Nothing compares to the chewy, rustic flavor of a loaf of sourdough bread. With its thick brown crust and rich, deep flavor, it’s the perfect pairing for a steaming bowl of soup or a pat of fresh butter.
Unfortunately, sourdough bread is not something you’re likely to find in the gluten free aisle at your local grocery store. You can, however, make it yourself at home if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. For an easier and even more delicious option, try any Schär breads, which are made with a sourdough base.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about gluten free sourdough.
What is Sourdough Bread, Anyway?
If you don’t already know what sourdough bread is, you may be surprised to learn that it is made by fermenting the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in flour. Traditional recipes for sourdough bread typically include some kind of sourdough starter (a mixture of flour and water) along with salt and flour. This type of bread doesn’t require any milk, oil, or sweetener.
So, how exactly does sourdough bread work?
Sourdough bread is known for its tangy taste. The signature tartness that makes sourdough unique comes from the live yeast cultures. The fact that it is made with live rather than dried yeast not only affects the flavor, but also increases the shelf-life of the baked bread. Sourdough is made by fermenting lactobacillus cultures, the same probiotic bacteria you find in yogurt and other fermented foods.
What Are the Benefits of Sourdough?
Sourdough is loaded with unique health benefits. The nutritional value of sourdough varies depending on the flour used, but a medium slice (about 2 ounces) generally contains about 160 calories with 32g carbohydrate, 6g protein, 2 to 4g fiber, and just 2g fat.
But what are the health benefits of sourdough? Here are a few:
- It is easier to digest than most bread due to the prebiotic content – prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract to support digestion.
- The fermentation process modifies the structure of carbohydrate molecules, reducing the glycemic index of the bread – this means that it will have a lower impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels than regular bread.
- The lactobacillus bacteria in sourdough bread removes phytates and enzyme inhibitors during the fermentation process due to higher levels of lactic acid.
- In addition to producing lactic acid, the fermentation process also produces acetic acid which helps inhibit the growth of mold, acting as a natural preservative.
- The lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread play a role in producing beneficial compounds like antioxidants, anti-allergenic substances, and even cancer-preventive peptides.
Not only is sourdough loaded with health benefits, but it is actually very cost-effective to make as well. Depending on the type of flour(s) you use, you can actually save money by baking your own bread at home. Once you get used to the recipe, you’ll be able to make it very efficiently as often as you like.
Making Your Own Sourdough Starter
To make your own gluten free sourdough bread, you’ll need a sourdough starter. You can purchase gluten free sourdough starters online, but it’s always best to make your own, when possible.
Here’s a simple recipe for a basic gluten free sourdough starter:
- Gluten free flour blend
- Filtered water
- Whisk together the gluten free flour blend and filtered water in a bowl until well combined.
- Cover the bowl with a plate, leaving a ½-inch gap to allow air to circulate.
- Let the bowl sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
- Twice a day, at regular intervals, whisk another ½ cup of flour and ½ cup filtered water into the bowl.
- Whisk the mixture until smooth then cover – this is called feeding the starter.
- Repeat this process twice a day for 6 days, watching carefully.
- When the starter becomes very bubbly and creates a dome on top about 2 to 3 hours after each feeding, it is ready to use (at this point it is sometimes called the sponge).
It’s really that easy to make your own gluten free sourdough starter! While the entire process takes nearly a week, it only requires a few minutes of active time and, once it’s ready, you can use it to make homemade sourdough bread right in your own kitchen.
Baking the Perfect Sourdough Bread
Once you’ve finished your sourdough starter, you can use it right away. In fact, the sooner you use it after it’s ready, the better. You want to use the starter when the yeast is still active – once it runs out of food, it will go dormant. Sourdough starters peak about 2 to 3 hours after each feeding, so that’s the best time to start your recipe.
You should also know that sourdough recipes call for more water than most breads. If you’ve baked bread before, this might come as a surprise, but don’t be tempted to skimp on the water – sourdough is naturally wetter than breads made with dried yeast. If you’re using a traditional sourdough recipe and altering it to make it gluten free, start by mixing the water with half the flour and let it sit for 10 minutes before moving forward.
Here’s a basic sourdough bread recipe to try using your homemade starter:
- 2 cups sourdough starter
- 2/3 cup water
- 4 large eggs, whisked
- 1 ½ cups sorghum flour
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1 cup millet flour
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons xanthan gum
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/3 cup oil
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter, water, and eggs.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.
- Stir the oil into the dry ingredients until well blended.
- With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in the wet ingredients until well blended.
- Let the dough rest in a warm place for at least 6 to 8 hours.
- Divide the dough into three or four pieces (depending on the desired size of your loaf) and refrigerate all but one of the pieces.
- Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, being careful not to disturb it too much.
- Let rest for 4 to 8 hours then preheat the oven to 500°F with a cast-iron Dutch oven inside.
- Gently slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife then place it in the Dutch oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes, covered, then reduce the oven temperature to 450°F.
- Let it bake for another 20 minutes until the crust is browned.
- Cool completely before slicing.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for a range of rest times – this is because different batches of sourdough will rise at different rates. Keep a close eye on your dough as it rises so you can catch it at the perfect time. Also know that the faster your dough rises, the less sour it will be and the warmer the temperature, the faster it will rise. If your sourdough rises too much or too quickly, it will bake into a flat disc – you don’t want that.
Tasty Ways to Use Sourdough Bread
Now that you’re an expert at making gluten free sourdough bread, you may be wondering how else you can use your homemade sourdough starter. Here are two simple recipes you’ll enjoy:
Gluten Free Sourdough Flatbread
- 1 cup gluten free sourdough starter
- 2 cups gluten free flour blend
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon instant dry yeast
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large egg
- Place the sourdough starter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- In another bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour, sugar, salt, xanthan gum, and yeast.
- Add the dry ingredients to the starter, mixing on low speed until just combined.
- Stir in the water, olive oil, and egg then beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until thick.
- Let the dough rest for 1 to 1 ½ hours then preheat the oven to 500°F.
- Stir the dough then line three baking sheets with parchment and brush with oil.
- Portion the dough onto the baking sheets in 4- to 5-inch rounds.
- Sprinkle the flatbreads with seeds or seasoning and bake for 5 minutes or until crisp.
Gluten Free Sourdough English Muffins
- ¾ cup gluten free flour blend
- ¾ cup potato starch
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
- 1 cup gluten free sourdough starter
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 large egg
- Whisk together the gluten free flour, potato starch, salt, xanthan gum, and yeast.
- Place the sourdough starter in the bowl of a stand mixer then beat in the dry ingredients until well combined.
- Stir in the water, oil, and egg then beat on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until thick.
- Cover the bowl and let rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours until puffy and slightly risen.
- Preheat an electric griddle and grease six English muffin rings with oil.
- Place the rings on the griddle and divide the batter among them.
- Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are just set then remove the rings carefully.
- Let the muffins cook for 8 to 10 minutes on one side then slip.
- Cook for another 6 to 10 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 210°F.
- Remove the muffins to a cooling rack and cool completely before cutting.
If you’ve been mourning the loss of sourdough bread since you went gluten free, you’ll be glad to know that it’s back on the menu! By making your own batch of sourdough starter, you can bake crusty and delicious sourdough bread at home.
Not ready to try your hand at baking? That’s okay because we have a full line gluten free bread made with a sourdough base. With tons of variety, you’re sure to find a slice you’ll love.