Thursday, January 6, 2011

Project: Gluten-Free Sourdough

Since my Starter-Along series on Serious Eats, I've been working on a new project: gluten-free sourdough.

Making the starter sounded fairly simple. After all, I've made starters with whole wheat, spelt, and rye flour. I thought that the starter would be the easy part.

But nooooooooo....

The problem was that I grew mold at about the same rate I grew "good" bubbles. So I scrapped a lot of starters. The bacteria and yeast in a starter should be able to ward off the stuff you don't want growing, and it wasn't working with the gluten free flours I was using.

After growing a lot of fur, I finally (I think) found a way to ward off the mold and encourage the good bacteria and yeast at the same time. So far so good.

But I'm still not happy with the starter. There's an odd odor to it. Not funky like a new rye starter, and not boozy or milky like a regular sourdough starter can get. The best way I can describe it is as a chemical odor. Not like the acetone smell of an unfed regular starter, but something else.

But hey, it was lively as heck, so I baked with it.

The result wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. The chemical smell mostly disappeared during baking, but there was still a tiny hint of it.

The texture wasn't wonderful, either. Not horrible, but not great. I'm not blaming the starter for that, though - I need to work on the recipe itself.

The really odd thing, though, is that the dough didn't want to brown. I made a pizza with the oven preheated at 550 degrees, and the crust barely browned after 12 minutes. It should have been done in seven or eight minutes. So that's another thing I need to work on.

This is definitely a work in progress, I've got plenty of ideas how to fix it.

I'll get there. Stay tuned.


Ethan said...

I am very excited to see you are working on a GF sourdough starter! My wife was diagnosed with celiac disease 4 years ago and I do all the cooking for her.

I would love to make some sour dough bread for her sometime. Please keep us posted on your progress. I am interested in hearing how you overcome the obstacles GF flours often present.


Donna Currie said...

Ethan, I'm pretty determined about getting this to work. It might take a while, but I think I'll figure it out.

kittyninja2000 said...

I am also excited you are working on this, my mother-in-law,(mil) has Celiac and I love having recipes to make and share with her.

C.L. said...

I wonder what's causing that. I have had no issues creating a starter from brown rice flour. It took a while longer than my wheat starters did and did have an unpleasant odor for a few days. But once it really became active the smell changed completely to a yeasty and eventually somewhat sweet smell. Very pleasant. I've had the same thing happen with whole wheat flour.

I actually use it for regular baking, too, since I can just culture a wheat flour sponge out of it. I use only a tiny bit of starter in my sponge to allow a slow flavor buildup, so this works nicely without any rice flour flavor. It's much easier than keeping two starters.

Donna Currie said...

C.L, it's nice to know that it's possible. I'm going to try it again with brown rice flour, but after so many tired and growing mold pretty consistently, I decided that I needed a break from it.

Linda @KitchenTherapy said...

After many moldy trials, I have successfully made wheat starter with pineapple juice as the liquid. I would like to credit the originator of this idea (a famous baker and popular baking author) but alas I can't remember his name. I have not tried it with gluten free flours though.

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