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Making high-quality sourdough bread at home has become more common. For those looking for gluten-free sourdough bread, there are very few options on the market and they often cost an incredible amount. And honestly, sometimes they taste like cardboard. So I set out to make a gluten-free sourdough at home!!
High atop the mountain of master home baker challenges sits the sourdough bread. Both exciting and intimidating – making sourdough feels less like cooking and more like caring for a small animal that needs to be fed and watered and is picky about the temperature of your kitchen.
I wanted to stay true to the basic ingredients and techniques involved in classic sourdough bread making while developing this gluten-free recipe because it’s such a beautifully natural process to begin with. Flour, water, yeast, and salt – that’s all of the essential ingredients needed to make a stunning loaf of bread.
Some of the recipes I researched called for eggs, baking powder and baking soda, butter, sugar or vinegar. While all of these ingredients have their place in the breadmaking world and provide structure, aeration, and flavor – I wanted this bread to be simple and classic.
The three major characteristics I was most interested in while developing this gluten-free bread were:
FLAVOR: Obviously, It’s sourdough! Arguably the most important trait of sourdough bread is it’s tangy, complex, earthy, gently sweet flavor. More than the sum of its ingredients, sourdough harnesses the flavors of fermentation and can be a satisfying treat all on its own.
MOISTURE: A fresh loaf of sourdough comes out of the oven steaming. When it’s finally cool enough to cut, a dry crunchy crust gives way to a moist interior. Gluten-free flours tend to produce drier baked goods, which seemed like the biggest challenge. This dough has a high percentage of water making it very sticky to handle, but perfectly moist out of the oven.
TEXTURE: One of the hallmarks of classic sourdough bread is the large gluten webs formed by the leavening gasses during the baking process. Given that this bread is gluten-free, I set my expectations accordingly. I wanted this bread to have the texture of bread, with or without the giant gluten holes. Not chalky, dense, or crumbly. Elastic enough to cut into slices and smear some butter on. Leavened naturally with a wild yeast starter.
Natural yeast starters usually take several weeks to make and mature. It involves combining water and flour, leaving it out to attract wild yeasts, feeding and watering it on a consistent schedule to develop it, and finally using the fermented “starter” to make bread that leavens naturally.
To expedite the process here, I used a dried gluten-free sourdough starter found on Etsy. I watered and fed the starter with gluten-free flour for 5 days to reanimate it before using it to bake.
Gluten-Free Flour and Additions
There are so many gluten-free flour blends on the market today that the options for baking are nearly endless, and it can be difficult to tell which flour to choose. For this bake, I used Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix which is made mostly of rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca starch. Part of the fun of making bread is experimenting with different ingredients, but if you want to make your bread resemble this one as closely as possible, I’d suggest getting this, or a similar formula of gluten-free flour.
Additionally, I include buckwheat flour and psyllium husk powder in this recipe. The buckwheat flour is added to support the earthy bittersweet sourdough flavors. The color is reminiscent of Irish brown bread. Psyllium husk powder is high in fiber and mimics the gluten that would otherwise be provided by wheat. While it’s not an identical ingredient, it helps build structure.
While standard measurements are given for this recipe, I highly suggest using a scale to weigh out your ingredients.
The evening before you plan on baking, feed your thriving starter generously with flour and water, bringing it to a thicker pancake batter consistency.
Scale all of your ingredients into a bowl and stir with your hand or bowl scraper until the dough has come together. It will be very sticky, but should have the texture of a moist cookie dough. If you need to add flour or water to get it there, add it a tablespoon at a time.
Transfer the dough to a vessel of your choice to proof. If you want to bake a round loaf, use a parchment-lined bowl to proof your dough, covered in plastic to keep moist. If you’d prefer a loaf, transfer your dough to a well-greased or parchment-lined 9x5” loaf pan.
PROOFING - There are two ways you can proof your bread. The faster way: Turn your oven to 100℉ and place the rack you’d like to bake on unobstructed in the center of the oven. Leave your dough to proof in the oven for about 4 hours, checking on its progress every hour or so. You’re looking for the dough to double in size. Remove the dough from the oven, and turn it up to 425℉ to preheat for 30 minutes. The slower way: Cover your dough with oiled plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-9 hours. When the dough has nearly doubled, preheat your oven at 425℉ for 30 minutes. This method will yield a more developed sourdough flavor.
If baking a round loaf, you will lift the dough by the parchment and place directly on a sheet tray, baking stone, or gently drop into a pre-heated dutch oven with a lid to bake. If baking in a loaf pan, remove the plastic and place it directly in the oven. I like to sprinkle my bread with a touch of flour and score the top for a more artisanal look.
Bake for 30 minutes. At this point, you can remove the lid of the dutch oven and continue to cook for 20-30 more minutes. Tap the dough gently, listening for a hollow sound.
Allow your bread to cool completely before slicing, then enjoy!
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