Adventures in Vegan GF Sourdough Bread

Since going GF, we have either had no bread, or expensive inferior gluten free so-called ‘bread’

gf sourdough bread
We eat gluten free tortillas, and gf muffins of course. Orange Oat Muffins from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free are one of my faves.

But sometimes you need toast, you know? Or a vegan grilled cheese sandwich!

Just when we were truly depressed about our 1st world problem of bread deprivation, I got the idea of making yeast free sourdough gluten free bread from Sandi Gaertner of Fearless Dining.

With sourdough bread, you have to start with starter. Happily for me, quite a few dedicated gf but bread deprived foodies have been developing gluten free yeast free sourdough starter, and blogging about it.

Yay Internet!

After a few months of contemplation, I jumped into the mix, and started experimenting with gf sourdough bread.

gf sourdough batter

Amazingly, on my first try, I managed to produce a presentable loaf, even though from what I know now, my first starter was a failure. Such is the power of wild yeast! The resiliency of bread. Or my pure dumb luck.

Fearless Dining’s post, ‘Bread Srsly’s Gluten Free Sourdough Bread Recipe’ was the first place I went for tips and tricks of gf sourdough starter. I followed the directions carefully, and had enough success to be wildly encouraged. It works! I can do this!

Some of what Sandi Gaertner said has been contradicted by other bloggers and my own experience. But it doesn’t matter. As Sandi pointed out, making sourdough bread is an experiment. A big adventure. So even though I might do some things differently, I’m grateful to Sandi for getting me started on sourdough starter.

gf sourdough bread 2
My first loaf of gf sourdough bread was definitely edible, but not quite what I had in mind.

I did more research, and found The Clever Carrot’s ‘Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide’. Emilie’s post is thorough, informative and helpful, with great pictures, tips, and encouraging words. Emilie said:

“Sourdough is unique because it does not require commercial yeast in order to rise. It’s made with a starter which acts as a natural leavening agent. Sourdough is known for its characteristic flavor (ranging from mild to strong), chewy texture and crisp crust.”

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“From a health standpoint, it dominates when compared to standard loaves. The naturally occurring acids and long fermentation help to break down the proteins and gluten, making it more digestible and easy for the body to absorb. And it tastes darn good.”

Emilie is not gluten free, but most of her excellent tutorial applies to making gf starter. Except for which gf flours to use.

Plus, I wondered what happens if you don’t have much protein and no gluten to break down. The bread would be more digestible, but would it rise? That’s a big problem with home-made gluten free bread. Mostly we end up with bricks. And frustration.

On to Whole New Mom’s Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter.
WNM said: “Making a gluten-free sourdough starter isn’t any different than making a regular sourdough starter.
– Both start with flour and water.
– Both take a few days and both get bubbly.
– The only real difference comes when you’re ready to make sourdough bread and you have to pull out all the various types of gluten-free flours.
I personally have successfully made gluten-free sourdough starter with brown rice, but I’ve read others have had success with white rice flour, teff, sorghum or even a gluten-free all-purpose blend.”

Whole New Mom solved a few problems for me.

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One tricky question was the flour/liquid ratio for feeding the starter. You need slightly less water than flour and that makes a big difference, as apparently the right consistency is important. Somewhere between pancake batter and quick bread batter.

Another thing was the concept of giving the sponge air. I knew that but must have forgotten it in my excitement.

And she laid to rest my doubts about whether it is possible to create a sourdough starter using gluten free flour. It certainly is.

Whole New Mom credited Don’t Waste the Crumbs for starting her sourdough career, and Tiffany’s post is great, with wonderful pictures of each stage of the fermentation process. Plus how to store your starter in the fridge and how to revive it when you want to use it. VERY useful info!

But I still wasn’t sure what specific gluten free flours to use. I wanted someone to tell me what works best, and skip that part of the experiment.

Natural Fertility and Wellness used brown rice flour only, and produced a good looking loaf. Her bread recipe called for eggs, which many gf breads rely on. But mine had to be vegan.

I turned to Jean Layton, the Gluten Free VEGAN Doctor, who loves to experiment, figure out how things work, and find better ways to bake delicious gf goodies.

I benefit daily from Jean’s ‘Pixie Dust’, a mixture of ground flax, chia seed and psyllum husk which replaces gums in vegan baking.

Jean found that a mixture of different gf flours did the trick for gf sourdough starter. She said:

“In the flour mix I attempted to match the protein, fats, fiber and carbohydrates of organic hard winter wheat flour. Why? That is the flour bread bakers who make a classic wholegrain wheat loaf use to create the thick crust, open-holed, tangy flavor and tender-threaded bread of my dreams.”

Jean created a gf flour chart as a starting point, i.e. gf starter. She did a lot of research, poring over bread cookbooks and blogs, to come up with a gf flour mix that works for gf sourdough bread, just so the rest of us don’t have to.

Thank you Dr. Jean from the bottom of my unscientific heart!

I made my second batch of sourdough starter early this morning and it’s happily bubbling away in my kitchen.

I applied tips from the blog posts I read and comments on those posts, plus a few things I’ve learned from making other naturally fermented foods: vegan yogurt, rejuvelac, a fermented potion made from sprouted grains – described in my Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook review, and dosas or Indian crepes.

First I made a mixture of flours based on Jean Layton’s starter recipe.

Then I mixed a half cup of that in a bowl with a scant 1/2 cup water. For feeding the starter, I’m adding a heaping 1/4 cup of the flour mix plus a scant 1/4 cup of water.

I used a mixture of purified water and rejuvelac for my starter, figuring that the fermented liquid would get the starter going faster. Other people have suggested using home made yogurt, kombucha, or a probiotic capsule. Rejuvelac seems to be working well for me. For sure it’s not necessary to make starter, but it could speed things up a bit.

I covered the bowl of starter with a cloth and put it in the oven with the pilot light on. Fermentation needs warmth, and no drafts. If you’ve ever made yeast bread, you’ll know you need to rise it in a warm spot free from drafts. The same principle applies to gf sourdough starter, maybe even more so.

Within an hour, my starter began to bubble. In five hours it was climbing out of the bowl, so I fed it and put it back in the oven. I’ve had to do that twice now. I don’t know if my starter will take a week, but I’m going to hang in there and see what happens. I’m thinking maybe 3 days before my patience runs out and I have to bake bread.

Growing sourdough starter is a bit like getting a wild animal to eat out of your hand, only much less work, and with delicious results. Here’s how Jean Layton expresses it: “Just food, water and time and you will have your very own wild yeast colony.”

My first loaf of sourdough bread exceeded my expectations.

I’m hopeful that my next loaf will be beyond my wildest dreams. I plan to follow Jean Layton’s recipe for a gf sourdough boule, and dust off my dutch oven. For my second batch, I’ll borrow my daughter’s baguette pan and try that.

I’m already planning to try sourdough pancakes, maybe sourdough corn pancakes.

Hey! How about sourdough waffles? Or English muffins?

Wish me luck on my wild yeastie gluten free sourdough bread adventure. I’ll report back next week. There might even be a gf sourdough bread recipe. Stay tuned and start experimenting!

The world needs real gluten free yeast free sourdough bread.

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2 Responses to “Adventures in Vegan GF Sourdough Bread”

  1. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi Madhu, baking bread could be tomorrow, or maybe Sunday. My sourdough starter appears to be coming along just like it’s supposed to :-)

  2. Madhu Pillsi says:

    Looking forward for a gluten free vegan sourdough bread recipe. Can’t wait …

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