Exploring Gluten Free Sourdough


I have just learned, much to my great disappointment, that the world is flat.  I can clearly see my mistake now. I had thought that I was making gluten free sourdough and forming up batards and boules, proofing them and baking them on a stone in my oven. But I was wrong, because I have just learned that gluten free sourdough can only be made with batter and baked in a loaf pan! Everywhere I look on the web I learn that gluten free sourdough is made with batter.  It is on the web, so it must be true.


So, the world is flat. That is the dominant paradigm, so, I guess I'll have to comply.


But, before I find a whisk and loaf pan, I want to show the results of my research that led me to think that it was possible to produce gluten free sourdough, following closely on the principles of regular sourdough bread making.


I started out in the Beginners Forum with a chronicle of my early research: First attempts at gluten free sourdough

Then I tried to work with LeadDog's Fred Bread, my entries in that discussion are under Farinam's entry Fred Bread conqueror's the world.


Some of my bread has used flour mixes, some has used straight flour with a little added fibre. Most recently I have been looking at the effects of long pre-ferments and very simple flour mixes. For example here are some pictures of a buckwheat and millet loaf with a 48 hour pre-ferment:

buckwheat and millet with 48 hour pre-ferment

crust and crumb of buckwheat and millet - 48 hour preferment

Although the crumb of this loaf was a little dry this mix produces a loaf that can be described as: Open, moist crumb, good texture. Pliable and a sweet, honey scent.

Other examples of simple gluten free flour mixes can be found in my facebook album Exploring GF Sourdough

The latest mirage to emerge from my oven (it must be a mirage because it is not in a loaf pan!) was a delight ot the eyes, nose and tongue. Though there is still room for improvement. Here are some photos:

quinoa and tapioca batard


quinoa and tapioca crust, quite thin, but crisp, crumb light and open after excellent oven spring

The crumb was still a little too moist, could have been left in the oven another 5 minutes. A little more flour in the mix would have helped - hydration was a little too high.


Pity the earth is flat, I was begining to enjoy the feel of a round earth!

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 28

It must be true, I read it in the newspaper has been replaced by - It must be true, I read it on the internet.

Good job Staffo.

Keep on bakin' (gluten free of course)


Staffo 2012 March 8

Yesterday I tried using Amaranth - following the same recipe and method I had used for Quinoa.

This was the first major disaster/ learning experience in months!

#7 mix - what a loaf! Amaranth and Tapioca best oven spring I have seen!

#7 mix - the oven spring was so strong that the loaf started cracking and expanding.

#7 mix - but something was wrong!

After the loaf cooled (this morning) I cut it. At first the cutting felt normal, then it seemed a little too easy, then it slowed down and the goo became evident!

The crust was really very good, but sometime after it left the oven the crumb slumped.

With the upper crust removed it is clear that there had been a really strong rise - lots of gas produced and lots of bubbles.

Even in the goo there was evidence that bubbles had been there, but it looked as if the bubbles had all burst/ merged, allowing the dough to slump to a gooey, slightly cooked mess! It tasted ok-ish, but the texture was like eating thick raw dough - oh, that is what it was!


I have also tried amaranth in a yeasted bread recipe that has proven very effective with other flours, but it was was also a very heavy, doughy bread. 

It seemed as if the crust had formed an insulating barrier around the dough and prevented it from cooking adequately. But that is too simple an explanation of all that I could see.  Amaranth may cook more slowly and require a longer cooking time.


Need to ponder this one a bit longer!



Staffo 2012 March 22

 Yesterday, after waiting for the flour for weeks, I tried sorghum.

The pre-ferment worked well -somewhere between buckwheat and millet for activity.

The dough was more difficult to work with - seemed very gritty - and did not bind as well as other gf flours. This was evident at every stage, however I pressed on! (diligent or stubborn?)

The oven spring was OK and the crust is good.

Sorghum sourdough

Sorughum sourdough - crumb

The crumb is moist, but crumbles too much.


Another learning experience! :)

Staffo 2012 May 11

After the learning experiences above I decided to go back to some successes to see where I could go with them. First I tried shorter ferment and proof time with millet. Here are some results:

This was too long in pre-ferment (9 1/2 hours). At first I thought the proof was too long, but the proof was only 1 1/2 hours. I was also playing with luke warm water in the pre-ferment. I suspet I over-did pre-ferment! Shorter with warm water or similar time without warm water.


Next, another millet loaf. Pre-ferment with luke warm water (40degC) was 3 hours. Proof 3 1/4 hours.

Vast improvement! Good crumb, moist, light. Flavour is not as strong as millet made with a long preferment. Crust still has a little of that millet floury texture on the surface.


Then I decided to try something I have contemplated for a while: add a little yoghurt to the dough. I have been hesitant because I wanted to keep pushing the boundaries on gluten free with out complicating things too much. So, here is the result of a little plain, natural yoghurt (no additives, no sugar etc) added to the basic millet sourdough.

Thin crust and lovely light, soft crumb. Lovely loaf! Closest to a 'regular' bread so far.

I offered a slice to a work colleague yesterday. I wasn't ready for the response: "Mmmmm, not bad, where did you buy that!"

Staffo 2012 May 10

I wanted to try this for a while, so, today was the day for GF Focaccia!

I worked from my basic millet bread, using a longer ferment with less water than usual. When I made the dough I added some olive oil. Instead of forming a batard I made a boule, the flattened it , spreading it out to proof. Brushed more olive oil on it after proofing and sprinkled sea salt and fresh rosemary from the garden.


Impatient, or driven to a frenzy by the aroma of fresh focaccia I cut it when it was still hot, and started to eat!


Same again with different lighting to better display the open crumb.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 May 12

Staffo, you deserve a medal.

Haven't really considered GF, but almost getting tempted.

Keep up the good work.


Staffo 2012 May 13

Hi Farinam,

I have been thinking about your Cornish Calzone. I think the millet recipe will be the basis for a GF version.

I am enjoying this!  Have you seen my other interest - GF baked goods, lots of GF breads and pastries at RecipesforLiving.info? I became frustrated by the poor quality food available to people on a restricted diet. I just made do when it was only me, but when my daughters developed the same problem I had to take the challenge seriously!

The most challenging aspect is learning the qualities of the various GF flours, then matching those qualities with requirements and then designing suitable recipes.

BTW, I value your comments and inputs. Ihave spent hours reading through sourdough.com

It is full of fascinating and valuable insights from you and others. 



Staffo 2012 May 27

The Millet and yoghurt loaf is definitely a favourite.

Two questions I needed to answer:

Is the quantity of yoghurt the right amount?

I tried halving the amount of yoghurt.

crumb of millet & yoghurt - less yoghurt


The crumb was not as soft. My preference is for the softer crumb.

Going the other direction, I added 50% more yoghurt than the first loaf. Result was OK, except that the dough was a little too wet. I should have reduced the water a little. However, the extra yoghurt did not improve the crumb, rather it looked like a batter had been used, not a dough. Texture of the crumb was too much like a potato bread, not a proper bread.


Should it have a long or a short proof - and how long?

The first loaf was 4 hours.

I have tried longer, and it slumped.

5 hours and it was OK,

6 hours and it slumped in the oven. Oven spring was OK, but it was horizontal, not vertical.

So around 4 hours or less looks good.


Just for fun I tried adding some saffron. I have been growing it for years and carefully collecting the filaments and drying them every year.

It seemed to me that saffron would work with millet and yoghurt. I steeped half a teaspoon of filaments, which were first ground with a mini mortar and pestle, in 30ml / 30grams water over night. This was then added when I made the dough.


The colour of the crust was a beautiful soft cream like the colour of the rich cream from the milk of a Jersey cow. Unfiortunately the photo does not represent the colour well.

millet loaf with saffron

The colour of the crumb was stronger, getting towards butter. On the left of the picture there is a patch of stronger colour where piece of saffron filament continued to bleed colour into the proofing dough.

Millet with saffron - the crumb

I had to go out unexpectedly, so was not able to bake this at the optimum time, so it over-proofed and slumped! The crumb was soft (softness is from the yoghurt). There was an aroma and subtle flavour of saffron. Nice enhancement, worth repeating for a treat!


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