The Best GF Sourdough Starter

Since I’ve been caught talking to the sourdough starter on several occasions, my family has taken to teasing me about my pet. Hey, I like to think of it as a welcome part of the family. Yes I have to feed and water it, but it doesn’t make a mess and never gives me any grief. In the morning while coffee is brewing it takes just a couple minutes to feed and stir. Quite honestly, it’s way easier than my husband, kids, or dogs to take care of.

If you were a bread addict like me before going G.F. then you probably love sourdough. Having lived most of my life in Anchorage, Alaska, I felt obligated to learn the art of sourdough, and I was proud to have kept my early, non-GF starter alive for over ten years. My mom, who taught me everything I know about it, even won first place for her sourdough pancakes at the Fur Rondy, which is a huge accomplishment in Anchorage.

For the longest time I avoided trying a GF starter, thinking naïvely that it couldn’t taste as good. Now, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Sourdough has an amazing and unique flavor, tangy and a little sweet. It’s versatile, too; there’s not much I haven’t made with sourdough: banana bread, brownies, crêpes, corn bread, etc. The best part is that it has many health benefits as well.

Speaking of health benefits, sourdough is:

  • a combination of wild yeast and healthy bacterias;
  • low glycemic (won’t spike blood sugars as much) because the sugars and starches are eaten by the yeasts during the fermentation process;
  • easier to digest, full of lactobacillus and other gut-friendly bacteria — also, proteins are broken down into amino acid, all of which helps to control the growth of yeast in the stomach, preventing overgrowth;
  • loaded with easily digestible nutrients like iron, B1,  B6,  B12, folate, thiamine, niacin, vitamin E, riboflavin, selenium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium;
  • known for developing acetic acid, a natural mold inhibitor — sourdough naturally preserves itself; and best of all,
  • an easy-care pet that won’t eat your shoes or get hair on your pillow

5 Simple rules to remember for keeping sourdough alive

  • Do not store in metal container
  • Do not stir with metal utensils
  • Feed daily if on counter
  • Feed monthly if in fridge
  • Keep in a warm, but not hot, area of the kitchen

The recipe below is the easiest I have found that helps ensure success. By using dry active yeast it helps to grow the correct bacteria and reduces the chance of mold growth before your sourdough is ready. You can add the contents of a probiotic capsule to boost healthy bacteria growth further. Should you not have dry active yeast, you can make sourdough without it, but then it may take up to 8 days for fermentation to happen because you are trying to capture wild yeast. The dry active yeast helps to encourage wild yeast to grow faster.

In different areas of the world, flavor and time to cultivate wild yeast vary. San Francisco is known for the flavor of its wild yeast, which is particularly sour — hence, sourdough.

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Days 1 & 2
Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Days 1 & 2
  • medium glass container (holds 4-6 cups)
  • rubber spatula
  • 1 cup water (110- 115°F)
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast (helps ensure the right yeast grows)
  • 1 1/2 cup white rice flour
  •  Additional flour for daily feedings

I use a fido jar; here is an example on Amazon.com of a set of three different sizes.

Make certain your jar and spatula are sterilized and dry, then add all ingredients and mix well. Mixture should be thick. Cover with several layers of cheesecloth or paper toweling and secure with a rubber band. Place jar someplace warm and safe from spills. Once or twice a day, feed your starter lovingly.

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Days 3 & 4
Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Days 3 & 4

You can use as little as 1 tablespoon, or as much as a cup, of equal parts flour and water. You can use various GF flours to feed the starter. I have successfully used rice, GF oat, and buckwheat flours. Stir well after each feeding, and expect the level to rise and fall throughout the process. Within 3 to 5 days the starter will begin to bubble and have a pleasant vinegar smell. The a layer of liquid that develops on top is called HOOCH. Should the hooch layer be substantial just cut back on the water a little for your future feedings. You should never see mold or pink slime; throw it out and try again if that happens.

GF Sourdough day 5 With A Layer of Hooch on Top
GF Sourdough day 5 With A Layer of Hooch on Top

Make sure your container is double the size of sourdough you plan on keeping. The starter loves to grow and bubble out of a small container. I use a flip top glass jar with a rubber gasket. After the first five days of initial fermentation, I close and latch the sourdough for half an hour after each feeding to keep unwanted things out. When the inside of the jar starts to look a little crusted, pour your sourdough starter into a clean plastic bowl and wash your jar or crock well, then return the starter to its home.

Expert tip: jar-cleaning day is always a great day to make your favorite sourdough recipe in the bowl; just don’t return all of it to the jar after you clean it.

If you plan to use you sourdough frequently, leave it out and feed daily. If you only want to use it once in a while, feed it then cover tightly with lid and refrigerate up to a month without feeding. Once a month, you need to feed it at least one tablespoon of flour and water and then return it to the fridge. When you are ready to use the refrigerated sourdough starter, take it out the day before and feed it so that it will be ready for use the next day. Try to estimate the starter you will be using and feed accordingly so you will have at least 1 cup of starter left in the jar for future growth and use.

Sourdough Starter
Sourdough Starter
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