My awesome housemate Belinda took on the challenge of making sourdough from scratch. It was damn tasty – but not without a few goopy explosions and pan scrubbing. Over to Beebs…
I love (regular, wheat) sourdough bread, but I love Steve more, so there’s none in our house. I do miss it though. So, while I had some time off work this year, I set myself the challenge of learning how to bake gluten free sourdough bread. I found a promising post online by Gluten-Free Girl. By the time I’d scrolled down a few times it became apparent that there wasn’t going to be a recipe at the bottom of the page. I would have to buy her book, American Classics Reinvented, to unlock the secrets. I’m a lazy researcher and she sounded like she knew what she was talking about, so I did.
If I’d seen the recipe first, I might not have…
First I had to source nine flours in order to make two of the three different GF flour mixes required for the bread. I went organic where possible. I spent about $130 but I had to deviate a little because I just couldn’t find some of the flours she can get her hands on in The States. This is going to be an expensive loaf of bread…
I won’t give the recipe away because I believe GF girl when she says she invested a lot of time experimenting to come up with it. She deserves a return on her investment. Before making the bread, I have to create a sourdough starter – a mix of flours full of bubbly natural yeasts.
Use teff flour and water to get the sourdough starter going. Teff flour is used in Ethiopia to make injera an amazing, slightly fermented pancake-like bread that’s eaten with curries.
Discard 3/4 of the starter! Mix the remainder with more teff flour and water.
At almost $20 a kg, I follow GF Girl’s suggestion and use the discarded teff mixture. I try to make injera. The first injera pancake sticks to the frying pan like no pancake I’ve ever cooked before. Like industrial glue. Like concrete on the bottom – and yet, still goopy in the middle. Even if I could pry it off the frying pan it is not going to be good eating. It takes about half an hour to clean the pan. injera will not be the answer to the surplus starter issues. I pour the batter into a bottle anyway because I’m not always a realist but I am an optimist, and I think I’ll do something else with it later. Turns out I was somewhat correct.
Discard ¾ of the starter. Mix teff flour, water and some of the bespoke flour with the remainder. This time I just stick the discarded goop into a lunch box and then in the fridge because I hate to waste food but I don’t know what to do with it right now.
Meanwhile, that other goop – the stuff I put in a bottle. It’s alive! It blows its lid off and overflows in the fridge. This is surely a good sign. It’s this kind of natural yeast activity that a good sourdough starter needs. Despite the mess, I’m feeling optimistic. This sourdough caper just might work! I clean the fridge and leave the still quite full bottle by the sink. Because I hate waste and I’m a bit shit at housework. And still somehow think I’ll do something with it later.
Later on Day 3 I come home to this.
Clean-up takes a bit over an hour and requires a ladder.
Remove ¾ of the mix and then add some of one of the GF flours and water. Discarded goop goes into the fridge.
Apparently now my starter is ready. It’s doubled in size and is full of bubbles. Just as my fridge is full of discarded goop. I turn to the GF Sourdough recipe. Now I have to discard all but 100g of the starter and add more of the other flours. Discarded goop goes into the fridge. This is killing me. I’ve discarded at least $20 worth of flour so far I reckon… Maybe if I was into baking muffins I could use the discarded goop in muffin batter…
Later that day I mix the morning dough with some more ingredients and let it sit.
I’m looking at the dough. It looks good. I poke it. It’s doughy. But there’s not a lot there. These are going to be buns, not loaves. Maybe it should have risen more?
I follow the instructions, which include heat, lids on, lids off and ice.
The bread is good! It tastes like a hearty sourdough. It’s not light and fluffy but it’s crusty on the outside and soft(ish) on the inside. In taste and texture it’s very similar to the Yallingup Woodfired Bakery sourdough loaf- although maybe referencing a gluten bread isn’t going to work with this audience… (can confirm awesomeness – Steve)
Matt said “This is the best gluten free bread I’ve ever eaten”.
Was it worth the effort? Well, yes, definitely. Collateral damage clean-ups aside, it’s a fairly low effort process. I didn’t actually spend a lot of time on it, despite it being a 6-day journey. None of that tiresome kneading that goes on with gluteny bread.
Was it worth the waste? No! There must be another way! I’ll try again with a starter with smaller quantities so I’m not discarding so much expensive flour… Was it worth the cost? Well, I think, including the cost of the discarded starter, these two tiny loaves cost about $15 each to make. I guess the cost could be reduced if I went for non-organic flours.
Would I bake it again? Yep. I like sourdough.
Could the recipe be better? I would have appreciated more support along the way- descriptions of the consistency of the starter, for example, so I knew I was on the right track. And surely some advice on how to keep the sourdough starter going so I don’t have to go through all of that again from the beginning next time I want to bake! I’ll try contacting GF Girl with this query.