could about what other people have done. I tried not to look at anything specifically related to gluten-free sourdough, I just wanted to know what my options were with a wide range of flours.
I Chose Flexibility
My favorite approach was the least strict. I knew that I needed some flexibility since I would be using a gluten-free flour blend. Sourdough is unique in the bread world because, instead of adding yeast to your dough, you actually create your own yeast using only water, flour, and natural yeast found in the air. It sounds a little crazy, at first, I know. But it’s a real thing.
I figured it would be harder to be a sourdough purist using gluten-free flours, so I looked for some sourdough starter recipes that weren’t so strict on the pure water, flour, and air combination. My favorite recipe called for a pinch of yeast (just a pinch!) to get things started and some honey to give your starter something to feed on.
Sourdough Starter Day 1
For the first day of my sourdough starter, I began by combining 3 tablespoons of King Arthur gluten-free flour, 3 tablespoons of very warm water, 1 pinch of yeast, and 1 teaspoon of honey.
Combine these four ingredients in a tall, hard plastic jar and stir with a small, hard plastic spatula or wooden spoon. It is recommended to not use metal. Some people worry about using glass jars but, if you are only covering your jar with a light cloth or plastic wrap, I wouldn’t be too concerned about any over-fermentation and exploding glass situations.
I have a great lightweight cloth that I cover my starter with and I keep my starter in my laundry room because it’s the warmest room in the house. The weather is warmer now, but when I started the starter, I think my kitchen would have been too cold for the starter to get traction very quickly. The recommended room temperature is 70 to 80 degrees.
Sourdough Starter Days 2-3
I was really excited to check on my sourdough starter on Day 2. It really started to expand!
For days 2 and 3, I continued to add the same gluten-free flour mix, 3 tablespoons of warm water, and a little honey. I stirred it well. I didn’t add any more yeast.
Some people suggest writing on your container or putting a rubber band around it after you feed it so you can mark its progress. I have a black band around the top of this container, so it was easy for me to mark the progress!
Sourdough Starter Day 4
On day 4, I was worried that my starter was going to overflow my container, so I discarded some and started a second starter with it. I kept reading about how you need to “discard” starter when you add to your starter … and I was so confused. How could I grow something and then throw it away. Don’t do that. Don’t really discard it! Discard it into a pancake batter or a biscuit batter. Or start another starter for a friend.
One way to test your starter to see if it has enough energy to make a loaf of bread rise is to take a small amount on a spoon and drop it in warm water. I tried this method with my gluten-free starter and it was really unclear whether or not my starter was ready. After a minute or two, it was kind of floating halfway. Meh. I waited another day to try to make bread.
Sourdough Starter Day 5
Mainly because I am an impatient person and my kids were BEGGING for sourdough bread, I decided to take a cup of my precious starter and try to make some bread. The actual bread-making process is still a work in progress!
No bread details yet … I need another post for that. Let’s just say that the first two loaves looked really pretty, but needed some tweaking. I think I finally hit the right balance with loaf #3, but I still need to make it again to see if it was just luck or if I actually figured it out.
A Few More Tips
As I mentioned at the beginning, we are in the middle a global pandemic and it’s not easy to get our hands on our regular pantry supplies. For example, I love King Arthur gluten-free flour and Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. I had a good enough supply to get me through the first 48 days of quarantine, but once I ran out, I had to make do with the gluten-free flour that’s the store brand at my local Harris Teeter.
Does type of flour or flour blend matter?
If at all possible, try not to switch the flours too often as you are growing your starter. Stick with the same flour blend, when you can. If you need to switch, switch and then stick with that new blend. I transitioned my newest starter over to a new blend and the loaf of bread that I made with it wasn’t a huge success. I have been feeding my starter with the original blend and hope to just stick with that going forward.
King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour
King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour has worked the best for us! I won’t say what hasn’t worked, but I will update this if I try more blends that are successful. If you have tried a blend that worked, please let me know!
How often should you feed your starter?
Starters can be fed every 24 hours, approximately. I do it in the evening before I go to bed. I read some recipes where starters are fed every 12 hours. That’s a lot of work. I don’t follow that plan. Your individual starter might need more or less feeding. Just watch it every day and try to respond accordingly.
What does hydration mean?
I like to feed my starter with equal parts flour and water. That is 100% hydration. Some people feed their starters using different hydration ratios. Twice as much water than flour, for example. 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. For now, I am sticking with my equal parts of flour and water.
Should it smell funny?
Yes! A little funny – mainly sweet and tangy, kind of like beer. You should smell some fermentation happening. I would always taste my starter after I stirred it and fed it. I love the sour taste. You will be tasting that sour taste in your sourdough bread. No two sourdough starters taste quite the same because every starter is raised in a completely different environment. It’s kind of a cool thing to think about.
Storing Your Sourdough
After you have made your bread, or you tire of feeding your sourdough starter every day, you can cover your sourdough and put it in your refrigerator. When you put your starter in the fridge, it doesn’t need to be fed as often. Try to stick to a weekly feeding schedule for your starter once you put it in the refrigerator.
When you want to use it again, pull it out from the refrigerator and keep it at room temperature and feed it about 4 to 8 hours before you want it ready for a loaf of sourdough. The times may vary depending on how warm your house is.
Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter Recipe
How To Make Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter -- Changed and saving
It's possible to make GF sourdough starter!
- 3 tbsp gluten-free flour blend King Arthur GF Flour
- 3 tbsp lukewarm water
- 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp love
In a tall container, mix these four ingredients.
Cover with a light cloth. Set aside in a warm space - 70 to 80 degree room temp.
In 18 to 24 hours, check on your starter. If it has doubled in size, stir it. Add 3 more tablespoons of flour and warm water and a little honey. Stir. Cover and set back in a warm spot.
In 18 to 24 hours, check the starter again. Stir. Add 3 more tablespoons warm water and GF flour and a little honey. Stir. Cover. Set back in a warm spot.
For day 4, if the starter is expanding beyond the capacity of your container, remover some of the starter and set aside for another recipe or start another starter for a friend. Add 3 tablespoons warm water and gf flour. You can also add honey.
For day 5, stir. Check to see if the sourdough can float in warm water by taking a teaspoon out and putting it in water. If it floats, it's ready to make a loaf of bread. Feed your starter again. Add 3 tablespoons flour and warm water. Honey is optional. Stir. Cover and set back in a warm spot.
Day 6 - your starter should be good to be used in a loaf of sourdough bread. You can remove one cup of the starter to make a loaf of bread. Feed the remaining starter with the same 3 tablespoons warm water and flour. Cover and set back in a warm spot.
Day 7 and beyond ... d if you want to make bread regularly, keep your starter on a counterop and continue to feed it daily. If you don't want to make sourdough bread regulalry, put your starter in the fridge, well covered. Feed your starter weekly once you put it in the refrigerator.
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