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Gluten-free Sourdough Starter

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.

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

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

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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21 Responses:

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said this on
29 Dec 2012 8:24:41 AM PDT
Love sourdough! Are you staying neutral on sourdough with gluten bread being okay for celiacs? You mention it, but don't give your opinion. Scares me, frankly.

Janet Davis
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said this on
30 Dec 2012 10:33:43 AM PDT
I am so thankful to have the starter. Now, do you have the recipe to bake the bread?

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said this on
01 Jan 2013 10:11:33 AM PDT
My question too... where is the recipe for the bread?

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said this on
02 Jan 2013 2:58:28 PM PDT
Ditto - where is the recipe for the bread?

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said this on
03 Jan 2013 7:02:39 PM PDT
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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said this on
03 Mar 2013 6:47:14 PM PDT
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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said this on
13 Feb 2013 8:15:29 PM PDT
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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said this on
15 Feb 2013 5:54:49 PM PDT
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?

Jamie @afamilieslove.com
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said this on
13 May 2013 6:29:07 AM PDT
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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said this on
03 Mar 2013 6:51:13 PM PDT
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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said this on
07 Mar 2013 7:09:35 AM PDT
Good looking recipe! Thanks for sharing.

Zachary Smith
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said this on
18 Apr 2013 6:59:17 PM PDT
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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said this on
05 Sep 2013 12:21:38 AM PDT
Doesn't the baking of the bread kill the good bacteria? I don't understand how it is still good for your gut. Please explain.


said this on
24 Jan 2014 11:30:21 AM PDT
The heat in the baking does indeed kill the bacteria as well as the yeast. The good news is that all those good probiotic bacteria have produced health-promoting metabolic by-products that are not destroyed by heat. I was curious about this too until I read a book called "The Probiotics Revolution" written by an immunologist who is on the faculty of the University of Michigan medical school.

We get several benefits from sourdough bread: improved flavor, better digestibility and the metabolic byproducts the yeast and bacteria produce during the fermentation period.

Anthony A
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said this on
20 Aug 2014 7:58:12 PM PDT
Actually this bacteria strain is resistant to heat and does not die quickly some say it can live up to 180 degrees ... the center of bread does not often reach that in artisan loafs (metal pan would not). THE big but here is the lactic acid and pre-digestion of the gluten so that its longer strain structure making it hard to bread down is reduced ... do not forget the benefits of fermentation on the wheat as well ....
The sad thing about rice flour is it gets so sour and has to be done with "fake" yeast be nice to be able to grow and make a starter that lives from natural yeast which is far better for you ...

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said this on
04 Feb 2016 1:16:46 PM PDT
I have been making starter with Sorghum flour as well as GF oat bran flour and it works great. Try that.

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said this on
22 Jun 2014 11:09:05 AM PDT
What really concerned me is that celiac people are not aware that gums and xanthan gums more than not are created with wheat. I'm learning how we can use golden flax or hemp or chia for the binders and I am pleased to say golden flax with small mixture of the others seems to work very well and some have used small amount of psyllium

( Author)
said this on
23 Jun 2014 9:28:07 PM PDT
Xanthan gum is made using corn sugar, and is gluten and corn-free.

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said this on
31 Oct 2014 10:32:44 PM PDT
Xanthan gum is produced by bacterial syntheses from the bacteria xanthamonas campestris. The bacteria may be fed corn syrup for energy ton"fuel" its production of the gum commonly used in gluten -free baking, but wheat is not used, and the end product is highly purified and usually certified gluten-free. Typically below 20 ppm.

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said this on
10 Dec 2014 8:27:12 PM PDT
Xanthum Gum is gluten-free. It doesn't have wheat at all. This looks like an awesome recipe. I will try it for sure.

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said this on
20 Jan 2015 3:05:28 PM PDT
Great article! Since becoming more aware of the issues with xanthan gum - the GMOs, the digestive issues many people face, I stopped using it. To get the same "hold" and chew that xanthan gum provides, I use psyllium husk powder - a little goes a long way and really creates a "bready" texture, like Barbara says. Check out my new book called Better Breads containing recipes for grain and gluten free breads that are low carb and safe for diabetics too.

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Well I took test for deficiencies today won't get the results till Tuesday then I can go from there.. road to recovery

Ask them for a copy of your results and find a good gastroenterologist in your area. Go there and give them the results. That's what I did. I didn't even bother with my GP. I got the results from the health fair and called a GI in Denver. My insurance didn't require a referral. My GI was the one who put me on the track to being accurately diagnosed. And regardless, you need to be hooked up with a good GI if you've got Celiac so that they can follow you.

Also, I had my bones checked a few months back (In January), and they were awesome. I'm still shocked at how well my body did with Celiac. I hear about all of my friends on here who had crazy horrible symptoms and I never did. I'm grateful. Because those ugly things would come eventually.

I work out regularly and I would say NO to working out if you have been glutened or are really tired. You know what happens to people who work out when they are really fatigued? They suffer injuries. I was not well enough to work out until I had been gluten free for 4 years but I am much older than you so I doubt it will take 4 years for you. Drop the work-outs for now and just go for walks outside when you feel better. The fatigue has to be better before you try to do gym work. I know you didn't want to hear that but I don't want you to end up injured, on top of everything else. Take care of yourself for now and let yourself heal!

They say you should not work out if your sick or dealing with such issues. I on the other hand do the opposite I will work out even if running a fever, I feel lost if I do not, and the endorphins help me feel fullfilled and relaxed......I have a few other issues as well >.> sitting still causes me to have mini panic attacks. I actually have to be on a stationary bike while on the computer lol. I swear it originates from being stuck in bed for days in the past unable to move, I fear being stuck unable to move my body like it used to sometimes. Got to admit the scariest thing in life is when your own body does not do what you want it to and it turns on you. As for steps, etc....I personally do about 24-30k steps a day or 11-14miles, Most of it pacing lol, anyway everyone is different so I can not tell you what to do just my own exp. Make sure you eat plenty, drink plenty of water and tea, and supplement anything your body might need. I eat constantly throughout the day to keep me going and enough protein and fats that it seems like a body building diet. Be careful and do not push yourself too hard, if you start feeling dizzy, tired or odd lay down for 15-20mins for a power nap. I do this twice a day at least just out of habit.