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  • Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-free Sourdough Starter

    Jefferson Adams


    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 12/27/2012 - Making sourdough 'starter' is the first step in the traditional fermentation process for sourdough bread. You begin the process by “growing” strains of lactobacillus bacteria and yeast together in what bakers call the 'starter.' When the 'starter' is added to flour, the organisms produce enzymes that break down the gluten protein in the flour in a process called 'hydrolysis.' Hydrolysis is the breakdown of larger particles into smaller ones, specifically amino acids.

    Fermenting sourdough starter. Photo: CC--Nicola Since 1972Some studies show that these amino acids are no longer toxic to individuals who are sensitive to gluten. Basically, these cultures partially digest the wheat or other grains; doing part of the stomach's job in advance part of the digestive process.



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    When you add the gut healing benefits of lactobacillus, the result is bread that acts like medicine; delicious medicine, at that.

    Using sourdough starter to bake breads using gluten-free grains is an excellent way for people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance to get the benefits of sourdough cultures and to enjoy delicious fresh bread.

    Here's a recipe for gluten-free sourdough starter that you can use to bake countless loaves of delicious gluten-free bread:

    Gluten-free Sourdough Starter

    Ingredients:
    1 cup water, 110 to 115 deg F
    2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1 1/2 cups rice flour 

    Directions:
    Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart container. It will be thick.

    Cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil and let stand for one to three days in a warm place, stirring 2 or 3 times daily.

    The starter will rise and fall during the fermentation process.When it is ready to use, it will be bubbly and may have a layer of hooch, or liquid, on top of the starter, which can be stirred back in.

    Use the starter right away, or put it in refrigerator.

    You can easily replenish your starter by keeping at least one cup of finished aside. Add 1 cup water and 1 1/2 cup white rice flour. Cover loosely and let stand in a warm place for 12 hours, stirring once or twice. Use what you need, and refrigerate the rest. Replenish as needed.


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    Thanks for the starter recipe. I've used the one at the Art of Gluten Free Baking website and had great luck with it. I'm not being allowed to post a link to it, but if you google that site and "sourdough bread starter" you'll find the starter recipe and the link to the recipe for the bread itself. I've made it perhaps a dozen times and it's very good. A little trouble getting it 100% done in the middle of the loaf, but i'm thinking a little tinkering will figure it out. perhaps just baking a little longer.

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    Since sourdough starters are known to break down gluten and predigest it and reduce phytic acid, etc. what is the point of using a gluten-free starter on gluten-free flours? I love the idea but just didn't quite understand, other than the taste. Why would one need to do it? Does the gluten-free starter still reduce phytic acid in grains or what are the benefits of using it? Thanks!

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    Since sourdough starters are known to break down gluten and predigest it and reduce phytic acid, etc. what is the point of using a gluten-free starter on gluten-free flours? I love the idea but just didn't quite understand, other than the taste. Why would one need to do it? Does the gluten-free starter still reduce phytic acid in grains or what are the benefits of using it? Thanks!

    I too am curious about the need for a gluten-free starter. Is there even photic acid in gluten-free rice flour? Could you use a gluten flour to make the starter then make the bread with gluten-free flours?

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    Thanks for the starter recipe. I've used the one at the Art of Gluten Free Baking website and had great luck with it. I'm not being allowed to post a link to it, but if you google that site and "sourdough bread starter" you'll find the starter recipe and the link to the recipe for the bread itself. I've made it perhaps a dozen times and it's very good. A little trouble getting it 100% done in the middle of the loaf, but i'm thinking a little tinkering will figure it out. perhaps just baking a little longer.

    Cover the bread with tinfoil after it bakes for 15 minutes (and rises a bit). Take the tin foil off about ten minutes before the loaf is done baking. Bake at a lower temperature to extend baking time (I often bake at 315 degrees F for over an hour).

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    Some people are gluten intolerant as well as wheat intolerant. Some people are wheat intolerant but can eat isolated gluten. I don't get that. Some people seem to only be gluten intolerant and can eat small amounts of it (like rye or spelt or barley). I myself am allergic to more than just the gluten, so I think fermenting wheat flour would still be bad for me. I think the author is providing the option to do whatever the individual feels is right for his/her health. Some people are only mildly sensitive to gluten and may choose to save money by fermenting organic wheat flour rather than paying twice as much or more for rice flour and having extra costs like xanthan gum/binder etc.

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    Hydrolysis is the splitting of molecular chains with water. Here, the strands of organic molecules (carbon based) are split into shorter chains by water to create amino acids. To be a little more specific, as a chemist "Hydrolysis is the breakdown of larger particles into smaller ones" made me cringe.

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    Guest Jamie @afamilieslove.com

    Posted

    Since sourdough starters are known to break down gluten and predigest it and reduce phytic acid, etc. what is the point of using a gluten-free starter on gluten-free flours? I love the idea but just didn't quite understand, other than the taste. Why would one need to do it? Does the gluten-free starter still reduce phytic acid in grains or what are the benefits of using it? Thanks!

    Part of the reason for using a sourdough starter is that you will also get the benefits of all of the good bacteria in your bread, so tasty, and good gut ecology! If you are sensitive to gluten, even a bit, in the starter can bother you, it does for me. I imagine that celiacs would not be able to eat a gluten starter, but the starter sure does more than break down the phytic acid. It has many benefits, and adds a good bread texture to otherwise lacking gluten-free bread. Some people may tolerate gluten flour in the starter, some may not. The option is left open for you to explore and research.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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