Celiac-Safe Sourdough

Enjoy the classic taste of sourdough bread without worry using this gluten-free recipe.

| Spring 2020


Sourdough is a bread of, and for, the people. The simple combination of wheat flour, salt, water, and time creates a beautifully fermented and nutrient-dense leaven bread — a basic food staple around the world. Encouraging wild yeasts and lactic acid through fermentation is the oldest method of leavening bread known to humankind. With an increase in gluten sensitivities and celiac disease throughout the modern world, bakers are looking back to this ancient method to create entirely gluten-free, celiac-safe breads.

Cultures worldwide have long looked beyond wheat to source alternative grains for bread baking. One example includes injera breads of Ethiopia, which are made with teff flour, a light, whole-grain flour. These traditional breads are often fermented, but don’t have the rise and crumb texture of a wheat sourdough due to the lack of gluten. Using alternative grain flours to make gluten-free bread resembling traditional yeast bread requires added starches, such as tapioca, corn, potato, or arrowroot, and guar or xanthan gums. These starches usually make up 60 percent of the gluten-free flour blend, but are relatively devoid of nutrients, so they can’t replace the nutrition that whole-grain gluten breads offer.


I wanted to create a gluten-free bread that’s a nutritional powerhouse and easily digestible. I worked on eliminating all of the starches and gums, and focused on using whole-grain and seed flours. I also included psyllium husk and flaxseed meal, which are hydrophilic (meaning they’re easily dissolved by water) and contribute to the bread’s structure. I then used the wild yeasts of a fermented sourdough starter to act as a leaven.

Experimenting with different flour combinations and finding the balance of nutritious flours was a unique opportunity to explore the abundant variety of gluten-free flours available. The experiments had varying results, since too much or too little of one flour can change the flavor, texture, and crumb structure. I discovered that buckwheat flour adds terrific flavor, and that adding a bit of amaranth lends crispness to the crust, but too much dries out the interior. Additionally, quinoa flour is high in protein, but has an off-putting bitter taste if used too generously. Early on, many of my loaves were gummy inside, with too much moisture and not enough natural yeast. Still, I persisted in my experiments to find the perfect balance. The result? A loaf that’s different from other gluten-free breads, which are often a mix of tapioca, cornstarch, and xanthan gum to create a soft, fluffy interior. I’ve created a multigrain artisan loaf, with a semifirm texture and airy crumb. It’s outstanding when toasted or griddled, and doing so dries up any lingering moisture.



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