The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Yeast Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sourdough Starter

  • Pin It
sharonk's picture
sharonk

Yeast Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sourdough Starter

I see a lot of sourdough starter recipes that call for commercial or dried yeast. For those of us who chose not to use yeast it is possible to create a starter without it. Before the invention of commercial yeast all sourdough starters and breads relied on the natural yeast in the air for leavening. I’ve made many successful wheat and rye starters with just flour and water. They fermented easily and made wonderful breads. After I learned I was gluten (and dairy) intolerant I tried to make gluten free starters using the same technique I had grown accustomed to for the wheat and rye breads: a 7 day sourdough starter. With gluten free flours 7 days did not work well. The starter turned a moldy shade of bluish green. I experimented, searched the webs and learned that gluten free sourdough needs to be fed 2-3 times a day unlike wheat/rye starter which can be fed as little as once a day.

I was able to create a brown rice starter in about 4-5 days using only brown rice flour and water but it smelled almost spoiled and the bread was unpleasantly sour. (one wonders why I would go forward and bake something that smelled almost spoiled, but I was determined to follow through so I could learn all the ins and outs of this) Someone suggested that I try a small amount of Water Kefir, a non-dairy fermented drink, to give the starter a boost. This made all the difference for me because it cut the fermenting time down to 3-4 days and never moldered. I have come to greatly depend on this success-every-time starter.

Fermented drinks are an important part of my diet. They have helped me repopulate my digestive system with probiotics and enzymes enabling me to fully recover from health challenges. Water Kefir culture is a colony of bacteria and yeast that, when fed sugar, creates lactobacillus into the liquid which then becomes available to us in the form of a drink. It can also be used to soak grains and beans before cooking. It then boosts the predigestion process that happens when grains and beans are soaked. It does the same for the flour in the starter making the finished bread more digestible. It also speeds the fermentation process.

Kombucha Tea is another fermented drink I make at home, that can be used to boost a starter, although I find the fermentation time to be slower than with the water kefir. For people able to eat dairy products, Milk Kefir or active Yoghurt could be used to boost a gluten free starter. Just add 2 tablespoons of any of these fermented products to your starter when first mixing it up. I save a bit of this starter to start the next batch and store it in the refrigerator. If I haven’t used it after 2 weeks I take it out, let it come to room temperature, feed it with rice flour and water, let it sit (and ferment) for 4 hours and store it back in the fridge. Creating a new starter with this bit of previously fermented starter cuts the fermentation time from 4 days to about 2 days!

I make a quart of water kefir at a time and use it to soak grains and beans before cooking. I also drink it in small amounts as a digestive aid before meals. It becomes effervescent and is very refreshing. I bought my first batch of water kefir culture for under $30 including shipping. With care these can last indefinitely and as they add probiotics into my diet I save money as I no longer need to buy bottles of probiotics.

Here are very succinct directions for making Water Kefir:

Nearly fill a wide mouth quart jar with water.

Add 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring to dissolve, 20 raisins and a slice of lemon or lime.

Add the contents of your bottle of water kefir grains into the quart jar.

Cover with a paper towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band. 

When raisins float to the top, scoop them and the lemon slice out and discard.

Ferment the water kefir for 6 more hours on the counter with the paper towel.

Then store in fridge and use as needed.

When you have used the liquid down to about an inch in the jar start a new batch in a new jar and pour the water kefir grains plus the liquid their in right into the new jar, cover and ferment.

You can order water kefir culture (as well as kombucha and kefir culture)  at www.culturesforhealth.com. They send dehydratedwater kefir grains with instructions for rehydrations.

 

Comments

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Sharonk,


The premise of your first paragraph is incorrect as it pertains to sourdough starters.I am replying so that others who are not yet familiar with the subject will not be confused.


There are no sourdough starter recipes that call for commercial yeast. There are some German procedures that use yeast to develop sour but these are not starters as we use the word. A natural yeast is just that, natural.


There is ample evidence that the naturally occurring yeast and other bacteria that can be grown and developed into a starter come from, flour and not the air. This is a long complex subject but the evidence is clear the greatest amount of natural yeast is present on the grain. Feeding schedules, temperature. hydration and flour used for feeding all have an influence on the outcome.


From what I gather, there are many things that can be fermented that are beneficial to us. Aside from the adult beverages, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickels and a whole host of asian rice products. Good luck with your dealing with your medical issues. It sounds like you are on the right path for discovering what works for you.


Eric


 


 


 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Eric and SharonK,


As Sharon notes, there are a large number of "starter" recipes, allegedly sourdough, that rely on commercial yeast.  Even Bernard Clayton has one or two of these in his Complete Book of Breads.  As Eric points out, they should not be called sourdoughs because sourdough starters rely entirely on naturally-occurring yeasts, not on commercially-produced yeasts.  Rule of thumb: if you want a real sourdough starter, stay away from procedures that call for commercial yeast.


Sharon relates the long-standing myth that a naturally-yeasted, or sourdough, starter can be cultured from yeasts that are floating about in the air and serendipitously land in the flour and water bed prepared for them.  Once upon a time, I might have given this a Mythbusters "Plausible" rating.  Then I read about Ed Woods' experiments with sterilized flour and the utter failures he encountered with "catching" a wild yeast.  As Eric points out, the (relatively) enormous volume of yeasts adhering to the grain itself is now thought to be the more probable source of the yeasts in our sourdough starters.  (I have to say "is now thought to be" because I've had to learn/unlearn/relearn a whole lot of established facts so far in my life.)  That doesn't mean that it is impossible for a yeast spore to waft down out of the air and into our nascent starters; it's just that, if they do, they'll find a whole lot of their brethren already at the party.


And, really, even if we didn't understand any of that, we'd still know that we like our fermented foods, bread included.  


Sharon, I'll be very interested in hearing more of your efforts to adjust your baking and dietary practices and how that affects your health.


Paul


 

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

I make both sourdough and kefir at home. 


I understand what Sharon means... if you do a search on the Internet for sourdough bread recipes, you will find more than half of them call for commercial yeast to make the starter.  That's not what we, TFL members, recognize as wild yeast sourdough starter.  Still, a lot of people refer that to sourdough. 


I have not added any kefir into my sourdough starter because I am very happy with what I have.  I do add kefir whey (from milk kefir) into my sourdough breads.  It enhances the sourness also boosts oven spring. 


Sharon, I would like to hear more of your experience incoporating kefir with sourdough.  I find it fascinating.



sharonk's picture
sharonk

Hello Al,


I'm assuming you are making wheat or rye starters and don't add any kefir because as you said "I am very happy with what I have".  You don't need to add kefir  because the wheat and rye starters are full of gluten and rise and ferment beautifully on their own. You say you add kefir whey to your breads as it enhances the sourness and boosts oven spring. The oven spring is the key word here because gluten free flours don't have the ability to rise much by themselves. My need to keep my gluten free breads limited to food ingredients, no baking powders, no gums, and alas no eggs and milk (I'm allergic) pushed me to look at other possibilities.


I'm using water kefir rather than milk kefir (being allergic to milk). It's a different culture made with sugar, fruit and lemon. It has the same "oven spring qualities" you're getting from the milk kefir. For people with gluten as well as milk allergy, water kefir does the trick. I believe it acts as a preservative in the starter until the lactobacillus makes enough of itself to inhibit pathogens. My experience has been that gluten free starters without a boost of some fermented drink tend towards over fermentation and mold.


Another benefit of water kefir is that it's a tasty drink, especially in summer. It's a bit alcoholic, (hence the leavening properties) and very refreshing!


Thanks, Al for your comments.


sharonk

sharonk's picture
sharonk

Hello Al,


I'm assuming you are making wheat or rye starters and don't add any kefir because as you said "I am very happy with what I have".  You don't need to add kefir  because the wheat and rye starters are full of gluten and rise and ferment beautifully on their own. You say you add kefir whey to your breads as it enhances the sourness and boosts oven spring. The oven spring is the key word here because gluten free flours don't have the ability to rise much by themselves. My need to keep my gluten free breads limited to food ingredients, no baking powders, no gums, and alas no eggs and milk (I'm allergic) pushed me to look at other possibilities.


I'm using water kefir rather than milk kefir (being allergic to milk). It's a different culture made with sugar, fruit and lemon. It has the same "oven spring qualities" you're getting from the milk kefir. For people with gluten as well as milk allergy, water kefir does the trick. I believe it acts as a preservative in the starter until the lactobacillus makes enough of itself to inhibit pathogens. My experience has been that gluten free starters without a boost of some fermented drink tend towards over fermentation and mold.


Another benefit of water kefir is that it's a tasty drink, especially in summer. It's a bit alcoholic, (hence the leavening properties) and very refreshing!


Thanks, Al for your comments.


sharonk

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Sharon, it must be hard having to deal with so many food allergies.  On the other hand, I am glad that you manage to make the best of what you can tolerate.  I always want to make a loaf of gluten free bread, not that we're allergic to gluten but I just like the challenge.  So many people have complained about the terrible texture and a lack of flavor of gluten free bread.  It's my curious nature that makes me want to make a loaf gluten free bread that doesn't look or taste like cardboard.  I have a couple of recipes that I can try.  I have also looked at your blog and some of free recipes looked very promising.  Think I will try them out this summer when I have more time on hand.


I am always very happy with my milk kefir but I want to give water kefir a try.  Bought some water grains and I have just started some in a glass jar yesterday.  Will see the results in the next few days.

sharonk's picture
sharonk

Al,


at first it was very hard working with so many food allergies but it's fine now, It's a bit difficult to eat out but that's getting easier as restaurants are wanting to make it possible for us to safely eat in their establishments. I'm impressed that someone who doesn't need to eat gluten free bread would take the time to bake it...just for the challenge! My bread successes have come from a similar sort of challenge. Years ago, when I was first informed of the food allergies I asked someone savvy about old fashioned cooking and baking techniques if she knew about gluten free starters. She said there were none because they were impossible to make. I just refused to believe that so I started researching and experimenting. I learned quite a bit including the fact that there have been cultures all over the globe that have made gluten free sourdough products. They didn't call it gluten free because they were just using their indigenous grains, corn, teff, buckwheat, etc. that happened to be gluten free.


The recipe on my blog is a tasty bread and interesting to make. No kneading. The bread won't rise as high as a wheat bread but when toasted before eating, is spongy aromatic and delicious.


Let me know how it goes and have fun!


sharon


 

sharonk's picture
sharonk


Thank you Paul and Eric, for taking the time to read and respond to my post. I agree with you, Eric, that a true sourdough starter only uses natural yeast but alas, the fact that there are many, many printed recipes for sourdough starter that use commercial yeast is for me, the source of misunderstanding and perpetuates the belief that one must have commercial yeast to leaven bread. I wrote about this to let people with yeast allergy know that they may be able to eat properly made sourdough bread with no problematic reactions.


I have read the belief that the natural yeast is in the air and is "captured" by the starter although it is hard to imagine the yeasts in the starter reaching up with their long tentacles to capture anything as diaphanous as a yeast. I feel sure that there is yeast naturally on the grain as it is naturally on the cabbage and the other fresh harvested veggies that I ferment. Facts are theories that are considered to be true...until someone comes along and disproves them making room for a new theory. The capturing of yeast may be the latest fact to be disproven.


I have to wonder about the revered sourdough starters, say from San Francisco, with their characteristic ultra sour taste, where some people are hoarding the starter or charging a premium for a small amount of culture. Something gives those famous breads their characteristic taste and I don't think it's from flour grown in San Francisco...People insist that it's the San Francisco yeast in the air that flavors it. Perhaps there is a happy medium between these two factual myths... or mythical facts. 


I'm happy to have been able to figure out how to bake my own sourdough bread within the parameters of my food allergies. It's a joy to eat home made bread again!


Thanks again, gentlemen, for reading and responding.


Be Well,


sharon


 


 


 


 

cherryadia's picture
cherryadia

Hello SharonK,

I am going gluten free and I keep failing in producing good gluten-free vegan loaf. Probably because I am very stubborn and have limited resources and keep using home-mixed GF "all-purpose flour" instead of something that mixes teff and sorghum and millet and other expensive nearly-impossible-to-get-from-where-I-live GF flours. I just found out that since GF bread dough has no gluten, many GF breadmaking recipes use some kind of booster (such as cider vinegar).

But I never came across kefir, let alone WATER kefir, to help with the whole process. How do you make water kefir? And kombucha? I am also trying to produce vegan GF bread that does not turn into a lethal weapon (heavy, hard, and unchewable (if that can be a word)). Please help!

Adia

sharonk's picture
sharonk

Hello Adia,

I so hear you about GF bread becoming a letha weapon. For a year I made what I call bricks, hockey pucks and door stops. :-) Not anymore, though. I have figured it out. I have written a book about it. You can learn more about what's in the book from my website.  If you read the book you might be able to use what I learned and apply it to the flours you want to use and have access to that are within your budget. I don't use any GF mixes for my breads because there are usually flours in there I cannot or won't use for various reasons.  I'm curious about where you live and what flours you can get.

Water kefir and Kombucha are begun with a culture that must be purchased or acquired. I recommend

Cultures for Health, an excellent company, that sends dehydrated cultures to anywhere in the US.  There is also an international website that lists people all over the world willing to share cultures.

I wish you well in your vegan gluten-free bread making. It can be successfully done and I hope you conquer it soon so you can enjoy it!

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

is this an oxymoron?

sharonk's picture
sharonk

I know this may be confusing. Many bakers add commercial yeast to create a sourdough starter even though a true sourdough starter uses only wild yeast from the air and on the grain. (people argue about where the yeast actually comes from). Many people cannot tolerate breads with commercial yeast but can eat true sourdough without any problem. I'm one of those people.

So the breads are not completely free of yeast, they are free of commercial yeast which is somewhat different than wild yeast.

all the best,

sharonk

MegMousy's picture
MegMousy

Hi everyone! Both my daughter and myself, must have GF organic flours, and I started a sourdough starter the all purpose Bobs Red Mill flour. It is VERY slow to grow, at day 4 it is showing bubbles but not doubling, any ideas? It is fairly thick as well. P.S I have dysbiosis/candida so cannot use yeast from a packet it upsets my stomach. We desperately want desserts and bread fort he holidays lol, so any info or help is appreciated.

sharonk's picture
sharonk

Hi Meg,

I cannot use a yeast packet, either! When I began making gfree sourdough starters they took a long time to become active and often spoiled before they were ready. I learned to use a fermented drink to boost the bacterial activity. I talk about it at length in my blog post above. You could also use homemade yogurt or live milk kefir. I recently opened my own commercial kitchen and now offer my own dehydrated sourdough starter cultures. I also offer gluten-free sourdough bread mixes, one of which is a cinnamon spice bread which would be perfect for the holidays. You can check out my offerings at www.glutenfreesourdough.com