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Feb 28, 2013 01:20 PM

Sourdough is Magic (?)

My husband is gluten intolerant (not celiac) and gets very sick if he eats more than a trace amount of wheat. Recently, a celiac co-worker of his revealed that she makes her own (wheat!) sourdough from wild yeast and can eat a roll-sized amount without getting sick!

She gave me some of her (again, 100% wheat) starter and I made a very sour version - fed the culture over a couple of days at a little warmer than room temp, then let the final dough rise around 16 hours at room temp before baking. Husband ate a large piece last night and didn't get sick at all!

Anyone else have experience with this (gluten intolerant or celiac)?

I notice other grains like teff and buckwheat love to be made into sourdough pancake/crepe-type breads, but don't bake up like wheat breads. I imagine some gluten must be left in the bread even after such a long rise, in order for the bread to bake up so nicely - but maybe I'm wrong?

I can't seem to find any resources that aren't pretty pseudo-scientific online. But it does seem that non-sour bread is a pretty recent phenomenon (last couple of generations using commercial baker's yeast), which would track the rise of gluten intolerance somewhat.

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  1. Some research has shown that certain strains of bacteria can proteolyze the fractions of gluten that are problematic for Celiac patients. You'd have to be sure your starter contained sufficient levels of those specific lactobacilli to digest the gluten peptides during fermentation. Even then, I wouldn't eat the bread unless it was proven to be gluten-free through a commercial assay. Most people with gluten intolerance experience concrete physiological reactions after ingesting gluten, so it's easy for them to tell whether or not the bread they consumed was gluten-free. Unfortunately, many people with actual celiac disease don't exhibit symptoms after eating gluten. The grave consequences of exposure don't manifest until much later on, so there's no way to know immediately if it's doing any damage.

    8 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      GHG, I love your posts for their informativeness, factual accuracy, and citations. Just wanted to get that out there.

      1. re: ohmyyum

        ((blush)) That's so kind of you to say. Thank you!

      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Indeed, that is exactly what I was looking for - thanks so much! Would love to hear other's experiences, of course! (My husband isn't celiac - we think it's a wheat allergy - and I only just today learned what gliadins are.)

        1. re: Sarah Perry

          Happy to help. I'm a somewhat unusual case - I do have celiac, but I'm also gluten-reactive so I experience immediate symptoms in addition to long-term damage. So theoretically I could test it out on myself, but as much as I miss sourdough - and I do! - I'm not willing to endure the potential immediate discomfort as well as the consequences down the road.

          However, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone comes up with concrete evidence of safety...if that day comes, I'll be treating myself to a slab of bread!

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Based on your sources and those small trials, I'd be amazed if we didn't have gluten free wheat products available within a few years - even sweet, non-sour stuff made from properly cultured, de-glutened wheat flour. Huge market for it!

            1. re: Sarah Perry

              I'd buy it.

              BTW - if you haven't tried Against The Grain baguettes and pizza skins, you should. They're grain-free! And, surprisingly, the very best GF breads I've ever eaten. Their secret ingredient is cheese. No kidding! Cheese is stretchy, good baguettes are sort of chewy/stretchy, kind of makes sense when you think about it. Their baguettes are good UN-toasted. No kidding. Seriously good. I feed them to "normies" and never tell them. And my gluten-eating husband claims the pizza crusts are the best he's ever had, period. Not the best GF, just the best. That's pretty high praise.

              That said, avoid the bagel. It tastes like a baguette. Not even remotely like a bagel, lol. Here's a link for you;


        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Thanks for posting those links. They lead to an interesting question... is it safe to eat ANY sourdough, or just the slow rise breads?

          I'm not a baker. Does "fermentation" refer to growth time for the sourdough starter only, or does it also refer to rise time for the bread dough?

          1. re: DuffyH

            Pretty sure the bacterial cultures (like adorably-named Lactobaccilus sanfranciscensis 7A!) would have to eat all of the gluten, in the flour added to make the dough and not just in the culture. That's why I did the rather excessive 16 hour rise. One of the pseudo-scientific sources I found somehow does a month-long culture - I don't even know how that would work!

            One source goodhealthgourmet points to mentions that some sourdough is "chemically soured" (probably the commercial stuff) and that the dough isn't properly softened as with cultured sourdough. I'd imagine it'd still be full of gluten, too.

        3. I'm intolerant and recently read that slow-rise sourdough didn't cause a reaction for many GI people. I found a local (Tampa) bakery that made the stuff, tried a couple bites of my husband's sandwich and had no reaction. In contrast, when I tore off and ate a small piece of another roll (not sourdough) I had symptoms for 2 days.

          Bottom line, I can eat this bakery's sourdough bread with no problems. Another plus, they charge $3.50 for a large boule, a bargain in the GF bread universe. Downside, they're an hour away, so I have to stock up and freeze the stuff.

          I haven't had a biopsy to check for celiac, so don't know if I've got the disease or not.

          1. I don't have celiac disease, but I do have an intolerance to wheat. I get gastric problems from it.

            However, sourdough breads and whatnot I react much much much less to than those with commercial yeast. I can't eat sourdough bread without abandon, but I can eat some.

            3 Replies
            1. re: LMAshton

              <I can't eat sourdough bread without abandon, but I can eat some.>

              Is this true for you for any sourdough? I've only tried the slow rise, and as you noted, cannot eat go hog wild on it, but a few slices a week seems to cause no distress. I've been afraid to try anything but the slow rise, and the only bakery I'm aware of in Tampa that has it is an hour away. Would love to get me some from a local place!

              1. re: DuffyH

                Of the sourdough I make, yes. I haven't tried sourdough by anyone else. And mine are NOT a slow rise. My starter is very active. Refresh times are at around 2-3 hours, first rise around 2 hours or so, second rise the same. Granted, I live in a tropical climate, so heat and humidity helps. I've tried slow rises and we just don't like anything sour at all, so it really doesn't work for us.

                1. re: LMAshton

                  Thanks for that information. I tend to get mild symptoms if I eat the slow rise frequently (say, 2 or more slices a day for 3 days), but now I think I'll see if the faster rise is ok occasionally. It sure would be nice to have another option, especially when dining out.

            2. Just wanted to update - I'm now doing a full 48 hour culture at room temperature, minimum, and bake the batter in popover tins. I also use it for sourdough clafoutis, sourdough pizza, crumbs for sourdough meatballs, and I'm working on a sourdough roux!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sarah Perry

                Also managed to make cakes, the most successful of which was a matcha green tea cake. 1 cup thick sourdough starter 48 hours since its last feeding, 2 eggs, about 2/3 cup sugar, half a cup of butter, a few tablespoons of potato starch (probably unnecessary) and a few tablespoons of matcha - heavy on the matcha! Baked in ramekins at 350 for about an hour, the first half hour in a pan with an inch of water but that's probably not necessary. The matcha blots out all the sourdough flavor.

              2. I've been reading a lot about this and finally gave it a try this weekend. I've been totally gluten-free (low-FODMAP, really) for about a year now, and this is the first gluten I've tried. I had two small slices of slow-rise sourdough bread from a local bakery, and so far I've been able to tolerate it.