Gluten-Free Natural Levain
Makes one starter
Levain (also called natural leaven or sourdough bread) is traditionally made from an ongoing starter culture. This age-old process has been masterfully adapted for gluten-free breads by Durga Fuller, of Portland’s The Cook Awakening. Through dedicated experimentation she has found a mixture of gluten-free flours that support a continuous starter. Her method is straightforward and utilizes many elements of traditional levain.
4 cups Gluten-Free Whole Flour
5-6 cups clean (well, spring, or filtered) water
¼ cup fresh or frozen organic grapes
In a large glass or ceramic bowl combine one cup flour, one cup water, and the grapes. Add up to ¼ cup more water to thin the starter to the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a breathable cloth or paper towel. Secure the cover tightly with a string or rubber band. Store in a warm (about 70 degrees F) place.
Feed the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Add up to ¼ cup more water to maintain the consistency of thick pancake batter.
Feed the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Add up to ¼ cup more water to maintain the consistency.
The starter should begin to bubble and smell quite sour. Use a colander to strain the grapes from the starter. It is now ready to leaven bread. This four-day old starter can be made into bread or stored in the refrigerator for later use.
To Support the Ongoing Starter:
After the initial 4-day culturing process the starter should be stored in the refrigerator. Use a half-gallon mason jar fitted with a plastic lid to store the starter. At least once a week add fresh flour to the starter. About once a month transfer the starter to a clean jar. This will help to keep the jar tidy and prevent contamination from any dried up bits that accumulate around the mouth of the jar.
To Make Bread:
Feed the starter at least 7 and up to 24 hours before its planned use. (After 7 hours the flour is completely cultured, natural anti-nutrients are greatly reduced, and the starter is said to be mature. Twelve to 24 hours after being refreshed the yeasts become increasingly less active.)
For a use in a single recipe add one cup of Gluten-Free Whole Flour and one cup of water. If you need a large amount of starter add flour and water up to a 1:4 ratio. (That is, for each cup of starter add up to 4 cups of Gluten-Free Whole Flour and enough water to maintain the consistency.) Store in the refrigerator. The freshly added flour revives the yeasts, readying them to raise breads.
Always save a minimum of 3 tablespoons of starter to feed with the usual one cup flour and water before returning to storage in the refrigerator. A regularly tended starter culture will live-on indefinitely.