The Fresh Loaf

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Sourdough Bread Concepts & Summary

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Sourdough Bread Concepts & Summary

I'm new to posting on the Fresh Loaf but I've searched this site quite a bit for tips and ideas.  I'm looking to create a brand-new recipe for gluten-free sourdough bread and I was hoping some people on this forum more experienced than I am can help me sort through some sourdough theory.  I've read lots of forum posts and blogs (Sourdough Home, Breadtopia, The Art of Gluten-free Baking) and I've successfully created a starter.  Baking the actual bread is another thing.  My most recent sourdough boule is in the garbage can right now, a sad, flat, lumpy disc of gooey dough.  I am encouraged, though, that the failed loaves I've made have had some redeeming qualities either in a nice, tart sourdough taste or in some great rise (before it then sank).  

Right now I'm just trying to sort through conflicting information to get to a good strategy.  Here are a few sourdough concepts I've listed out that I'm hoping is a good and accurate summary of how to approach creating the type of sourdough loaf I want to make.  Please correct any statement that is inaccurate or add any tips that you have!

I like a sour taste.  To get a loaf nice and sour, you should:

- Have longer ferments

- Start the dough with less starter, more flour

- Possibly retard the rise

- Use starter after it has already gone through its most active phase and is starting to recede


For a faster rise/more leavening action:

- Use the starter just before its most active phase, about 1/2 hour before its peak

For a less sour loaf:

- Use the starter before it has peaked

- Use more starter in the recipe, less flour

- Ferment it for less time

My previous loaves all collapsed either in the oven or after they came out.  I should try:

- Smaller boules

- Lower hydration

- Use starter before its peak

- Don't proof it so long

Question:  I have seen a "mature starter" defined in several very different ways.

1. A starter that has been active for at least several months.

2. A starter that is just past the peak in its feeding cycle.

3. A starter that has been sitting out at room temperature for 1-2 days without being fed.

Are all of these an appropriate use of the term "mature starter"?  If so, how do I know what a recipe means when it calls for "mature starter"?

Thanks for any thoughts you might have!


ananda's picture

Hi Gina,

Have you thought about conducting your experiments by baking in a tin?   This should help you to avoid collapse.   Once you have become happy with your process, then start to adapt it so it will bake directly on the hearth.

Honestly, the best Gluten Free baker I have seen on TFL is Sharon K see: and I was also really impressed by Sonia's work too see:

Your gluten free bread already looks really good, so I hope you can add in some sourdough techniques to make it even better

Best wishes


ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

Here's the easiest and most accurate way to think of a mature starter:  a leaven that's ready to raise bread, so preferably one that has a convex (domed) top.  This word does have some elasticity depending upon the recipe's author, so the reader does have to infer a bit.  If the inference is that the author calls for a very old mature starter, then an observant baker would conclude that he or she should let their starter rise as far as possible while also having a convex top.

Hope this could be of help.

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Thank you both for your responses!  I've definitely run across some of SharonK and Sonia's posts while searching gluten-free on this site.  I'll have to do more research on their recipes to glean ideas.

As for the definition of "mature starter," I will now assume that an author means the starter is at the part of its cycle where it has a domed top, as suggested.  If they seem to be talking about something else entirely I'll assume they have their own set of definitions :)

Thanks again!

Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

I did some sourdough baking this weekend and I thought I'd share some of my results, which were much improved over my first few attempts.  The third loaf, in particular, was really tasty although it was too wet and I had to cook it far longer than usual.  I'll be trying something in between the second loaf and the third loaf next time.

Loaf 1

Boule 2

Boule 3

This one was visibly on the wet side before I put it in the oven so I baked it in a smaller pan to help it hold its form.  I forgot to take a picture of it before I cut it open, but it didn't look that great.  The crust didn't get crisp even after tons of extra time in the oven, and the scoring pattern was completely lost.  This one was by far the best taste and texture, though. 

All in all, it was a good weekend for gluten-free sourdough!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You're doing a fine job one these!  


clazar123's picture

When you are ready, please share both your recipe and techniques as those are the best GF loaves I have seen.

As for when is a starter "mature", that is actually an ambiguously stated question and that is why it seems you have several different responses.Different people use different phrases-mature starter,mature preferment. I took "mature starter" to mean a starter that has existed for a while and consistently produces bread in a predictable manner. An "immature starter" (or "new" starter) to me is usually less than a month from creation and may perform inconsistently due to the imbalance of the microbes as it develops and stabilizes its environment. Sometimes it doubles in a short time and sometimes it takes longer, after a feeding. As it ages and is used, it should form a balanced environment that helps to ensure its longevity and it responds in a consistent manner to feeding and when used in a dough. I guess that is the first time I quantified the thought and it is a little "immature" itself. I'm sure other experts here would have a better way of stating the concept.

On the other hand, a preferment is mature when it has the domed top for a semithick preferment and a frothy,active appearance for a liquid preferment. It is made with active starter,flour and liquid.

One of the most interesting experiences here on The Freshloaf is the different terminology used across the globe for the same things.And then there are colloquial phrases,also.

Love the GF loaves and your thought process is also very interesting to follow.

Thank you!


Gluten-free Gourmand's picture
Gluten-free Gourmand

Thanks for the compliments on my gluten-free boules, Clazar and Mini!  You have verified what I thought might be the case about terminology- that a "mature starter" might mean different things depending on the context.  

I'm still getting my recipe down, but here are some ways that I'm approaching this sourdough recipe.  I'm really just trying to find something that's easy and that works to start out.  After I get that down and get a sense of what the dough should look like, I might see if adding more steps, more kneading, etc. might improve the loaf.  In various quantities depending on my current experiment, I use:

- psyllium husk and water, mixed until a get forms (water either 110 degrees F or room temp)

- my gluten-free bread flour mix: sorghum flour, teff flour, buckwheat flour, potato starch and tapioca flour, a smidge of ginger as a preservative

- starter at 100% hydration fed with the same flour mix.  Boule 1 and 2 were 1/4 starter by weight and used a mature starter (preferment?), the third boule was 1/2 starter and the starter was used about 12 hours after feeding.

- I tried various combinations of rising times, but what I've found works so far is just doing one ferment at room temp for exactly 6 hours when I've used the starter that hasn't been fed for 12 hours.  I'll try some more with the mature starter next weekend but during the week the maturation point comes when I'm either at work or sound asleep.

Any thoughts on my (admittedly half-formed) process are welcome.

Thanks again!