Sourdough; gluten (and recipe) free


“So what do you think of the crust?” I ask.

“It’s probably one of your best, yet,” Stan says.

“Really?” I respond, hungry for more compliments. I’m shameless when it comes to the food I make. I want to hear my family gush, explode with gratitude, and generally fall over themselves while commenting on the delicious fare. Stan’s comment (considering it comes from him) fits this category. It’s extra gratifying to hear today because I went free-style with the sourdough starter, adding a cupful of flour here, some oil there, and a dash of salt for good luck; it was basically an all out shot-in-the-dark.

I relate this to Stan and he summarizes, “You mean you just whipped it up with the flour and water that’s been rotting on our counter for the last week?”

Belén stops, mid-chew and looks as if she’s swallowed a hairball. “Rotting?” she repeats.

I correct the terminology quickly; words are powerful after all. “It’s called fermentation.”

Stan’s got my back on this one. He explains how tons of food we love is fermented before we eat it… cheese, yoghurt, wine…

“And chocolate!” I add. “They have to ferment the cacao beans to make it!” (Thank you, Hershey Park)

Belén takes another bite of her pizza and then says, “Oh yeah, fermentation. That’s much better than rotting.”


I have the starter, jar of water (so it’s room temp and the chlorine evaporates), and container of flour (not pictured) on my counter for easy access. I cover these with a cloth to keep dust and debris out.

I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free sourdough for years. My first attempt was in Bolivia when I soaked whole-grain brown rice for a few days, ground it up by hand, let it sit for a few more days, and then threw it in the oven. The result was edible. Very spongy, unlike anything I’d eaten before, but edible. A couple years ago I started looking at gluten-free sourdough techniques on-line and they seemed way too finicky. I checked a few months ago to see if anything had changed and my internet search was just as overwhelming as I’d remembered it; too much fine print and too many precise instructions. So I decided to do it my way.

1. Combine equal parts flour and liquid. I used whatever I had in my pantry: teff, sorghum, brown rice, white rice, a bit of starch, etc and kefir. You can start with water, but I wanted to give my bacteria a head start so I used kefir for the first few feedings.

2. Let sit on counter, adding equal parts flour and water everyday, or when you think of it. (If it starts to smell too alcoholic, it’s starving. Feed it.)

3. Use as a base with pancakes, bread, pizza crust, etc.


Once it’s healthy it will look a little bubbly and thicker on top. After you take some out to bake with, add more flour/water and stir in. In a day or so it will get that same mushroomy look.

You know that quote about cooking being an art but baking a science? Well, this puts baking squarely into the artistic realm. I’ve abandoned my recipes when it comes to pancakes, pizza crusts and biscuits and it’s much more fun. And tempting. Normally, I wouldn’t even suggest pancakes on a school day, but when I see that bubbling little bowl on my counter I can’t help but reach for the skillet. It’s like a girl waiting to be picked up for the prom. (Is that metaphor a bit much? I’ve never been to a prom–my high school graduation party was in a hockey rink–but I can imagine.) The point is, once that starter get’s going, it’s irresistible.


For some reason, I’ve avoided regular pancakes during this pregnancy. They gross me out. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the baking powder or soda? I’ve been eating mostly crepes, when I’ve wanted something pancake-y, until these beauties started showing up. This morning I made a batch with 1 cup starter, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, salt, pour of oil and a 2 tablespoons sugar. I don’t really measure, but work with what I have until it resembles a batter. The same goes for pizza dough: take out some starter, add  more flour (maybe a little more starch if your mix is all whole grain) to thicken, an egg if you want, extra salt, herbs and plenty of oil. Spread on a pan with a spatula, bake for 15 min at 425 to brown, add toppings, then bake until done.


The pancakes are best with loads of butter (but then, what isn’t?) and chokecherry syrup.

With a full stomach,



*This post shared on Real Food Wednesday


10 thoughts on “Sourdough; gluten (and recipe) free

  1. You are fabulous. I want to be like you. Do you really think I would be able to pull off the “wing it” method though? I sure hope so, and I think I’m willing to try. I’m going to read this five more times and see if I can do it!
    I just started up with kefir this week. Wish me luck! I found these cute bottles at Ikea for $3 that have a sealed up cap thing, which should keep the fizz in I think. My friend suggested I do a little more than half with kefir and the rest with juice and let sit for a day, after it’s been on the counter as just kefir water with sugar for a few days. Is that what you do? Maybe I’ll just go back and read your kefir post, I remember feeling almost willing to try it then because you were so enthused!
    That pizza looks amazing! Again, why aren’t we neighbours?!?

  2. Corinna you definitely would be able to wing it. Especially pancakes. THey are very forgiving. I should probably add a caveat though: I’m a fairly tolerant taster. I think that the pancakes and pizza dough taste fine—but maybe I’m off my rocker.

    Kefir: yes, for my first ferment I let it sit on the counter for about 48 hours. I’ve let it sit for double the time and it still turns out. The sealed cap bottles sound perfect. The more juice/sweetner you add to the second ferment, the more more pop-y it will turn out. I like to add lots.

    Can you imagine what we could all accomplish if you were next door? Okay, probably not a lot, but it would sure be fun!!

  3. Oooohh, thanks for the tips! I read, too, that if you add molasses to your first ferment it should be more fizzy. I have my third batch brewing now, and my second batch is waiting in the fridge for tonight – hoping for fizz!
    I’m a tolerant taster as well, maybe overly optimistic, especially if I really want it to work, I can will myself to like it. But if Stan said it was good, I think you can confidently say it was. Julio and Stan seem similar in that way – realistic and not overly flowery about things. 🙂
    Yes! Oh the fun! With a dash of accomplishment thrown in! I’m quite eager to try the sourdough now, it looked so good and gooey in your picture.

  4. Hi Tricia,

    This is Corinna’s sister, Robyn. She’s got me into kefir, and a few days ago she got me started making a GF sourdough starter using kefir water. It’s looking good. I’m wondering if you have any free tips for me. Let’s say I wanted to make a dozen or even a half dozen GF flax sourdough buns. What would you suggest I do?

    • Oh boy. I feel like anything that turns out for me is sheer luck.
      I’ve made sourdough biscuits that are quite good, but nothing very bun-like. I’ve tried sourdough buns without a recipe but they turned out really hard and heavy. Nothing I would ever share. You could try your best bread recipe and substitute some of the flour and liquid for your starter? Sorry I’m not more helpful. Please let me know if you have any kind of success, and how you came about it!!!!!

      • So, I tried to make buns. I used this recipe: Since everyone who uses recipes from changes everything, I did the same thing. I felt self-conscious about the fact that there was a bit of coconut flour in my GF mix, and Corinna says that coconut is a moisture sucker, so I added an egg. Plus, I always like egg in my wheat buns and bread. The recipe didn’t call for sugar, but I added an eighth of a cup to activate the yeast. I added a bit more flour than they said because it didn’t look right. After I talked to Corinna, I suspected that was a big mistake and shows my GF inexperience. The end product looked decent but tasted a little starchy, gritty, GFy. Plus they were underbaked even though they were in the oven 30% longer than the recipe said. Corinna suggested that I make bread pudding. So that led me to this recipe: Since I didn’t actually start with cinnamon swirl bread, I cut/ripped up the buns into little pieces and sprinkled them with a sugar-cinnamon mixture. I put them on a cookie sheet and tried to toast them in the oven on low heat to dry them out. It seems that the sugar melted and re-moistened the bread and didn’t allow it to dry out. Arghh. Whatever. Now it’s in the fridge soaked in the milk-egg-cinnamon mixture. We’ll see what happens when it’s baked tomorrow. Oh boy, GF sourdough buns take all day! But when life gives you lemons, sometimes you end up with bread pudding.

      • Well this was fun to to read. Mostly I want to say, “I hear ya”. Why does GF have to be so finicky???? I love the bread pudding idea–I’m sure it will be yummy–or at least more edible than the buns. I think anything Corinna would tell you is smarter than what I have to say about food in general. In fact, I just told Stan I’m composting my kefir crystals. All of them. I just can’t handle the stress of them sitting on my counter, begging me to to do something with them. Enjoy that pudding tomorrow and say hello to your family from us!

      • If that bread pudding turns out, I’d like to try it! I’m discouraged with bready type baking too. It’s just not like gluten. And then it’s worse when you taste a decently textured loaf, like Udi’s, and wonder, how did they figure it out? I have no answers. You are far too kind Tricia, haven’t you seen how many times I like back to YOUR blog? And I sometimes feel the same way about kefir too…I think each batch gets more fermented as I ignore it longer…

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