adventures in bread-making: gluten free sourdough

It feels so good to be adventuring in bread making once again (find past adventures here). After I was diagnosed with coeliac disease last year I have felt so uninspired to bake bread. Bread is bread (and not loaf-shaped rice and potato and corn starch) because of those wonderfully gluten containing grains - wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale and barley. I may have a life-long ban from gluten, but I still appreciate the fine baking characteristics of it - and of course, the memory, the flavour, the smell of it too! There are numerous alternatives of course - but they aren't replacements - they are their own seed/grain/legume and most of the time taste best in their whole, unrefined form. A bowl of steaming rice. A crispy baked potato. Polenta. Buckwheat porridge. If I am completely honest "gluten free bread" (the kinds you can buy) make me want to cry.  They are so full of soy/corn/egg derivatives, emulsifiers, nuts and a number of other highly refined starches, sugar and seeds... and they still taste nothing-y.

Then, I began to wonder... would be possible to produce a truly gluten-free sourdough? Something that tastes of delicious sour-ness and has a somewhat bread-like texture. I looked high and low on the web for recipes to experiment with. My first attempt was with a pure buckwheat starter but it didn't work out. But for the last month I've been fermenting an organic rice flour starter and it's working brilliantly. 

~ Rice flour Sourdough starter ~
1/2 cup organic rice flour (brown or white)
1/2 cup filtered water
Combine flour and rice in a wide-mouth glass jar. Cover with cheese cloth and a rubber band and leave to rest in a warmish place. Every day for the next 7 days "feed" starter 1/4 cup flour + 1/4 cup filtered water. Be careful to stir starter with a non-metal spoon - I use a wooden chopstick! The starter should produce a vinegary smell (not foul at all) and a greyish-liquid might settle on the top. Its the bubbles that let you know the wild yeast is working. After 7 days begin baking bread with your starter - refreshing with equal parts water and flour every time. Store in the fridge if don't want to use it straight away - but be wary that gluten free starters don't stay preserved in the fridge as long as gluten-ones without regular refreshing. 

~ No Knead Gluten-free Sourdough ~
(Soy free. Corn free. Egg free. Seed free. Nut free)

1 cup rice starter (50% hydration)
1 1/2 cups filtered water at room temp.
1 1/2 cups organic rice flour (brown or white or both) - sometimes I replace 1/2 cup with buckwheat flour.
2 tablespoons arrowroot or tapioca flour
2 tablespoons cold pressed olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix all of the above in a glass or ceramic bowl until a smooth, thick batter. You may need to add some extra water/flour to get the right consistency. Pour into a bread tin that has been greased with butter or olive oil and dusted with flour. Sit in a warm place covered with a tea towl for  5 - 8 hours or until risen by 1/3. Preheat oven to 190'c. Bake bread for 70 - 75 minutes on a middle rack with a cake tin below with water (the steam makes a pleasingly crunchy crust). Cool completely in tin. Loosen with a knife from the sides and flip out on a rack. When completely cold you can pre-slice it (say for the freezer) and I find this much easier with the bottom sitting up. The texture is crumbly and chewy - the flavour is that unmistakable sour with a note of nuttiness.

You can make the spicy/fruit version by stirring in 2 tsps of mixed spice and 1/2 cup of dried fruit like sultanas, apricots and dates.

p.s. for a wonderful alternative to paper and plastic I've been seaming up linen bread bags - you can find them for sale in the shop for $18 each.