A sourdough starter is a simple mixture of water and flour. In a gluten-free sourdough starter, that flour is often brown rice, though other flours can be used. This mixture of flour and water creates the perfect medium for the yeasts, acids, and other microorganisms that ferment and leaven bread into a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread.
Why Use an Established Sourdough Starter?
The Cultures for Health Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter imparts an established colony of microorganisms into the flour-water mixture. There are many benefits to starting with an established starter, not the least of which is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that this strain of starter has already been used to produce good bread.
Furthermore, an established starter has demonstrated its preference for a specific food source. Various flours can be used to establish a starter, but because the world of gluten-free baking contains many flour options, this decision can be both overwhelming and complicated.
While a starter can be created using gluten-free (GF) flour and water, having an established starter with an established food source (brown rice flour) brings simplicity to the process.
Activating a Gluten-free Sourdough Starter
Because the starter comes in a dehydrated state, your first step will be to rehydrate and activate the starter. This can be done using the following instructions:
- Pour contents of package into a quart-sized jar or similar container.
- Add ¼ cup room-temperature water; mix well. Add ¼ cup GF flour; stir vigorously.
- Cover with a tight-weave towel or a coffee filter, secured with a rubber band.
- Place in a warm area, 70°-85°F, for 8-12 hours.
- After 8-12 hours, feed the starter: mix in ½ cup water and a scant ½ cup GF flour. Stir vigorously.
- Cover as before and return to the warm spot for 4-8 hours.
- After 4-8 hours, discard all but ½ cup starter.
- Mix in ½ cup water and scant ½ cup GF flour; stir vigorously.
- Cover as before.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 every 4-8 hours, until mixture becomes light and bubbly, typically 3 to 7 days.
- Once starter is bubbling reliably within a few hours of being fed, feed for two more cycles, then maintain fresh starter at room temperature or cover tightly and place in the refrigerator and proceed to maintenance feeding stage.
Feeding a Gluten-free Sourdough Starter
The starter must be fed at regular intervals in order to ensure a vigorous, healthy leavening agent.
At Room Temperature
When maintained at room temperature, the starter will always be fresh and ready to use for baking within a few hours of feeding.
- Measure room temperature starter or remove ¼ cup starter from refrigerator.
- Feed starter with GF flour and water every 4 hours by using one of the following methods: If using a scale to measure ingredients, combine equal amounts by weight of starter, water, and GF flour. For instance, 50 grams of starter, 50 grams of water, 50 grams of GF flour. If using measuring cups, combine 1 part starter, 1 part water, and a little less than 1 part GF flour. For instance, ¼ cup starter, ¼ cup water, slightly less than ¼ cup GF flour.
- Cover; place in a warm area, 70°-85°F, for 4 hours.
- Repeat steps 1-3 until you have enough starter for your recipe. When preparing to bake, use the fresh starter within 3-4 hours of being fed, to ensure the starter is at its peak of activity.
In the Refrigerator
Because of the nature of gluten-free sourdough, the maintenance of this starter must be performed more frequently – approximately every 3-4 days. Maintenance of the starter is performed as follows:
- Remove at least ¼ cup starter from refrigerator. Discard remaining starter.
- Feed starter with GF flour and water by using one of two methods: If using a scale to measure ingredients, combine equal amounts by weight of starter, water, and GF flour. For instance, 50 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams GF flour. If using measuring cups, combine 1 part starter, 1 part water, and a little less than 1 part GF flour. For instance, ¼ cup starter, ¼ cup water, slightly less than ¼ cup flour.
- Cover; let starter sit for 2-3 hours, until light and bubbly.
- Put a tight lid on jar and return to refrigerator.
Extra starter may be discarded, stored in the refrigerator or kept at room temperature and fed again as above. Always retain at least ¼ cup starter to begin your next project.
Extra fresh starter from room temperature maintenance may be added to refrigerated starter for feedings, instead of performing steps 1-2.
Remember, when stored in the refrigerator, the starter should be brought to room temperature and fed at least 3 times before being used for baking.
Once a routine is established, caring for the starter will become a normal part of the kitchen routine. At that point, the starter can be used to create a host of delicious gluten-free sourdough breads and treats!