What Is Gluten-Free Sourdough?

G. Wiesen

Gluten-free sourdough is a type of bread made in a way that does not allow the formation of gluten, while creating a traditional sourdough flavor. This type of bread can be made in different ways, though it involves the use of flour that does not come from wheat, such as potato or rice flour. A sourdough starter is typically used to make gluten-free sourdough as well, which may include yeast or is created through fermentation. There is also some research that indicates all sourdough may be safe to eat by those with a gluten intolerance or allergy.

Gluten-free sourdough starter uses gluten-free flour.
Gluten-free sourdough starter uses gluten-free flour.

One of the major differences between gluten-free sourdough and other types of sourdough bread is that the preparation of gluten-free bread uses flour that does not create gluten. Gluten is a protein formed in many types of bread-making which gives the dough a fair amount of elasticity essential to the rising process of many types of bread. In order for gluten-free sourdough to be made, flour is used that does not form gluten. Wheat, rye, barley and similar types of flour all form gluten during the bread-making process, while potato, rice, and some other types of flour can be used to make gluten-free bread.

Gluten-free bread is prepared without any wheat or gluten.
Gluten-free bread is prepared without any wheat or gluten.

Much like other types of sourdough, gluten-free sourdough is usually made using a starter that creates the signature tanginess or sour flavor in this bread. The starter can be made in various ways, though yeast is often used to create quick fermentation and sourness. More elaborate starters can be made simply by combining flour and water, and allowing it to sit out and ferment for several days before refrigeration and further fermentation. There are also commercial starters for gluten-free sourdough that can be purchased from bakeries and bakery suppliers, which can introduce a wide range of flavors to the bread.

Some research seems to indicate that all sourdough bread may be safe to eat by people who have a sensitivity or physical intolerance to gluten. The fermentation process for sourdough bread produces acids that may destroy the aspect of gluten that causes a reaction in people with Celiac disease or other medical issues. Further research should be done by anyone with a food allergy before eating sourdough that is not packaged as “gluten-free sourdough.” People with serious food allergies or medical conditions should also speak with their doctors prior to making any major changes in diet, and this includes the potential addition of breads that may contain gluten.

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