is this alright?


I started a gluten free sourdough starter a week ago. The flours I used were a mix of millet, maize, chick pea, some rice protein powder (to give it some of the protein wheat flour has), a little bit of potato flour, and brown rice flour. I didn't have a glass jar so I used my grandmother's crystal bowl :-) I covered it loosely (there was a canopy type effect open at the sides), and I was being a bit lazy so instead of weighing things, I just did equal parts flour and water. It was about 1/4 cup. I also wasn't throwing out the starter, just adding 1/4 c each water and flour mix to bowl each time. (GF flour is expsensive :-) 

However, after a week I ran into some problems. I discovered on top of what I thought was hooch (I now think it was simply separation of flour and water as my ratio I discovered after weighing things should have been 1/4 c flour, 1/8 cup water). Anyway, on top of that liquid was an opaque white film with more solid bits of white on it. This happened on 2 days. The first day I didn't think much of it and mixed it back in. When it happened the next day, I got a bit worried and after research thought it could have been a type of mould. The mixture smelled totally fine, which is why I wasn't really worried at first (it still smelled fine the next day when it happened). Oh, I was feeding once a day.

I thought, better be safe than sorry :-) So, I poured the liquid off and removed the film, then washed it a few times, tipping the water off. Then I sterilized the crock pot (the crystal bowl had also been sterilized and I was using bottled mineral water to feed it). I then scooped out a few tablespoons of the starter and put it in the crockpot (I was running out of possible bowls and had no jars). I added a cup of flour mix and half a cup of water. Then I covered with clingwrap but this time tight, and used a wool sewing needle to poke some holes in to let the gas escape and air get in. 

The ambient temp is in the mid to late 20's during the day, though it gets a little colder at night, maybe down to 15 celcius. I keep it in the oven (off) with the door ajar, mainly to keep the ants away :-) 

After 24 hours of the washed and new lot, it smelled fine, looked fine, and there was no separation of water and flour. Gluten free flour does tend to be a bit 'thirstier' than normal wheat flour so there wasn't a lot of bubbles, but when I move it around you can see it is expanded in size and there is lots of activity. It seems light and airy. And it has always smelled healthy.

 It has now been 3 days of the new mixture (the original one was a week old), and it is getting more of an 'alcohol' smell. It still smells good though, slightly sweet.

 As I said, I haven't been throwing any out (aside from most of the first week's!). I'm not running out of room yet in the crock pot & I'm adding 1/4 c flour and 1/8 cup water, daily. It seems to be doing fine, and from what I read on the beginner's starter article it said the main reason to throw it out is so you don't end up with too much. That is my main concern, that I'm not stuffing things up by not throwing most of it out each time. I want to leave it for another week or 2 b4 I bake with it, just to make sure everything is good.


I just wanted some feedback as I'm not strictly following the suggested process





PS this is an amazing resource!

235 users have voted.


hitz333 2011 July 20

From what I understand, when developing a starter, you aren't baking with it until it has the strength and good bacteria necessary to make good bread. Usually when I see instructions for making a starter, you are supposed to consider the amount of the starter in your proportions. A common recipe might say, "If you have ½ c. starter, add ½ c. water and ½ c. flour." (I realize most people on here use weight instead of volume, but I've seen enough recipes like the above.) I tend to follow that line of thinking. You might need to do a lot of discarding while waiting for your starter to get strong, but if you keep your amounts small you won't be wasting much overall. And then once your starter is active you probably won't need to discard at all. I just keep a tablespoon or two in the fridge between bakes, and then I just refresh a couple of times over 24 hours to get the amount I need (usually 5 oz but lately I've been trying recipes that call for closer to 1½ cups. I am no expert but that has been working for me! It seems like having such a large proportion of starter to flour and water would mean ¼ c. flour wouldn't be enough to adequately feed it?

eyendall 2011 July 20

 What you are doing is perfectly fine to get your starter established, if you have the room. Once you have  your starter (preferment) the way you want it, it is then that you are faced with either using it, or throwing half of it away in order to feed it. I am at the point where I bake about every three days using half (400g) of my preferment (starter in the form of a firm dough) to make  the dough and replenishing it immediately with the same quantity taken out. So I always have 800g of preferment in the fridge. This one-time feeding and use cycle works well for me. 

vitalgirl 2011 July 20

Thanks so much. Last night after I wrote this I was reading a lot more on the site, and I seem to recall reading somewhere that Dom when he first started didn't throw out but kept adding to it too, but he came to a problem when he was baking later on that the loaves were too sour, which he attributed to the starter not being thrown out. So, I think I will keep doing this for a couple more weeks & bake when the starter is about 3.5 weeks old (my new french loaf baking tin should have arrived then :-)), then I will go to the 'tried and true' method of keeping the amount of the starter relative to the amount of water and flour fed to it. It seems this is also relevant to a lot of recipes when working our the hydration of your starter etc.

 lol - i think the next lot of research will have to center on what stages a gluten free sourdough loaf needs to go thru and what they don't ie. they wouldn't require kneading I presume as there is no gluten to develop.

 thank you!


Midnite Baker's picture
Midnite Baker 2011 July 21

I just got done feeding my starter 3 times because I had not used it for a few months. What you described as a layer of hooch then on the very top a layer of white foam is common and harmless, as long as your nose says it smells fine.  My starter has these layers most of the time and I just stir the whole thing up until blended. So, not to worrry. Trust your nose to tell you if it smells good or not.  Happy Baking! M

Post Reply

Already a member? Login