The world of gluten-free baking is different for everyone, and much seems to depend on our perspective. When we come from a strictly wheat-based background, we can be disappointed when things just aren’t the same. If we are coming from a gluten-free background, then we might have to learn quickly that sourdough takes a bit more time – and is worth every minute of it.
So, I thought I’d share a few things that may, or may not, surprise you when you begin working with your Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter.
1. Gluten-Free doughs are generally much looser than wheat-based doughs, though not always. Much of this depends on the binders you are using, and what type of bread you are creating. Using xanthan gum often results in a cake-batter consistency for a yeast bread dough, while using psyllium husks can create a more familiar, kneadable dough. When working with quick breads, like muffins and pancakes, the batter is similar in texture to the usual wheat-based version.
2. Souring the grains is just as important in gluten-free baking as it is in wheat-based baking. And maybe even more so. Many people perform a long-fermentation of 18 hours or more on wheat breads to help break down the fibers and proteins (gluten, being one of them), and make the bread more digestible. The longer the fermentation, the further the constituents of the grains are broken down. I am finding that a more thorough fermentation can result in a better, more wheat-like texture for gluten-free yeast breads.
3. There is a whole world of wonderful grains out there, don’t get stuck on rice. Some people avoid rice, others avoid all grains except “seed grains” like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. All of these cereal grains, seed grains and everything in between can be ground to make flour that can turn out all sorts of baked goods.
4. If you’re coming from the world of wheat-based baking, don’t expect it to be the same. Wheat-based sourdough breads are just a different beast all together. That said, gluten-free sourdough breads can be delightful, and I’ve found that with the right bread, even the most avid gluten-lover will ask for more. Any wheat-based recipe – like muffins, pancakes, and biscuits – that calls for not over-mixing can be made even better with GF grains because there is no gluten to toughen them up.
5. Keeping your starter happy and oft-fed is important, but it can take a lickin’. I have found that the Brown Rice Sourdough Starter is quite resilient, bouncing back after a day or more of neglect. But, if I want it in tip-top shape for a loaf I’m mixing up tonight, I will feed it three times in the day and put it next to the wood stove to get it bubbling and happy. Not doing so has resulted in a more sour, or even more alcohol-flavored baked good with less rise.