Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GF Sourdough Bread Part 1

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Don't take good bread for granted.

In November 2010 I had to switch to a gluten free diet for my health.  Before going GF, I didn't think much about bread other than which brands were on sale when I went to the grocery store.  Now, however, though there are many options for GF bread available, they're just not the same.  The texture is different, the taste is different, and you almost always have to buy them frozen instead of fresh.

I've tried making yeasted GF bread myself, with the intention of making sandwich bread.  Unfortunately, most of my attempts have resulted in dense bread that is only inches tall... not very tasty or condusive to making sandwiches.  Without gluten, those little bubbles made by the yeast just don't hold so the bread is dense, the crumb is just non-existant, and it's like eating a brick.  Yes, I've added xanthan gum and/or guar gum to try to mimick the gluten, but it just isn't the same.

I was about ready to give up.

Then I came across this blog post on GF sourdough starters at and it intrigued me.  All this information about making sourdough (which I had never done before)... could I really do it?  Would it make a decent bread?  Would it be worth all the trouble?

At the bottom of the sourdough starter article, I followed her link to her recipe for GF Sourdough Bread (Boule) and I saw the photos of the finished loaf.  The crust looked amazing, the crumb fantastic!  Yes, it is a boule (round artisan loaf) and not sandwich bread.  But I could make crostini with this, I could toast it and butter it and it would taste the same even if it is a different shape.  (Don't we moms tell our kids this all the time?  Isn't it time for me to take my own advice?)

So, I'm on a journey to make GF sourdough.

I followed the directions in the blog post on how to get my sourdough starter going.  I used the flour she recommended, I used filtered water, and I used an organic red cabbage leaf to try to harvest the yeast that naturally grows on it.  I even left the top open to try to collect wild yeast that is floating in the air.  Unfortunately, this one never really got going and it went pink and nasty.

I have a theory on why it didn't work.  For one, I'm in Oregon and we just had the wettest March on record.  7.77" of rain in one month.  I know, you're thinking "You live in the Pacific Northwest, doesn't it rain all the time there?"  Well, it does rain a lot... but normally we get only 3.5" of rain in March.  We got more than twice the normal amount, and I don't think there were ANY wild yeast particles in the air!  And maybe the cabbage didn't have any yeast on it either.  All I know is that it turned funny colors and had a funny smell, so down the drain it went.

I searched online to see if it was acceptable (and not blasphemy) to seed a starter with some yeast, and I did find some recipes that started that way.  Just a pinch of yeast to get it going, and it would take care of itself the rest of the way.  So I tried again.  My second starter has been bubbling away since Sunday, April 1st.  No joke!  :)

Here it is!  Look at all those bubbles!  My starter has been bubbling away happily, it's been developing that sour smell, and I'm so pleased!

I did have a scare this morning... it wasn't nearly as bubbly as it had been the previous day.  Then I remembered that I had the back door open for over an hour while I was making dinner and grilling... and the cold air from outside probably affected the yeast, making it slow down.  This morning I fed the starter again and it's coming back!  Yay!

After I saw signs of my starter bouncing back, I followed the recipe linked above to make my dough.  I have also seen on several blogs that GF bakers (even traditional bakers) have been getting great results when rising their dough with a baking proofer from Brod and Taylor, so I bought one too.  I'm using it for the first time with this loaf, hopefully it will turn out great.

Here is my proofer, set up and ready to help this bread rise!  It folds down flat for storage, which is a really awesome feature.

And here is my bread, in a parchment paper lined bowl, just as the recipe called for, rising in the proofer.  It's supposed to rise over 4-6 hours, so I'll just end this post here and I'll be back tomorrow to let you know if this experiment worked out.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!  I'm SOOO hoping to have a good bread experience here!  And if it does... I'll be making another loaf and my favorite potato chowder for dinner on Friday.  YUM!

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