The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

first attempt at sourdough which is also GF

quinoanut's picture

first attempt at sourdough which is also GF

Hi all!

I am new to the site and can't wait to explore it more, it looks like I could spend a lot of time here ;-)

I have been baking GF bread for some time now. I usually use teff or sorghum.

So this is my first attempt at sourdough and am reading through some post and wonder if I am in way over my head. I don't even know what "hydration" is and don't recall it being mentioned in the two recipes I looked at for GF sourdough.

Today is day 6. I just started w/ 1 cup of ivory teff and 1 cup distilled water, covered the jar with a clean towel. I started feeding with 1/2 cup each teff and 1/2 cup water every 12 hours but a day and half ago went to every 24hrs since my house is ~65 degrees and although I was smelling something, and seeing some bubbling I was not seeing a lot of activity. After making that switch I think I was seeing more of the "hooch", black liquid at the top but still not expanding in size a lot. I also ran out of teff around the same time and switched to sorghum. Tonight I come home and it looks different. There is definitely something growing in there but it smells different, less appealing and looks different. There is no black liquid, it is foamy in places and has irregular pattern of tan and gray on top.

I am just wondering if anyone wants to throw their two cents in to whether or not I should keep going, and suggestions as to changes I could make to the regimen. I thought about putting my my bedroom since it's warmer at night when I am home with the heater, but thought the variability in temp may not be the best for it.

I am also wondering, I have over a pound of flour into it, and the way I understand it have at least another 4-8 days before I can use it for bread. My jar is only so big. What would be a good method for using some up to reduce the size and avoid waste?

any suggestions would be appreciated.




Maureen Farndell's picture
Maureen Farndell

Try using an equal part culture to feed and discard the rest (and feel like a serial murderer for the rest of the day!!!). So, ½ cup culture as it is now + ½ cup flour of whatever description + ½ cup water, and if it's not acid enough ( I do check with a piece of test strip - litmus paper - which you could get from a pharmacy maybe) then add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or orange/pineapple juice. Heat will not help, just a constant ambient temp and it will work. I don't do GF at all so I am guessing here but I don't see why it should not work. I have a super active starter and I only feed after taking what I require for baking. You will figure it all out as you go along and the health benefits are worth the effort!

Good Luck, 


clazar123's picture

I don't have a lot of non-wheat experience yet but from what I do know, just keep going. Teff has plenty of yeast on it. Every food grown on the planet comes with plenty of yeast attached to digest/ferment the food it is on (including us!).

Really, all you are doing by adding water and warmth to flour is encouraging the yeasts to grow by providing it with some ideal growing conditions. What happens first, though is that lactobacillis (which has similar requirements and is just as prolific and abundant) grows faster and starts acidifying the environment to prevent other organisms from growing so it has more food for itself. Yeasts, however, really like an acid environment and start to hatch, eat and multiply. Any time you see Hootch on top, it means the yeasts have really run out of food and are starving! Stir the hootch in (or discard-your choice), discard about half the stuff in the jar (you are cleaning out all the dead yeasts,dead lactos and all their waste-"cleaning their cage"). Then Feed them!!  There are all kinds of formulas but don't wait til you have a perfect understanding of all things sourdough-they are hungry NOW!  So add a little water to thin it out and then add enough "flour" of choice to make a thick pancake batter. If the flour is whole grain and doesn't starch out like wheat flour, you may need to make it thinner-this is where my lack of GF experience comes in. In general, the thinner a starter fluid is, the faster the food gets eaten and the more often it needs to be fed-just like a puppy.  This GF starter may need to be kept slower by either refrigerating or adding some salt but that is a decision to be made later. For now-feed him.

Other random thoughts-

Make just a few tablespoons of starter at first-ivory teff is expensive (at least here in Wisconsin,USA). Rice flour may be cheaper.

Consider making fruit yeast rather than flour based sourdough-type "fruit yeast water" or some variation in the search box.

Look in the "Baking for Special Needs" forum here. Search for GF. There have been several recent posts on this.

Where do you get your Ivory Teff? Link? 

Don't feel like a murderer when you discard-just think of it as cleaning your pet's cage!

This was timely-just posted-


clazar123's picture

My experience is the opposite-whenever I thicken up my starter, I seem to lose it. I function best with a thick pancake batter consistency to my starter. But that is a wheat based starter.

I have only had a very brief recent experience with GF sourdough starter and it had some unique characteristics. While wheat flour forms a pasty batter,sorghum and corn flour form more of a slurry with the liquid on top unless it is homogenized with a good stir. The flour seemed to sit on the bottom and it needed to be stirred often. When I got my starter going, it seemed to blaze through the food so I refrigerated it to slow it down.I was not successful in getting it to raise the loaf but it was a "preferment" that improved the flavor of the one loaf I made with it.

quinoanut's picture

My starter looks a bit different this evening, foamy and more uniform but not the black hooch that I saw a few nights ago, perhaps that is good they are not starving. There are two pics below, first one before I stirred, second after I stirred, you can see it dripping off the whisk, it's thin!!



A few things I want to make sure I am clear on...some of you are suggesting I downsize the batch by tossing some out?? Can I use that for pancakes or muffins or something?? Teff is sort of pricey and I have a pound of that in it, also added about a cup and half of sorghum and just plain hate waste.

Mine is pretty thin. I thought about adding less water.

I get my teff through Azure Standard ( it is sort of a coop that delivers. I think they maybe west coast only. You need to set up an account, find a drop site that has room for you and place at least a 50 dollar order. It's worth it if you use the sort of products they offer. The Teff is a bargain about about 2.50 a pound there but some of their other stuff is higher priced. If you try it they (Azure) are really nice people to deal with but it is not a high tech operation. The drop sites are variable, I had one really weird experience at one site but got on a route with another really nice person that I pick up from regularly now.

you can also get it here but their price has gone up and I fear it will soon trickle down to my little coop gem soon.


clazar123's picture

Especially in the GF world where flours are so expensive. I keep my "discard" and use it in any bake after that. I have a 1 quart plastic container and I just add to that. I use it for pancakes/waffles/cakes/banana bread/etc/etc. It punches up the flavor of anything I add it too.

I start my starters by the tablespoon in a 1/2 pint jar. A few tablespoons of flour only. It is only about 1/4 inch deep on the bottom of the jar-the rest of the room is for expansion -when we get to that point. When the starter is well established with good,steady rises (not the first wild rises caused by overwhelming lacto growth), then I move it to wide mouthed pint canning jar. Though the level varies a bit, it never fills more than 1/3 of the jar or there is no rising room and you have a mess! If you are able to make this starter without refrigeration (remember,GF might need a little cold restraint put on it), then leave it out for a few weeks,or at least until it is well established and this is shown by consistent rise within a few hours of being fed. You may need to feed twice a day to really ramp up and feed the increasing yeast population . After that it can be refrigerated and fed once or twice a week,

Here is my method: I bake every weekend and on Thursday evening I may take out a few tablespoons (about half what is in the jar) to discard ( or actually keep for Sunday AM pancakes) and feed the remainder in the jar that pm and Friday AM to strengthen it for a Saturday bake. Friday PM I make a preferment using some flour and water from whatever recipe, a few tablespoons of the robust starter and let the preferment sit on the counter overnight. This will be used in my loaf on Saturday and develops flavor in my loaf. You can feed the remaining starter in the jar Friday PM after taking out what you needed for the preferment and then let the jar sit overnight on the counter and put it back  in the refrig  either several hours after the feed or Saturday morning. Ready for next week.

My recipes are set up for this process of using a preferment that uses the flour from the recipe. I find with GF, the loaf benefits from any way to add flavor as the flours are generally blander tasting than wheat. The hardest part of getting into using starter was deciding how to set it up and then the timing of everything. Now it is second nature but other bakers may set things up differently. Do what works for you but you may have to try different setups to figure that out.

Some bakers "build" a starter amount for their bake. They start out with a small amount of starter and add their flour.water to the starter over successive feedings to "build" a certain volume (say 1 cup) to use in their recipe. They take the volume they need for the recipe and then feed the leftover and store it back in the refrigerator as the "mother" starter for next time.

So try different ways and see what you like to do. You may decide on a certain way for your daily loaf and then try something totally different for special loaves. you may want a "rye" for St. Patty's day and a "brioche" or "sweet roll" for Holidays.

Have delicious fun!

GF-same traditions-different ingredients-all delicious!


DavidEF's picture

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the discard should go, this time. After the starter becomes active, stable and established, the discards are good to keep and use in lots of ways, including very delicious pancakes. But, I would be afraid to cook with this unfinished start. Unfortunately, it is possible that it may still have some bad stuff in it that hasn't been naturally weeded out by the good LABs and yeast and the acidic environment they create. Now, of course, it may not have anything bad in it, but without a laboratory test, we really don't know. Once the LABs and yeast take over, there isn't anything to worry about any more. But, one thing is certain, if you don't do some kind of discard, whether you keep that discard or not, feeding the beast will become very expensive indeed! Just like anything else, the bigger they are, the more they eat!

quinoanut's picture

It certainly looks better last night and today. Last night I came home and it definitely looked like yeast, I could even see it bubble before my eyes. I also started with brita water the night before, prior I was foolishly using distilled. It did however have a sort of film on top, but definitely bubbling and active.

Thinking about what DavidEF said, I poured some off, but then put it in jar in fridge. Wondering I can reactivate with room temps when ready, feed a while longer, and then use. It was by the way, pH of 5 something, litmus paper light yellow.

Maureen Farndell's picture
Maureen Farndell

From What you posted I would think you are well on your way to a good healthy GF starter! Well done. I do keep my starter on the acid side usually somewhere between 4 and 5 but I think that will sort itself out once the starter is strong and flourishing. 

I'm also accumulating a bit more than I need so now I'm off to look for some sourdough scone or pancake recipes on site........ 

Happy baking!

quinoanut's picture

Well I don't know how the bread is going to be but I think I may never eat a more delicious waffle than what I made this evening from what I poured off of my starter. Light, crisp and delicious! What makes them so crisp I wonder?

So glad I had to "downsize"