This is the easiest and most reliable method for making a gluten-free sourdough starter. There are three phases to this method – initial build up, strengthening, and long term maintenance. For this method you will need:
- 10-20g of dehydrated or fresh gluten-free sourdough starter
- brown rice flour, ideally organic
- unfluoridated, unchlorinated room temperature water
- a small glass jar with lid
- a warm place, 70-90f
Phase 1 – initial build up
In this first phase, you will be activating and building up your small amount of mature starter over several frequent feedings.
1 – Place 10-20g of dehydrated or fresh mature starter in the small jar
2 – You’ll want to double this amount of starter. Multiply the amount (in grams) by .50 to find how much water and flour to add. This will create a 100% hydration starter.
Example: If you have 20g of mature starter, you would add 10g of water and 10g of flour.
3 – Add the water first, mixing it well. Then add the flour, and mix well.
4 – Place in a warm place, 70-90f, until the starter starts to get active and bubbly. Depending on the ambient temperature and the strength of your mature starter, this usually takes anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.
Generally, if you are making a new starter, it helps to let it culture a little longer for the first few feedings. The beneficial yeasts and bacteria are waking up, and giving them more time to activate will increase the likelihood of success. If nothing much seems to be happening, just give it more time.
5 – When your starter begins to create air pockets and rise, you can feed it again. Take the total weight of your starter and, again, multiply it by .50 to find out how much water and flour to add. Water first, mix well, then flour. Mix well.
6 – Let your starter rest again, until it begins to get active and rise. Repeat step 5 to feed. Return it to it’s warm resting place.
7 – When your starter is active and rising again, repeat step 5 to feed one more time. You will have now fed it 4 times, and it should be bubbling and rising consistently.
You may notice ‘off’ smells – acetone, rotten eggs, vinegar, etc. – but don’t worry. It does take some time for the right yeasts and bacteria to dominate the culture.
Phase 2 – strengthening
Now that your starter is active, this phase will strengthen your culture, preparing it for baking, long-term maintenance and storage.
1 – After the last feeding, let your starter rest in it’s warm place until it has gone through it’s entire lifecycle – newly fed, active and rising, peaking, and falling. The yeasts and bacteria we want thrive in an acidic environment, and your culture will get more acidic the longer you let it rest between feedings. Also, it is helpful to taste a little bit of the starter at each part of it’s lifecycle. Flavors will range from flat, bitter, and lifeless, to tangy, tart, sour, sweet, and active.
Sometimes starters will peak, but not fall, and seem stay risen indefinitely. This is normal. If it seems like your starter isn’t falling after a few hours of peaking, just stir it down and see if it rises up again. If not, it has completed it’s process and needs to be fed again.
2 – When your starter is ready for feeding, remove all but 10g. Add 50g of water and 50g of flour and mix well. Let your starter rest in it’s warm place. This is a 1:5:5: feeding ratio, or 1 part starter, 5 parts water and 5 parts flour.
3 – Repeat this process of removing all but 10g, feeding, rising and falling for at least 3 days. This will continue to support the growth of beneficial yeasts and bacteria, and give your starter time to work out any off-smells and other unwanted inhabitants.
It may take longer than 3 days to work out more stubborn yeasts and bacteria (funky smells), but if you are still experiencing issues after a week or two, you may want to just start over.
Phase 3 – baking and long-term maintenance
After a few days of strengthening your starter, it should be ready for baking, long-term maintenance, and storage. And, while it may be ready for baking now, it will continue to develop better flavors over time.
Our goal for baking and long term maintenance is to end up with no wasted starter, and to keep our starter happy with as little time and energy as possible. To accomplish this, our long-term maintenance method only requires that you keep 120g of starter on hand, stored in the fridge for most of the time. Once a month, or whenever you only have 10-20g left, you will build it back up to 120g again.
This is in contrast to other methods that require you to keep large amounts of starter on-hand, and use large amounts in your recipes. Our baking recipes only call for 20g of cold starter, straight from the fridge. This small amount of starter is mixed with a larger amount of flour and water, and fermented overnight or 8-12 hours. This is called a sponge, and in the morning (or whenever you are ready to bake), it will be well fermented and ready to leaven your bread.
1 – When you are ready for this phase, or you only have 10-20g of starter left, remove all but 10g and give it a feeding of 1:5:5 as described above.
2 – You now have 110g. When it has risen, peaked and fallen, remove all but 60g, and add 30g of water and 30g of flour.
4 – You now have 120g of strong starter. Give it an hour to start feeding, then put it straight in the fridge.
In the cold refrigerator environment, your starter’s lifecycle will slow down to a crawl. Freshly fed, it will last 30 days before it needs to be taken out and refreshed.
5 – When you have used all but 20g of starter, or a month has passed, follow steps 1-4 to refresh and rebuild your starter. Take it out from the fridge, and let it go through as much of it’s lifecycle as it has left before you start building it up again.
If you do notice your starter is losing power, has off-smells or tastes, repeat phase 2 (strengthening) to give it a boost.
Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions!