Thursday, 10 October 2013

Baking A Gluten Free Sourdough Loaf: Putting Theory To Practice.

The process of sourdough from start to finish is a long road but it is a road well worth travelling for the outcome is rewarding and satisfying. Cataloging every step has left me with many questions to the gluten free sourdough process so there is much more baking to be done yet I was not disappointed. Some techniques used in regular sourdough need to be trialed for gluten free sourdough but for now this is process I tried and share with you to put into practice.

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter:

You will need:
100g of gluten free flour (I used a blend of wholegrain flours and measured out equal amounts of sorghum, buckwheat and millet)
100g of filtered room temperature water
A large jar
A piece of cheese cloth
A elastic band
A whisk or fork

Whisk flour and water in a small bowl. Pour this into the jar. Cover with a cheesecloth securing it around with elastic band and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature.
After 12 hours, whisk the starter and add 50g flour and 50g water, mix together. Cover and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature. Continue adding 50g flour and 50g water every 12 hours for up to a week.

24 hours

48 hours

72 hours

96 hours
There's more detail about creating and maintaining your starter here.

The starter should be “spongy” in appearance with maybe some foamy bubbles on top and some air pockets in the mixture. It should have a slight sour smell. Your starter is now active and is ready to be used.

Gluten Free Sourdough Bread Recipe:

Mix in the bowl of a stand mixer until a gel forms:
350g spring water at room temp
20g psyllium husk
10g ground flaxseed

300g starter 100% hydration
300g gluten free flour blend (60g each of sorghum, millet, buckwheat, tapioca and potato starch)
24g sugar
1 tsp salt

Mix everything until well blended.  Scoop dough out and form into an oblong shape and set to rise on parchment paper in a loaf pan.  Cover the top with plastic touching the surface of the dough.  Put the whole pan in a plastic bag and let rise 4-12 hours.  The longer it rises the more sour it will be but the less oven spring you will get.

Shaped dough

Dough before rise

Dough after rise

Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F) with a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone inside.  Score the bread, brush with water, cover with a tin foil tent cover and open at the ends then carefully place it in the hot oven. Bake until when the loaf is tapped it sounds hollow, about 40 minutes. Remove the tent foil and bake until the crust feels crisp on top, about 10 minutes.  Let cool several hours before slicing.

As you can see this recipe creates a good sourdough loaf with even crumb and a chewy but not tough crust. What you can't see is the flavour which I can tell you is delicious!
There is other techniques and methods with regular sourdough I would like to try with this process, that gluten free sourdough may still benefit from. 
So there will always be a jar with a starter living in it on my kitchen bench, ready to be used. I would like to know how everyone else gets on and what techniques you may try and the outcomes.
Now go, get started and dedicate some well worthy time to making your own gluten free sourdough bread!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Getting 'Started' To Make A Gluten Free Sourdough.

The first step in the sourdough process is getting a starter together. Gluten-free sourdough starter can be made in as little as seven days using gluten-free flour, water and a medium-sized bowl. I personally have successfully made gluten-free sourdough starter with sorghum flour, but I've read others have had success with buckwheat flour, teff, and millet.

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.

Here’s a very simple explanation of the process:
  1. flour + water –> natural enzymes break down starches into glucose (sugar)
  2. natural bacteria (tang) + glucose = food for natural yeast
  3. natural yeast + food = carbon dioxide –> natural leaven
  4. natural leaven + more flour + more water –> more natural leaven
A good sourdough starter takes time and patience. Gluten free sourdough starter takes a little coaxing and a lot of patience. There are a lot of variables involved and if you are interested in making a gluten-free starter be prepared to make adjustments to account for the moods and whims for your particular starter.

Several things depends if your starter will thrive:

  • Temperature:  It is important to keep your starter in a warm place; if it gets too cold it won't be active enough to work.  Maintaining warm temps throughout the starter creation process helps to establish good yeast and bacterial multiplication and a healthy starter ecosystem.
  • Water:  Non-chlorinated water like filtered of spring is best for a sourdough culture. Tap water has been treated with chlorine for the nasty microorganisms lurking in the water supply. The chlorine also kills other microorganisms – the bacteria and yeasts you need to keep a lively starter. Using a filtering system removes the chlorine as well as heavy metals that can also damage the beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts present in a sourdough starter.
  • Flour properties: Any gluten free flour, provided it’s a grain-based flour, will work for making a sourdough starter. Keeping in mind it will be the bulk flour of what you bake with it, therefore the bulk flavor. Depending on what flour you use will deliver different results so bare that in mind and be prepared but don't be disappointed. 

Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

The Initial Starter:
Whisk 50g gluten free flour and 50g warm filtered or spring water in a small bowl. Pour this into a clean, sterilized glass jar. Cover with a cheesecloth securing it around with an elastic band and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature.

After 12 hours, whisk the starter and add 50g flour and 50g water. Cover and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature. Continue adding 50g flour and 50g water every 12 hours for up to a week. Your starter should start bubbling within a few days. As you feed your starter, take care to whisk in the flour and water thoroughly into the established starter – aerating the starter will help to yield the best and most reliable results.

The starter should be “spongy” in appearance with maybe some foamy bubbles on top and some air pockets in the mixture. It should have a slight sour smell. Your starter is now active and is ready to be used. If not needed immediately cover with cheesecloth and refrigerate.

Feeding Your Starter:
Once the starter is officially created, it enters maintenance mode. The frequency of feedings is determined by how much starter you need and how often you plan to use it.
  • At a minimum, the starter can be kept in the refrigerator and fed once a week merely to sustain life (the yeast).
  • You can continue to feed it daily as you have been, and in another seven days there will be enough starter for another batch of bread.
  • You can also feed it daily with as little as one tablespoon of flour and water – enough to continue daily growth but not produce a large quantity of starter.
However frequent or infrequent you decide to feed your starter, the yeast thrives best when it’s fed regularly and consistently.  Choose your time frame and quantity and stick with it as best as you can.

Using Your Starter:
Use your starter when it is active. An active starter is one that has been fed within the past 12 hours, and is active enough that it was able to double in size after that feeding. If you fed your starter and it didn't double, you should feed it a few more times before using. The best time to use the starter is somewhere between the time it reaches its peak and before it starts to fall.

Maintaining And Reviving Your Starter:
If you bake less than once a week, you can store your starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. When needed, remove starter from fridge and bring to room temperature. Feed and stir well to combine. Leave for 12 hours before you plan to bake. If you bake every day or a few times a week, you can store your starter at room temperature and feed it every 12 hours or twice a day to keep it alive. This is very important.

Try at least feeding the starter with as much flour as there is starter.  You don't need too much starter at a time, so for instance use 25g starter, 25g flour, and 25g water for the first feeding out of the fridge. The next feeding 12 hours later start with all of the starter from the previous feeding (75g), add 75g flour and 75g water.  You should see really large bubbles in the starter with this feeding schedule. When it's really bubbly bake with it. You will have 225g of starter to work with - that should be plenty. Just make sure you have at least 10g starter left when you're done to build up the new batch of starter.

Considerations For Your Starter:
Using a whisk helps to aerate the starter more thoroughly. Aeration of the starter is essential to ensure that the bacteria are well-distributed throughout the starter and can, begin to ferment the new flour and water added to the starter at each feeding.  Proper aeration of the sourdough also helps to ensure that the production of hooch – a thin liquid that sometimes rises to the top of sourdough starter – is minimized.

If a hooch does appear, don't worry, it is harmless. It often signifies that you've overfed your starter with water in relation to flour or have let your starter go too long between feedings. Sourdough starters are relatively resilient, and bounce back quickly once you resume proper care of them.

Do not ever cover your jar airtight. The mixture is harvesting the yeast from the environment and needs the air to breathe. Even while in the fridge. Furthermore, the process of fermentation releases carbon dioxide which can build up in a tightly lidded jar and explode. Remember your starter will expand and rise to twice its volume after a feeding once it’s well-established so the jar you choose should have double the capacity of an un-fed starter.

 The internet is filled with gluten free sourdough starter recipes. Some call for odd ingredients like pineapple juice, orange juice, cabbage leaves, grapes, potato flakes or water kefir, to make a truly good sourdough starter you need just three things: flour, water and time. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Gluten Free vs. Regular Sourdough.

When I looked into making gluten free sourdough bread I came across many sites claiming that regular sourdough bread is ok for celiacs and gluten intolerant people to eat. The explanation for this was the fermentation process breaks down gluten in sourdough breads made from wheat to levels that are safe for people with gluten intolerance to eat.

Investigating this further and found that a study performed by a group of researchers in Europe have discovered that "fully fermented" sourdough baked goods, made with a specialty wheat flour, did not have toxic effects on a small group of celiacs participating in the study. This wheat flour had been treated with lactobacilli, a "friendly" bacteria, and fungal proteases, a group of enzymes that break down (hydrolyze) the bonds that hold large protein molecules (gluten) together.

While the study was small, it did show that individuals with celiac disease who ate specially prepared sourdough wheat bread over the course of 60 days experienced no ill effects. The findings of this study and others like it are encouraging but larger studies are needed to confirm that specially treated wheat flour can be used to prepare safe baked goods for people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. For now fermented sourdough bread prepared with ordinary, grocery store wheat flour and baker's yeast should not be eaten by celiac's and the gluten intolerant.

Researchers at the Department of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition in Ireland say, "The use of sourdough in gluten free baking may be the new frontier for improving the quality, safety and acceptability of gluten free bread." As explained in my last post, evidence is clear that sourdough is highly beneficial to gluten free health but the method of sourdough is also just as valuable towards the quality of gluten free bread.

Sourdough is the first fermentation used for baking purposes and it has been proven to be ideal for improving the texture, palatability, aroma, shelf life and nutritional value of wheat and rye breads. These effects have been extensively studied and well described for traditional baking, whereas little is known about the role of sourdough in gluten free baking. However, the microbiological and quality components of gluten free fermented products correspond in character with the microbiota of wheat/rye fermentation and suggest that the positive metabolic activities of the sourdough microbiota are still retained during fermentation of gluten free products. Thus, the use of sourdough in gluten free baking may be the new frontier for improving the quality, safety and acceptability of gluten free bread.

Confocal microscopy showing wheat and gluten free dough as well as sourdough

Making gluten-free sourdough bread is easy, once the principles and guidelines are understood. This type of baking is different from conventional gluten-free baking and is also different from conventional sourdough baking. There is a bit of a learning curve to this technique however many people have mastered it and are happily eating nutritious gluten-free sourdough bread.

With the sourdough technique and the right combining of gluten free flours, the all round quality of gluten free bread and nutrition can be achieved successfully. Until science establishes the safety of wheat-based sourdough for people with celiac disease, I think that long-fermented sourdough bread, made with gluten-free flours, represents the future of gluten-free bread for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity by supplying enjoyment of eating top quality gluten free bread and aid in the healing of the digestive system.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Gluten Free Health Benefits from Sourdough.

Sourdough bread is made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacilli. Compared with regular breads, sourdough usually has a sour taste due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli. Sourdough fermentation helps improve bread quality by prolonging shelf life, increasing loaf volume, delaying staling, as well as by improving bread flavor and nutritional properties.

Fermented foods have the ability to make food easier to digest as well as provide our bodies with needed nutrients and beneficial bacteria. Sourdough is one of those fermented foods. One of the ways to properly ferment grains (breads) is to use a sourdough method.

Sourdough breads are leavened by a starter that contain natural yeasts and acids. The airborne yeast creates the enzymes needed to eat up or predigest some of the toughest-on-your-belly parts of the grain. This action creates carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in tiny pockets of dough, resulting in a natural rising of the bread.

Like all other fermentation processes, the bacteria present in the sourdough starter eat the starch and sugars present in the grain. This results in a lowering of the starch or carbohydrate content of the bread, which is helpful for keeping blood sugar levels regulated. It also increases some of the vitamin and mineral content of the grain.

Sourdough performs the process of lactic acid fermentation that activates the phytase to hydrolyze (dissolve) the phytates, thus freeing up minerals such as: zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. The lactic acid in the bread creates a lovely tang and predigests the grain for you. The acetic acid produced in the souring process helps the bread to store longer, inhibiting the growth of molds.

The bacteria present in the sourdough help to activate phytase, an enzyme that breaks down an anti-nutrient present in all grains, beans, and seeds – phytic acid. This may seem minor, but phytic acid is known to strip your body of minerals and can be hard on your digestion.

All in all, sourdough breads are much easier for the body to digest and as an added benefit, the bacteria also add nutrients into it as well.

However, sourdough isn't just good for making better bread. Recent studies show that sourdough fermentation can also speed gut healing in people with celiac disease at the start of a gluten-free diet. The longer soaking/rising time breaks the proteins (gluten) down into amino acids, making it more easily digested. This is why some who have a gluten sensitivity can tolerate sourdough wheat breads. Sourdough bread made with gluten-free flours might be the best way for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity to get the benefits of sourdough cultures, and to enjoy fresh, minimally processed bread.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Alternative Grains and Pseudo-cereals used for Gluten Free Baking.

Gluten is most often associated with wheat and wheat flour but can also found in barley, rye, and triticale – a wheat hybrid. Gluten proteins in wheat flours make dough elastic and stretchy, and gas-retaining ability that produces a light and airy interior structure and a tender crumb within baked goods.

Baking without gluten can be challenging because gluten contributes important properties to various types of baked products. Bread is perhaps the most challenging gluten-free baked product to make because gluten provides structure, creates a tender crumb, and retains gas. In addition to replacing the wheat flour with gluten-free flours and vstarches, other additives can hold gas. These products include psyllium, chia seed, flaxseed and other gums. With experimentation and practice, a combination of gluten-free flours and binders can be used to create a loaf with good volume, softness and texture.

Many of the alternative grains and pseudo-cereals provide a wide variety of gluten-free flours, starches and baking aids used in combination to mimic the structure provided by wheat flours. Cereal grains are members of the grass family that are grown for their edible starchy seeds. Pseudo-cereals are grown for the same purpose and can be used in the same manner as cereal-based grains but are not members of the grass family rather they come from seeds of broadleaf plants. The three major pseudo-cereals are amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. The chart below summarizes the profile and qualities of these grains and pseudo-cereals.

Profiles of Alternative Grains and Pseudo-cereals.

Gluten Free Flours and Starches
Pseudo-cereal native to South America
Higher in protein, fiber and iron than most grains
Provides structure and binding capability
Pleasant, peppery flavor
Best used in combination with other gluten-free flours
Used as thickener and in baking similarly to cornstarch
Legume flours include fava beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans
Good source of protein and fiber
Best used in combination with other gluten-free flours to balance taste and texture
Bean flours complement sorghum flour
Nutritious grain rich in B-vitamins, magnesium, dietary fiber and antioxidants
Strong, somewhat bitter flavor
Best used in pancakes or yeast breads in combination with neutral gluten-free flours
Chia (Salba)
Like flax, ground chia seeds can add nutritional value to baked goods
Neutral in flavour
Corn flour
Used in breads, waffles, and tortillas
Corn meal
Used in spoon breads and baking powder-leavened breads
Corn starch
Works well in combination with tapioca starch
Ground flax seeds increase nutritional value
High in soluble fiber which allows gel formation; retains moisture and gives spongy texture to baked goods
Nutty, bold flavor
Adds color to baked goods
Powdery consistency, color similar to cornmeal
Delicate, sweet flavor
Suitable for use in flatbreads and muffins
Montina (Indian rice grass)
Milled from a grass native to Montana
High in fiber and protein
Nut flours include almond, pecan, walnut, hazelnut, filbert, and chestnut
Contribute flavor and nutrition to baked products
Best used in combination with other gluten-free flours to balance taste and texture
Pseudocereal native to South America
Good source of protein, folate, copper and iron
Mild, slightly nutty flavor
Suitable for cookies, cakes and breads
Potato flour
Neutral flavor
Blends well with stronger flavored flours
Potato starch
Provides a light consistency to baked products
Helps retain moisture, combines well with eggs
Bland flavor, low in fiber and nutrients
Rice, Rice bran
Comes in brown, white and sweet varieties
Best used when combined with other gluten-free flours and binders or gums
Neutral flavor
Sweet rice flour is used in pie crusts and as a thickener
Sorghum (milo)
Tropical cereal grass native to Africa
Sweet, nutty flavor
Best when used with other neutral gluten-free flours and gums
Small cereal grain native to Africa
Taste similar to hazelnuts
Very high in nutrients
Ability to gel makes it a good thickener
Starchy, sweet flavor
Adds chewy texture to breads
Used in blends to improve color and crispiness of crusts

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Conversion Factors and Charts.

One of the most handiest and time saving things for a baker to have is a conversion chart!
Because we are dealing with bread baking which uses large and small amounts of ingredients, the equations of the conversion factors below let you work out as per so we can be as accurate as possible.

Conversion Factors 

ounces to grams:     
multiply ounce figure by 28.3 to get number of grams

grams to ounces:     
multiply gram figure by .0353 to get number of ounces

pounds to gram:     
multiply pound figure by 453.59 to get number of grams 

pounds to kilograms:     
multiply pounds by 0.45 to get number of kilograms

ounces to milliliters:    
multiply ounce figure by 30 to get number of milliliters

cups to liters:     
multiply cup figure by 0.24 to get number of liters

Fahrenheit to Celsius:    
subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit figure, multiply by 5, then divide by 9 to get Celsius figure

Celsius to Fahrenheit: 
multiply Celsius figure by 9, divide by 5, then add 32 to get Fahrenheit figure

inches to centimeters:    
multiply inches by 2.54 to get number of centimeters

centimeters to inches:     
multiply centimeter figure by .39 to get number of inches

Conversion Charts

U.S. Measurements (Weight) (ounces)
Metric Measurements (Weight) (grams)
1/2 ounce
14 grams
1 ounce
28 grams
1 1/2 ounces
43 grams
2 ounces
57 grams
3 ounces
85 grams
4 ounces (1/4 pound)
113 grams
5 ounces
140 grams
6 ounces
170 grams
7 ounces
198 grams
8 ounces (1/2 pound)
227 grams
9 ounces
255 grams
10 ounces
283 grams
12 ounces
340 grams
14 ounces
397 grams
16 ounces (1 pound)
454 grams
18 ounces
510 grams
20 ounces (1 ¼ pound)
566 grams
24 ounces (1 1/2 pound)
680 grams
32 ounces (2 pounds)
 907 grams
64 ounces (4 pounds)
 1.8 kilograms

U.S. Volume Equivalents:
Converting U.S. to Metric:
1 1/2 tsp = 1/2 tbsp
tsp x 4.93 = millilitres (ml)
3 tsp = 1 tbsp
tbsp x 14.79 = millilitres
2 tbsp = 1 ounce = 1/8 cup
fluid ounces x 29.57 = millilitres
8 ounces (16 tbsp) = 1 cup
cups x 236.59 = millilitres
2 cups = 1 pint = 16 ounces
pints x 473.18 = millilitres
2 pints = 1 quart = 4 cups = 32 ounces
quarts x 946.36 = millilitres
4 quarts = 1 gallon = 16 cups = 128 ounces
gallons x 3.785 = litres

U.S. Volume
 Metric Volume (ml)
1/4 tsp

 1.23 ml
1/2 tsp

 2.5 ml
3/4 tsp

 3.7 ml
1 tsp

 4.9 ml
1 1/2 tsp
1/2 tbsp

7.5 ml
2 tsp

 10 ml
3 tsp
1 tbsp
1/2 ounce 
 15 ml
1/8 cup
2 tbsp
1 ounce
30 ml
1/4 cup
4 tbsp
2 ounces
60 ml
1/3 cup
5 tbsp + 1 tsp
2.7 ounce
80 ml
1/2 cup
8 tbsp
4 ounces
120 ml
2/3 cup
10 tbsp + 2 tsp
5.3 ounce
158 ml
3/4 cup
12 tbsp
6 ounces
180 ml
1 cup
16 tbsp
8 ounces
240 ml
2 cups
32 tbsp/1 pint
16 ounces
480 ml
2 1/4 cups

18 ounces
 540 ml
2 1/2 cups

20 ounces
 600 ml
2 3/4 cups

22 ounces
 660 ml
3 cups
1 1/2 pints
24 ounces
 720 ml
4 cups
1 quart
32 ounces
 9.60 ml
4 quarts
1 gallon
128 ounces
 3.8 L

Fahrenheit °F
 Celsius °C
 Gas Number
 Oven Terms
225 °F
 110 °C
 Very Cool
250 °F
 130 °C
 Very Slow
275 °F
 140 °C
 Very Slow
300 °F
 150 °C
325 °F
 165 °C
350 °F
 177 °C
375 °F
 190 °C
400 °F
 200 °C
 Moderately Hot
425 °F
 220 °C
450 °F
 230 °C
475 °F
 245 °C
500 °F
 260 °C
 Extremely Hot
550 °F
 290 °C

The following conversions make it possible to substitute one form of yeast for another.

1 envelope dry yeast = 2 ½ t. by volume
1 envelope dry yeast = ¼ ounce by weight
1 envelope dry yeast = 2/3 ounce compressed yeast in rising power

Therefore, 2 ½ teaspoons or ¼ ounce dry yeast is equal to 2/3 ounce compressed yeast.

1 ½ envelopes dry yeast = about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon by volume
1 ½ envelopes dry yeast = 3/8 ounce by weight
1 ½ envelopes dry yeast = 1 ounce compressed yeast in rising power

Therefore, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon or 3/8 ounce dry yeast is equal to 1 ounce
compressed yeast.

1. Multiply envelopes of dry yeast by 2/3 to determine ounces of compressed yeast.

2. Multiply ounces of dry yeast by 8/3 to determine ounces of compressed yeast.

3. Multiply ounces of compressed yeast by 3/8 to determine ounces of dry yeast.

4. Multiply ounces of compressed yeast by 3/2 to determine number of envelopes of dry yeast.

2 tsp salt= 14 grams
1+3/4 tsp salt = 12 grams
1+1/2 tsp salt = 10 grams
1+1/4 tsp salt = 9 grams
1 tsp salt = 8 grams
3/4 tsp salt = 5-6 grams
1/2 tsp salt = 4 grams
1/4 tsp salt = 2 grams

1 teaspoon = 1/6 ounce = 4 grams
1 tablespoon = 1/2 ounce = 12 grams
1/4 cup = 1 3/4 ounces = 50 grams
1/3 cup = 2 1/4 ounces = 67 grams
1/2 cup = 3 1/2 ounces = 100 grams
1/3 cup = 4 1/2 ounces = 150 grams
3/4 cup = 5 1/4 ounces = 170 grams
1 cup = 7 ounces = 200 grams
2 cups = 1 pound = 500 grams

1 tablespoon = 1/2 ounce = 14 grams
1/4 cup = 2 ounces = 55 grams
1/3 cup = 2 1/2 ounces = 63 grams
1/2 cup = 4 ounces = 110 grams
2/3 cup = 5 1/2 ounces = 135 grams
3/4 cup = 6 ounces = 150 grams
1 cup = 8 ounces = 220 grams

1 tablespoon = 14 grams

1 teaspoon = 4.9 grams