Lesson 18: Gluten Free Sourdough Breads

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Learn how to make a gluten free sourdough starter (a fermented batter) the traditional way. No commercial yeast required. Then, make an actual gluten free sourdough bread. Not all starters are alike. Learn the best flours to use to create a starter as well as the environment in which to develop it.

The Starter

Sourdough bread gets its flavor from what we call a starter. A starter is usually made up of flour and warm water which ferments and develops a sour flavor. The sour flavor comes from the acetic acid it produces. The yeast in the air grows in the starter, creating bubbles just like packaged/commercial yeast. Many gluten free bakers add commercial yeast to their starters because they have trouble creating a traditional starter. However, you won’t need to do that when you follow my instructions. The natural yeast that develops in the starter helps create intestinal flora which is essential to our digestive process.


Yeast is picky about where to grow. Yeast grows quickly like weeds in the right environment. Whole grain flours are the best flours to use to create a starter because they ferment easily and faster than other flour like white rice flour. You can use brown rice, oat, sorghum, or any other whole grain flour.

The temperature of the Water

Add warm water to the flour to create a warm environment for the yeast in the air to grow. Never use water over 120°F, as this will kill the yeast. Heat your water between 80 – 110°F. I use warmer water during the winter months when my house may get as low as 65°F and usually 80°F water in the summer months when my house is 78 – 80°F.


If you are familiar with gluten-filled starters, you may be aware that some veteran sourdough bakers are adamant to never use metal utensils to stir your starter. They fear that the metal kills the bacteria that is growing. That’s just a myth. If anything, metal is cold and may temporarily decrease the temperature of the starter, but that’s about it.


In reading an article a while back, I learned that yeast grows faster in plastic than glass or metal. Therefore, use a plastic bowl to grow your starter. If humidity, which can cause mold, is a problem in your area, try glass. The humidity alone helps grow the starter. On the other hand, if your air conditioner is on, it may dry out your starter creating a crust on the top.

The temperature of the Environment

The temperature of the environment in which you place your starter is also crucial. The ideal temperature for your starter is supposed to be 80°F. However, I have achieved a perfect gluten free sourdough starter in colder environments such as 67°F. Brown rice starters that are in colder environments may need to be fed less often, while if in warmer environments they may need to be fed more often. Up to eight times a day wouldn’t be too much in a warm environment. At 70 – 80°F, every four hours is sufficient. Similarly, it may take less time to achieve the final results in warm weather and more time in cold weather.

There is a device sold through King Arthur, Williams Sonoma, and Amazon made by Brod & Taylor that keeps your starter and your bread at its desired temperature. It’s called Folding Proofer & Slow Cooker. I met the owner and she sent me one. It’s pretty cool. If you live in a dry area, it’s perfect as it can add humidity to starters as well as dough. You won’t have to cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap. (Oiled plastic wrap prevents a film from forming on the top of the dough allowing it to stretch and rise more.)


Hooch is a gray-colored liquid that develops in the starter when you do not feed it often enough. The starter goes hungry and begins to feed on itself and its own waste. Too much hooch is a healthy environment for starters.  The more hot and humid the environment, the more food your starter needs. If your starter develops hooch, increase the feeding times or change the environment by decreasing the temperature and humidity.

Arsenic in Brown Rice Flour/Products

You probably remember the brown-rice-arsenic scare from 2012. However, California-sourced brown rice was deemed healthy. California brown rice is the major source of rice and rice products including flour. However, research shows that brown rice contains 80 percent higher levels of arsenic than white rice. There are two sources of arsenic in rice: naturally occurring in soil (organic), and from pesticides and other sources (inorganic). Organic arsenic is 500 times more tolerable than non-organic. I feel confident in using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour. Alternatively, you can use sorghum flour to make your starter. Unlike rice, sorghum does not absorb arsenic from the soil.


Make the Sourdough Starter Recipe.

Then, make the Sourdough Bread Recipe.

Remember, all lessons can be found on the Syllabus page.