Monday, March 17, 2014

GF 24-hour Sourdough Bread Recipe

This is a very traditional sourdough bread recipe, using artisan methods to create a nice, tangy, San Francisco-style sourdough bread.  If you like a really sour-but-smooth sourdough bread, this is the recipe for you.

There are just a few differences between this recipe and a standard wheat-based recipe.  The most notable difference, of course, is the psyllium husk, which is a gluten substitute.  Read more about psyllium and other binders here.  Then of course there's the flour.  I use my own Bread Flour Blend for bread baking, but if you live outside the U.S. read my post Make Your Own Gluten-free Bread Flour.  If you use your own flour blend, you may have to adjust the amount of water and psyllium you use.

Why sourdough?  It's incredibly delicious, for one thing.  The natural process of fermenting the bread through the sourdough process makes it really good for you, too.  Then there's the fact that sourdough bread stays fresh much longer than regular bread.  It will stay soft and flexible for about four days, and it can stay good for a week or two on the counter without molding - even in damp climates like Portland, Oregon where I live.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Brief History of Bread

Breads are considered the stuff of life in many cultures.  Those of us who are gluten-free in a gluten-loving country can fee left out of the main event of our culinary heritage.  Knowing something about the history of bread has helped me keep gluten in perspective.

When did people start making bread?  The most ancient and the simplest method of making bread does not use fermentation.  This is the method that's still used to make tortillas: a simple mixture of flour and water, patted into a flat circle and grilled on both sides until done.  People have been using this process for making flatbreads since time immemorial.

People figured out how to ferment the water-and-flour mixture as long as 20,000 years ago in Africa.  The invention of cultured doughs made injera and other types of sourdough pancakes possible.  The grains used for these yeasted flatbreads are mainly teff and sorghum.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sourdough Starter in 3 Days

When I was a kid, my dad loved to make the family sourdough bread on the weekends.  I loved watching him feed the starter, knead the dough, and put a raw lump into the oven to see a golden half-globe of bread emerge later.  We could get really good fresh San Francisco sourdough bread in the store, but that had nothing on my dad's bread.  It was one of my favorite foods.

I like my sourdough really sour in the San Francisco and pioneer traditions.  My dad's sourdough was from an old country recipe that was handed down from a farmer neighbors, the Lists.

Old List Family Sourdough  Bread Recipe

I decided to track down the recipe and re-create it, gluten-free.  When I get an idea in my head to re-create a recipe I loved as a gluten eater, I'm like a dog with a bone.  I just work on it tenaciously until the job is done.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What is Sourdough Bread?


Sourdough is not a description of a type or a flavor of bread - it's a process.  Sourdough is an ancient method for making bread that uses a starter of natural yeasts and bacterias found on the grain itself.  These microorganisms are cultured by the bread maker to have a healthy balance of flavor and the power to let the loaf rise.

Bread History in a Glimpse

It used to be that sourdough bread was just called bread.   Commercial yeast has only been available for the last 100 years.  Before that, leavened bread was made using either the sourdough method or in a similar process that used the yeast left over from fermenting alcoholic beverages.

The sourdough process has been used for 10,000-20,000 years.  When you think of that length of human history, and then compare it to the last 100 years of bread making, that puts the tradition of sourdough bread in perspective.


Making sourdough bread is more like growing a garden than executing a formula.  First, you have to grow a culture.  Traditional methods of growing a sourdough culture take a few weeks to establish the right balance of microorganisms.  Basically, flour and water are combined in a jar.  The fungus and bacteria on the grains duke it out until a balance is achieved in which they can coexist.  There are infinite ways of starting and feeding the mixture to optimize the culture for different organisms, most of them derived from trial and error.

Modern techniques can allow you to make a sourdough starter in as little as three days.  It's like starting your seeds in a hothouse instead of waiting for the soil to warm in the spring.  I will have a recipe for this quick sourdough starter process in my next post.

Why Sourdough?

Sourdough bread can be many flavors - from yeasty and mildly sweet to ultra-tangy.  The benefit of the process isn't just the flavor you get from it, but the depth of flavor, which is more complex in sourdough than in commercial loaves.  The slow rise, which helps to process the grains for easier digestion and the increased shelf-life of the bread due to acidity and other natural anti-microbial properties are other great benefits of the sourdough process.

Making sourdough bread can sound very complex.  However, I will give you some very basic, easy to follow instructions for making your own sourdough starter and a few great gluten-free sourdough bread recipes.