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Gluten-Free and Vegan Sourdough for the Modern Baker

February 11, 2019 4 min read

Gluten-Free and Vegan Sourdough for the Modern Baker

In this day and age, it can seem like everyone has a tailored diet to fit their grazing needs. Whether you're gluten free, vegan or even both, we promise that sourdough bread can still be on the menu. All you have to do is cultivate the right starter, utilize the proper ingredients and bake the perfect loaf for your very own dietary requirements.

Gluten-Free is More Than Possible

You may have doubted that gluten-free sourdough bread even existed. However, with the proper approach, it's a rather delectable alternative to its white, wheat or rye opponents. Moreover, it sits well in the stomachs of those with celiac disease and gluten intolerances of all kinds. As such, you can enjoy sourdough bread aplenty without having to worry about the unfortunate side effects that typically accompany a bread-based endeavor.

Typically, gluten-free sourdough begins with a brown rice starter. As a rule of thumb, this type of starter requires a bit more attention with more frequent feeding. This shouldn't be a problem if you have your eyes (and nose, and mouth) set on a seriously top-notch gluten-free bread loaf. Moreover, all the starter needs to, well, get started is an appropriate ratio of brown rice flour and water. It really couldn't be simpler.

Feeding the starter about three times a day for a week should leave you with a culture that's ready to be transformed into gluten-free sourdough bread. By day seven, you'll have overcome questionable wine-like smells and bubbling cultures, and you'll be left with a pleasant starter that is ready to turn into allergy-friendly bread.

After all is said and done, gluten-free sourdough can be used in a plethora of recipes. Rustic bread, boule, sandwich bread, dinner rolls and even pizza crust can all be products of your dough. All you really need is a bit of determinism and confidence.

Gluten-free bread

Overcoming the Hurdles of Gluten-Free Sourdough

Starter Contamination

Just like any sourdough culture, it's possible that your brown rice starter may become contaminated. Despite its name, sourdough really shouldn't smell sour. Keep a nose to the ground for sour or rancid smells; if you encounter these, your gluten-free dough has been compromised with unfriendly bacteria, and it's time to start over.

Moisture

When taking the gluten-free route, many folks wind up with dry or brittle breads. You can easily counteract this by using a gluten-free flour blend. Try mixing your brown rice flour with bean flour, nut flour, buckwheat flour and more. Also be sure to sift your flour for ultimate airiness, and up the liquid ingredients in recipes if you're simply switching out wheat flours for gluten-free alternatives.

Shape

There's no denying that gluten helps a sourdough loaf keeps its shape during the proofing process. However, with the right tools at your disposal, you'll be able to make a nicely rounded and aesthetically pleasing loaf that everyone will appreciate. Try using a bread proofing basket, otherwise known as a cane banneton. This tool allows you to maintain the shape of loose loaves while still allowing air and moisture to get into every nook and cranny.

Cane Banneton Proofing Basket

Vegan Sourdough is Simple

Luckily for vegans, traditional sourdough starter involves only plant-based ingredients to begin with. Simply combine flour, water, salt and time (with the right ratio in mind, of course) and you've got yourself a cruelty-free culture.

The part where recipes tend to veer from veganism lies in the steps after the starter. When making sourdough recipes, people often include things like buttercream, yogurt or ghee. However, by simply excluding these ingredients, or subbing in vegan alternatives like almond milk, cashew yogurt or coconut oil, you can craft a healthy and wholesome bread made from your very own vegan sourdough.

Using Vegan Sourdough in a Range of Recipes

You don't have to limit your plant-based sourdough excursions to the basic loaf. Sourdough starter can be used to craft everything from pancakes to pizza crust, making veganized sourdough an ideal skill for every kitchen need. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Vegan Sourdough Pancakes

Combine your sourdough starter with wheat flour, water, salt, baking soda and pure vanilla extract. Once cooked, top with real maple syrup or your favorite jam.

Vegan Sourdough Biscuits

By mixing unbleached flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cold vegan butter and a good amount of lively sourdough starter, you'll be en route to dinnertime biscuits the whole family will love.

Vegan Sourdough Pizza Crust

Pizza crust of the vegan kind is easy peasy. Join your plant-based sourdough starter with warm water, unbleached all-purpose flour, salt and yeast. From there, you have the basis for the most versatile crust.

What About Both?

Now we're getting into seriously specialized territory. If you're diet is both vegan and gluten free, your sourdough aspirations may seem limited. The reality, however, is that your opportunities for crust and crumb alike remain vast.

Making vegan, gluten-free sourdough bread involves patience and attention. Use your favorite gluten-free flour (brown rice flour tends to be the most popular) and be sure to avoid adding any dairy to the mix. Again, you can help your loaf keep its shape by bringing in a cane banneton, or bread proofing basket. Be sure to include enough liquid to have a moist final product, and sift your flour for utmost lightness. It may take some trial and error, but the world of vegan and gluten-free sourdough bread is far from uncharted territory, and you'll surely find your way.

A Final Word on Gluten-Free and Vegan Sourdough

Just like any sourdough venture, making gluten-free and vegan sourdoughs requires attention, accuracy and—for most bakers—a bit of trial and error. However, if your diet falls under one or both of these categories, us sourdough proponents think it's more than worthwhile.

Give your bread
the loaves it deserves.

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