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Gluten Free Sourdough Starter | Wild Yeast

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter | Wild Yeast

How to make a gluten free sourdough starter from scratch, step by step. Make it for love of the taste or for lack of commercial yeast. Get started today!

Simple Wild Yeast Gluten Free Sourdough Starter, active and bubbling, ready to be used in baking.

What is a wild yeast sourdough starter?

A wild yeast sourdough starter, gluten free or otherwise, is a combination of flour and non-chlorinated water that is combined to creative an environment conducive to the growth of the naturally occurring yeast that is all around us and in gluten free flours.

It’s essentially a controlled rot, like kombucha, but if you think of it like that, you may not ever want to make it so let’s move on. When yours is good and active, as described in the recipe card below, you’ll be ready to bake fresh gluten free sourdough bread with it!

Are all sourdough starters gluten free?

No! They’re not. If a sourdough starter was made with gluten-containing flours, it contains gluten and should be avoided if you are on a gluten free diet. Period.

The wild yeast does not remove the gluten from gluten-containing flours. Please consider the source if anyone tells you otherwise.

Why bake with wild yeast?

Commercial yeast, like the instant yeast granules that we use in our gluten free white sandwich bread and many other gluten free bread recipes, is a single, isolated strain of yeast.

A pure “wild yeast” starter contains no commercial yeast at all. A wild yeast sourdough starter is great when you can’t get your hands on commercial yeast because the cupboards are bare.

Once it’s “active,” a sourdough starter can be used to create sourdough breads of all kinds. I have a whole chapter of pure sourdough breads in my bread book, GFOAS Bakes Bread.

Those recipes are more complex, and use my gluten free bread flour blend which contains some harder-to-source ingredients. This recipe is for a simple, liquid wild yeast gluten free sourdough starter, and the recipes are not interchangeable.

It does take time to cultivate, though, so it’s not a quick fix. It also must be maintained by being refreshed at least once a week. Otherwise, it may become inactive or over-active and spoiled.

Gluten free wild yeast sourdough starter being fed with spring water and gluten ree flours, and then being mixed with a nonreactive spoon.

Tools and ingredients + general rules

Flours

I have always found it easiest to create a sourdough starter using a combination of sweet white sorghum flour and teff flour, and following it up with our gum-free gluten free flour blend. I have also successfully made a starter using brown rice flour, and I have read good things about using buckwheat flour.

Water

You will need to use bottled or at least distilled water. Regular tap water contains chlorine which will kill yeast. Make sure that all of your tools that were washed with tap water are dried completely.

Container and spoon

You will also need a nonreactive container and spoon. Stainless steel is nonreactive, and it’s really fine. In an abundance of caution, I tend to avoid all metal, especially before the starter is fully active. But don’t make yourself crazy.

How to make a gluten free sourdough starter from scratch, step by step. Make it for love of the taste or for lack of commercial yeast. Get started today!

Troubleshooting

My starter hasn’t become active at all

Yeast bread baking is an art as well as a science, and has a (sometimes very frustrating) learning curve. Creating a pure wild yeast sourdough starter is doubly so. The most important ingredient is patience.

If you do have a bit of commercial yeast on hand, you can add a few grams to the mixture to give your starter a boost. Over time, the commercial yeast will be replaced by wild yeast.

If you’re tempted to try to increase the ambient temperature surrounding your starter in an effort to help it grow, you can try lining a heating pad with multiple layers of towels and keeping it on low. Be careful, though, because all yeast will die at very high temperatures.

Wild yeast gluten free sourdough starter showing a rise line after the starter rose overnight.

My starter hasn’t doubled

The doubling sometimes happens so quickly and can be so fragile with this type of simple wild yeast gluten free starter that I couldn’t even manage to get a photo of it as doubled.

If you assume it must have doubled because it’s so active, try noticing whether there is any residue on the jar above the top of mixture that looks like it could have been left from a risen starter level. You can see in the photo above that there’s a “rise line” that is above a cleaner section of the jar.

It also might be worth proceeding with a small-yield recipe. It depends upon whether or not you’re willing to risk wasting some ingredients. You can also make crackers if the mixture doesn’t rise! 

I think my starter has gone bad

Remember, this is essentially a controlled rot of ingredients using available wild yeast. Don’t take chances with your health.

If you see something in your starter at any point that has a color you don’t recognize, or the odor is at all disturbing and different, please discard it and begin again.

I forgot to feed or refresh my starter

Honestly, it’s probably just fine. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you have to feed your starter every single day, or that you have to start over again if you miss a step.

If you suspect that something has gone wrong, start again if you can. You don’t want to throw good money after bad.

There’s a strange liquid on top of my starter

It’s called “hooch” and you can stir it back in, then discard and feed or just feed, depending upon which step of the process you’re completing. I prefer to drain off the liquid because it makes for a more sour starter, and my family doesn’t love that.

Where’s are the recipes for using the gluten free sourdough starter?

I’m happy to report that I’ve published the first recipe using this wild yeast sourdough starter. Here is a link to our first blog recipe for pure gluten free sourdough bread. I’ll continue to update this post with links to recipes as soon as they are ready for prime time.

Creating a wild yeast sourdough starter takes days, so I published this post right away to get you started quickly. Patience, grasshopper. 🐛 I promise more is coming!

 
How to make a gluten free sourdough starter from scratch, step by step. Make it for love of the taste or for lack of commercial yeast. Get started today!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Yield: 1 recipe sourdough starter

Ingredients

To Create The Starter: per day, for 5 to 7 days
1 cup (about 120 grams) whole grain gluten free flour*

1 cup (8 fluid ounces) spring water or distilled water

*The best whole grain flours for a gluten free wild yeast starter are: A combination of sweet white sorghum flour & teff flour; brown rice flour; buckwheat flour.

To Refresh The Starter: per week, indefinitely, and before/after using
1/2 cup (about 70 grams) gum-free gluten free flour**

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring water or distilled water

**You can continue to use the same whole grain flour to refresh and maintain the starter, but it will affect the flavor and color of the baked goods you make with it.

Directions

  • Creating the starter
    Morning of Day One: Beginning. In a nonreactive container like a glass or ceramic jar, place 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) whole grain gluten free flour(s) and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring or distilled water. Using a nonreactive mixing spoon (like a wooden or silicone spoon), mix to combine well. Cover the container loosely, and allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

    Evening of Day 1: Building. Remove the cover of the container, and add another 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) whole grain gluten free flour(s) and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring or distilled water. Using a nonreactive mixing spoon (like a wooden or silicone spoon), mix to combine well. Cover the container loosely, and allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

  • Morning of Day 2: Building. Remove the cover of the container, and add another 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) whole grain gluten free flour(s) and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring or distilled water. Using a nonreactive mixing spoon (like a wooden or silicone spoon), mix to combine well. Cover the container loosely, and allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

    Evening of Day 2: Building. Remove the cover of the container, and add another 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) whole grain gluten free flour(s) and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring or distilled water. Using a nonreactive mixing spoon (like a wooden or silicone spoon), mix to combine well. Cover the container loosely, and allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

  • Morning and Evening of Days 3 through 7 and beyond: Building and/or Discarding/Building: Remove the cover of the container, and inspect the contents by tapping the jar on the counter to see if bubbles begin to break the surface of the mixture, and smelling it to see if it has any sour odor at all. If it does bubble and have an odor, discard any relatively clear liquid that has accumulated on top (called “hooch”) + about 1/3 of the volume. Then feed it: Add another  1/2 cup (about 70 grams) gum-free gluten free flour and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring or distilled water. Using a nonreactive mixing spoon (like a wooden or silicone spoon), mix to combine well. If it doesn’t bubble and have an odor, do not discard but feed with 1/2 cup whole grain flour and 1/2 cup water as directed above. Cover the container loosely, and allow to sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

  • When is the starter ready to use? The starter is ready when you have been feeding and discarding for at least one whole day, and it has ever doubled in size. The doubling is easily disturbed, though, and typically won’t last for very long. It just has to have occurred for you to confidently use it in a bread-baking recipe (coming soon). Before using the starter, you should have fed it within approximately the previous 12 hours. After using the properly fed starter, refresh it (see the next step for instructions), allow it to sit covered on the counter for about 12 hours, and then refrigerate it until it’s ready to be refreshed or used.

  • Refreshing your active starter. An active starter can be used for baking, then refreshed and stored, covered, in your refrigerator for about a week. After about a week, you should refresh it by removing it from the refrigerator, discarding about 1/3 of the volume (including any clear liquid or hooch from the top), adding 1/2 cup (70 grams) gum-free gluten free flour and 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) spring water or distilled water, and mixing with a nonreactive spoon. Cover the starter and allow it to sit on the counter for about 12 hours before returning it to the refrigerator. Repeat the process every week for the life of the starter.

Much love,
Nicole

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