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 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. I’ve given you 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.
Introduction to Starters
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 will be in the kitchen experimenting today on developing a gluten free sourdough 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, never become bubbly, etc. Therefore, many gluten free starter recipes use commercial/dry yeast in their starters. But 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 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.
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 4 times a day wouldn’t be too much.
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. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one, and will look for my upcoming gluten free sourdough bread recipe.
A gluten free sourdough starter made from organic brown rice flour. (2 Days in the refrigerator pictured above.)
- 2 cups organic brown rice flour
- 2 cups water, warmed to 110°F
- 3/4 cup organic brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup water, warmed to 110°F
- Pour the water into a large plastic bowl. Sprinkle the rice flour evenly over the surface of the water.
- With an electric mixer, beat the the water and flour together on medium speed, in the same plastic bowl, for 10 minutes. Set it aside until most of the bubbles pop, and you see more forming, and they will most likely be larger, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
- Wipe the sides of the bowl near the top where the batter has splattered; cover the mixture with plastic wrap. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 12 hours.
- Every 12 hours, for 3 days, stir the starter, discard half of the mixture* and feed it with the additional flour and warm water listed above. Whisk them into the starter until bubbles form; wipe the sides of the bowl that have been splattered upon to avoid mold from growing; and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- On day 2 you may notice the starter is becoming a bit too thin. On day 2 add 1/2 cup of flour in addition to what you normally feed the starter. At the end of the third day it will be runny again, but that it is totally fine.
- Pour the starter into a large container with a tight fitted lid. Refrigerate until ready to use. It may be used in gluten free sourdough bread recipes or to assist the rising of other gluten free baked goods.After feeding your starter, if possible, leave it at room temperature for at least 2-3 hours, or more, and then refrigerate it.
- When you're ready to use your starter in a sourdough bread recipe, leave out the entire starter until it reaches room temperature and begins to bubble, several hours is best. Pour off the top liquid. And don't forget to feed your starter to replace the amount you removed. The ration is 3 parts flour to liquid 2 parts warm water (3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water.. Most recipes call for 1/2 - 1 cup of starter.
- UPDATE Jan. 19 and March 19, 2013: I have learned that emptying the sour, greyish colored liquid that forms is not ideal. Now I leave HALF of the liquid in and add about 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 warm water to feed it. In addition, I do not empty any of the starter when feeding it.
- For those able to tolerate commercial yeast, the day before you make your sourdough bread, set aside 2 cups of starter in a large plastic bowl (allowing for overflow); add 2 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast plus 1/4 cup warm water; and stir. Leave overnight. When ready to make the bread stir. There will be much trapped air in the starter. You want your starter to be thicker than pancake batter, but able to stir easily. Then when you add the yeast it will thin by the next day to a pancake batter thickness. If you keep track of the amount of liquid you use in your starter you will be able to determine how much less liquid to add to the sourdough recipe. See my new Gluten Free Sourdough Bread Recipe made with yeast.
*While discarding the starter while feeding, you may find that more liquid will pour out prior to the thick batter. This is a good thing. You want to keep your starter as thick as possible. However, stirring it first will prevent just the liquid from being discarded.
Though this gluten free starter recipe contains no yeast in its ingredients, yeast it does contain yeast in the end result. Therefore, I place this in my Yeast-Free category loosely, not literally.
I stored mine in a lucite container in the refrigerator so that when I bring it to room temperature it will propagate more.
UPDATE Jan. 19, 2013: I kept my starter out of the refrigerator a couple days before Christmas, as I had no room in the refrigerator. I fed it once about 1 week after Christmas; left it out at about 68 degrees; then fed it and added the 2 3/4 teaspoon yeast the day prior to baking my sourdough bread. It never spoiled or molded. I believe lucite is the key, as when I had it in an older Tupperware container it became moldy around the rim once. I have another batch that I am making from the 1/2 cup I had left over. I added 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup warm water. Then I'll keep feeding it with less water to flour ratio, as need, to keep it thick. I'll update this recipe to clarify things more soon.
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)