Learning that wheat is not on the menu anymore can feel heartbreaking. What about sourdough bread and that intoxicating aroma and flavor? With a little adjustment, even people with gluten intolerance can enjoy a slice of warm sourdough bread.
If you are just starting with gluten-free baking, everything will seem strange at first. Take time to learn about the process and be very forgiving of mistakes. No one makes a perfect loaf the first time.
USING A GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER
Our Gluten-free Sourdough Starter is gluten-free and maintained with brown rice flour. If rice is a concern, there are a few alternative methods to using this starter. You can...
- Begin with a commercial starter and transition it to a new flour once active.
- Create a wild yeast sourdough starter.
- Create a starter from milk kefir or kombucha.
It's also important to note that gluten-free sourdough starters work faster than gluten sourdough starters. Because of this, plan to feed the starter every 4-6 hours at room temperature. If refrigerated, the starter will need to be refreshed every 3-4 days.
CHOOSING INGREDIENTS FOR GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH BAKING
High-gluten flours have a mix of properties that create a soft, chewy, leavened bread. Gluten-free flours must be combined to achieve comparable results. Follow a tested recipe or make substitutions following our Guide to Flour Substitutions in Gluten-free Sourdough Baking.
Without gluten, there is nothing to hold the flour together. Culturing the dough will help the proteins to form a better structure, but to create a loaf of bread that rises and can be sliced easily, some sort of binder will need to be used. Consult our Guide to Binders in Gluten-free Sourdough Baking to learn more about choosing a binder.
Mixing and Baking Gluten-free Sourdough Bread
Gluten-free bread dough will be a thick batter, similar to brownie batter. Since there is no gluten to develop, the dough is not kneaded. A stand mixer is a good investment if you plan to bake frequently.
The batter-like dough tends to spread during proofing and baking, so it is best baked in a pan. A trip to the kitchen store or an online search will reveal a plethora of fun pans for your breads!
Proofing tends to be much faster with gluten-free bread. While it can take up to 6-8 hours in cooler weather, bread is often ready for baking in 1-2 hours. Overproofing is common, but will not harm the final bread. If the dough has risen too much, stir it down in the pan and let it rise for another 20 minutes, then bake as directed.
Always cool bread before serving. While slicing into a hot loaf is tempting, the binders used to make a sandwich loaf do not work fully until cooled. Slicing into a hot loaf will cause it to collapse and become gummy.
Dealing with Failure
Every baker experiences failure occasionally. Learning a new skill set like gluten-free baking means there will be failures in the beginning.
Bread that doesn’t rise well makes great bread crumbs. Misshapen loaves can be turned into stuffing or french toast. Rarely is there a loaf that is completely unusable.
With some practice and attention to detail, sourdough bread can be made and enjoyed at home for a fraction of the cost of a commercial loaf of gluten-free bread. And it will be much more flavorful!