I’ve prefaced this blog post recipe with my name to differentiate between the Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Recipe already on this site from 125 Best Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes. I’ve learned that the use of brown rice flour achieves the best results in creating the ideal gluten free sourdough bread starter. And though I have created a sourdough starter from white rice flour, I’ve discovered that without the use of yeast, brown rice creates a better one. Below, I’ve provided you with some interesting tips you may have not read before that will help you achieve a successful gluten free sourdough starter, as well as addressed the issue of arsenic in brown rice/rice products.
First, let me start by simply defining a “starter”. Then I’ll go into the technical details afterwards. A sourdough starter is not a sourdough bread recipe, it is just used in a sour dough bread recipe. (Though I am working on perfecting a great sourdough French bread recipe.) The starter provides the sour taste. Many of us in the gluten free community have trouble with making starters. They often spoil, become moldy, never develop enough yeast, or never become bubbly. Therefore, many gluten free starter recipes call for commercial/dry yeast. However, if you’ve made regular gluten starters in the past and are dead-set on not using yeast, this recipe will be a welcomed delight to your gluten free recipe collection.
Add Yeast or No Yeast?
A sourdough starter is made by fermenting dough that naturally develops yeasts and lactobacilli. Naturally developed yeast has a milder sour flavor than when adding dry yeast. The sour flavor comes from the acetic acid it produces. The lactic acid produces a smooth, milder flavor. Lactic acid is produced by the lactobacilli that forms in the starter. Therefore, because of its mild sourdough flavor, I will use yeast in the actual sourdough bread recipe, though this starter recipe does not contain any. I wanted to create it for those who do not use dry yeast in their diets. In addition, in my actual bread recipe I will use other sour ingredients to create a good sourdough flavor. I also enjoy knowing that sourdough bread is healthier for us, as the natural yeast that develops helps create intestinal flora which is essential to our digestive process.
What Makes This Gluten Free Sourdough Starter Unique?
Utensils: What really made this starter successful was the type of bowl that I used. If you’re familiar with gluten sourdough starters, you may have read never to use metal bowls or utensils. This is a misunderstood myth as far as the preparation of the starter goes. The use of metal utensils in stirring or using a metal bowl to mix your starter will not kill the yeast. If you’re still set against the use of metal you can always use a silicone coated whisk.
However, after my experiment was successful, I searched the Internet and found a number of articles that backed up my conclusion. You may read one of them at Can I use metal with sourdough? It explains that if you were to store your starter in a metal bowl the metal would change colors and the metal may leak into your starter. The acid eats away at the metal, but it doesn’t kill the yeast. In the case of a gluten free sourdough starter, using plastic is essential. Perhaps you’ve heard that all of our plastic water bottles grow bacteria easily. Well, that sure comes in handy when developing yeast in a gluten free sourdough starter. Using metal did not seem to affect it, as the starter was complete in just 3 days. Another thing I discovered was that the use of warm water helps the process proceed much faster, heating the water to 110°F in the initial step, as well as in the feeding process. It creates a warm environment for those friendly creatures to grow. Lactobacilli, which grows in a non-commercial yeast starter, thrives in a warm environment. Commercial yeast thrives more in a wet environment.
What Temperature Should the Environment Be?
The temperature of the environment you place it in is also crucial. I keep my house at about 80°F. If you home is colder than that you may consider placing your starter in a warmer environment such as a warm iced chest with the lid closed, or on top of the stove with the light on, etc. The colder the environment, the more it needs to be fed. Up to 8 times a day wouldn’t be too much in a cold environment. At 80°F, every 4 hours is sufficient. You’ll notice that your starter will form a greyish liquid (hooch) when it has gone hungry. It starts to feed on itself and its own waste. This is not healthy for the starter.
Arsenic in Rice Products
As a side note, most of you are probably already aware of arsenic levels found in brown rice, higher than in white rice. I started this experiment prior to it being announced in the news. After much research, I have discovered there are 2 sources of arsenic in rice, naturally occurring in soil (organic); and from pesticides, etc. (inorganic). Organic arsenic is 500 times more tolerable than organic. You can also check with a manufacturer to see what they are doing to test or prevent arsenic levels. The World Health Organization, the UK, and Australia allow 1ppm (parts per million) in their food products. While the FDA is still trying to figure it out, they are suggesting .023ppm for juice. Currently the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that 0.01 ppm (or 10 ppb) is the tolerable allowable in our drinking water. The United States has never had an allowance in food, though it is found in our produce and other food1. I feel confident in using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour.
As a reminder the essential things to do to make a successful gluten free sourdough starter without yeast are to use a plastic container, use warm water never hotter than 110°F, keep your starter warm, and do not store it in a metal container. The next time I perform an experiment with a gluten free sourdough starter I look forward to testing the difference between the use of faucet water versus filtered, and the feeding of it 4 times a day. When I do, I’ll update this recipe. (UPDATE: I have learned that a brown rice flour starter needs to be fed every 4 hours and have updated the recipe accordingly.) Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one, and will look for my upcoming gluten free sourdough bread recipe.
Reference 1: Opinion Letter by Wil Summer, Former Supervisor for the FDA and California State Attorney General’s Office and Prop 65 California State Attorney General’s Office and Prop 65, http://www.growingnaturals.com/images/faq/ArsenicInFoodOpinionLetter.pdf (Accessed on 9/25/2012)