Yes, that's right, I'm trying a gluten free sourdough starter. In my gluten-eating days, sourdough bread was at the top of my list. I remember helping my dad bake sourdough bread when I was a kid; my dad is a great bread baker and many an hour was spent in the kitchen with him kneading and watching hopeful loaves expand. As a teenager, I got a sourdough starter for Amish Friendship Bread, an overly sugared and buttery fluffy, white flour sourdough batter bread (the thought of that bread now makes me gag). But as an adult, I'd never tried my own hand at it. I was always so intrigued by the concept of the sourdough starter; a simple fermented mix of flour and water, full of live cultures that break down the grain proteins and naturally leaven the loaves. But when I baked raised bread, I always used yeast, which I hated to mess with. So, more often than not, I made quick breads, sweet or savory. When I bought sandwich bread or a rustic loaf, I most often bought sourdough or yeast-free breads, often from the French Meadow Bakery, a great bakery here in Minneapolis that makes yeast-free, naturally leavened loaves. As a side note, unfortunately, they do not bake any gluten-free breads, although they do make gluten-free pre-made and frozen batter brownies and cookies that, I hear through the grapevine, are awfully tasty. You can find their breads/brownies/cookies in co-ops and natural food stores all over the country.
Anyway, I love sourdough. Now that I'm embarking on a variety of kitchen experiments under my new dietary restrictions, I decided I wanted to try my hand at making a sourdough starter, with the end result of creating a naturally leavened, baker's yeast-free loaf of gluten-free bread. Maybe it is a bit risky to be fermenting my own sourdough with my Candida Albicans overgrowth, but I have been on a candida-friendly diet for almost 9 full months now, and reintroducing healthy fermented foods in moderation is a risk I'm willing to take at this point. Fermenting stuff is an interest of mine that I haven't fully explored to the extent of my desire yet - I'd love to try making my own sauerkraut, want to do more experimenting with kefir, and am now on the this sourdough starter kick. Fermented foods are wonderful, they are chock full of good bacteria. Naturally leavened breads allow for the full nutritional potential of the grain to develop, breaking down the complex carbohydrates and proteins in to sugars and amino acids, creating a more easily digested product.
So, here goes! I am using the basic recipe for sourdough starter from Paul Pitchford's amazing book, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, with a few alterations. I am using a mix of quinoa and millet flours instead of whole wheat, and am choosing to feed the starter on day 2. Many recipes online call for feeding the starter each day with additional flour and water, while others (like Pitchford's) say to stir each day, but not feed. So, I'm feeding it once. As a side note, Healing with Whole Foods truly is a must-have for anyone interested in the healing properties of food, natural health, and whole foods cooking and nutrition. It features excellent recipes and techniques, as well as extremely practical advice on natural treatments of ailments and diseases, from the common cold to cancer to fibromyalgia. It is full of so much incredible information I don't know where to begin, other than saying I reference this book constantly.
Without further adieu, let the fermenting begin!
QUINOA-MILLET GLUTEN FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER (gluten free, yeast free, vegan)
1 c quinoa flour and millet flour, combined, plus additional 1/2 c each later
1 c filtered water, plus additional 1 c later
large glass jar (32 oz or larger)
non-metal spoon (wood, bamboo, etc)
Making the starter:
- Sterilize a spoon and large glass jar by boiling them in water. Use a non-metal spoon if possible, as metal affects the fermentation.
- Place water and flour in jar and stir to mix thoroughly.
- Cover with cloth, and secure with string or rubber band. Store in a warm place out of direct sunlight.
- Day 1: After 24 hours, stir with a sterilized spoon, recover, and let sit for another 24 hours.
- Day 2: Add additional 1/2 c water and flour, and stir to evenly mix. Cover, and let sit another 24 hours.
- Day 3: Stir again to evenly mix. Your starter is ready! In total, your starter will sit for 3 days, getting stirred each day and being fed on Day 2. To store, cover loosely and keep in a cool place, like a root cellar or your refrigerator.
- To use starter, remove desired amount from jar. Replace with equal amount flour and water, stir to mix, and put back in cool place.
According to my dad, who is visiting me, the starter almost grew outside the jar by this afternoon, then, at some point, collapsed. Bizarre! When I found it, it was just slightly larger than yesterday, filling only about 1/2 the jar. It has grown very foamy and thick and is bubbling up storm. The bottom of the jar is slightly warm, and it has started to develop a slight sour smell - but not in a bad way. In a sourdough way! But it still smells like wet quinoa. I stirred it up with a sterilzed bamboo spoon, added an additional 1/2 c each water and quinoa flour, and stirred again until thoroughly mixed. It started bubbling again almost immediently. So, I covered it again, and put the jar in a sterilized glass bowl, just in case it overflows, and threw it back on the shelf. This photo shows more of the funky bubbles, and how the color sort of changed before I stirred it all up. Everytime I moved the jar, a bubble would pop and the surface would jiggle!
DAY 3: TUESDAY, JAN 27
It is starting to smell less like quinoa and more like sourdough, but still isn't bubbling like crazy like it was. A few small bubbles on the surface and the side, a little seperation of liquid on the top and bottom, and a little foam, but not much. My dad, who is spending his last night in Mpls this evening, and has made his own sourdough starter before, thinks it is doing okay. So, I stirred it up, and decided to let it go for a fourth day. I did not feed it. I forgot to take a picture.
I came home to find a bit of hooch on the top, the dark liquid that forms during fermentation. So, I dumped that off, took a whiff of my starter, and was met with a sourdough smell. Yippee! It looks a little foamy, and there are some bubbles on the side. So I'm struggling to know what to do next. Technically, my starter could be done. But some things I've read online say to let it sit longer than Pitchford's recipe calls for. So, call it "done", and use it? Stir and let it sit? Feed it and let it sit? My inclination is to let my starter baby sit for one more day...but to feed or not to feed, that is the question...
I removed about 1 c of the starter, then added 1/2 c millet flour and 1/2 c filtered water, and stirred. For fun, I decided to keep the removed portion, and added 1/4 c millet flour and 1/4 c filtered water, just to see what would happen. I now have two starters, a big one, and a little one...until tomorrow!
DAY 5: THURSDAY, JAN 29: IT'S DONE! OR, AT LEAST, I THINK IT'S DONE...
Okay, I've decided this thing is ready to use. A layer of the hooch liquid stuff formed at the top of both jars, and I dumped that off, and got a good sourdoughy smell. It looked just like it did yesterday, and I've read online that when your sourdough is ready to use, it may stop bubbling all together. So, I've decided to try using this bad boy. I'll be posting my first-ever recipe attempt at gluten free sourdough bread shortly! I've settled on a quinoa-millet-sorghum blend with flax seed, and it is rising in a bowl as I write this blog...
For fun, I mixed 1/4 c buckwheat flour in with the smaller of the two starters, along with 1/4 c water. I'm going to try keeping both of these alive, and we'll see what happens! I have a vision for a buckwheat-quinoa-millet bread using the buckwheat starter.
So, in the end, I added more flour than my recipe called for, let it sit for two additional days, and have no idea if it will work. So, stay tuned for updates!