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Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter With Millet, Teff, and Sorghum Flour (Lectin-Free)

In this post, you will learn how to make a lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter with a mix of millet, teff, sorghum flour, and homemade yeast water made of fruits. After you make this starter, you will be able to use it to make lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough bread loaves, pizza, flatbread, focaccia, and more.

What is a lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter?

Sourdough culture is a mixed ecosystem of bacteria and yeast, obtained by mixing water and flour, the traditional way of making all bread until about 100 years ago.

This culture is key to consuming grains in a healthy way, according to the sourdough guru, Richard Bourdon. Bacteria slowly break down the carbohydrates and gluten (not the case here) and releases the healthy minerals in the grains.

To better understand what sourdough bread is and the science behind it, I recommend watching the documentary Cooked, with Michael Pollan, on Netflix. The episode called “AIR” is all about sourdough bread.

While it might seem intimidating at the beginning, it is actually pretty easy to make your starter. However, the entire process of making the starter, maintaining it, and making bread is a slow process that requires patience and passion for home-cooking and making artisan sourdough bread.

As Michael Pollan rightly puts it: making bread is hard work, but it isn’t rocket science, and you can do it by feel.

To make a lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter, you will need a mix of flours that are both gluten-free and lectin-free. My favorite lectin-free flours are millet, teff, and sorghum, and I’ll be using a mix of these three flours.

Instead of water, we will be using yeast water or fermented fruit water, which will take about six days to make.

To recap, the lectin-free and gluten-free flours we will be using to make this gluten-free sourdough starter are:

  • millet flour
  • sorghum flour
  • teff flour

Most of the gluten-free baking of sourdough bread requires white rice flour and buckwheat flour but not this one. All the flours we are using are not only gluten-free but also lectin-free.

You will be able to use this starter to make lectin-free sourdough bread with a mix of the three flours or with any one of the three flours (or mix of two of them).

How I started to make lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough bread

My adventure into making lectin-free sourdough bread started at the beginning of 2019, while living in Dallas, Texas, when I created a starter with millet and sorghum flour. At that time, I used a leaf of red cabbage for an extra boost of wild yeast. The white powder you usually see on red cabbage leaves is actually wild yeast. The starter became active and was doing well, but shortly after, I started to have some health issues, and I had to stop eating anything fermented for a while. I discarded my starter and put this project on hold.

Looking back, I don’t think that sourdough bread would have been a problem, but I did what I thought was better at the time. In the meantime, we moved from the US to Europe and at the moment we spend our time in between Romania (my native country) and Denmark (my husband’s native country).

Fast forward to the beginning of 2022, when I discovered an artisan baker in Romania who seemed to have a great method for making gluten-free sourdough bread, Ana A. Negru. I contacted Ana, told her about lectin-free flours, and asked her if we could make a beautiful bread like hers using only lectin-free flours.

After she studied my article Quick Guide to Gluten-Free, Lectin-Free Flours, she said yes, and suggested we do a one-on-one workshop together; I was so excited. I booked a workshop with her, but at the time, I decided to work with her own starter, which she sent me by mail (we were both in Romania).

The bread I made in the workshop was so amazing; we discussed the possibility of a partnership. We would put together both our expertise and make an e-book about how to make lectin-free sourdough bread. Unfortunately, she was very busy opening her own bakery, and the project got sidetracked, then our schedules and goals didn’t match anymore.

You can find Ana on Instagram at @sourdough_storytelling. If you are interested in learning with her, you can contact her and request a workshop in English.

So I decided to start from scratch, make my own starter, and figure out my own way to bring you an easy method to make delicious and healthy sourdough bread at home.

Looking back, I’m actually happy I didn’t do it at the time because after I moved to Denmark in the spring, I had so many problems with making the same bread I was successfully making in Romania. You see, sourdough bread is much more than a simple recipe. There are so many factors involved from ambient temperature, humidity, altitude, flour, water, oven, etc. So for two months, I had to study everything under the sun about making sourdough bread and gluten-free sourdough bread, and keep trying everything until I figured out what worked better.

I was lucky because my best friend from Dallas, Kristi, decided to join me on this journey, and I can tell you, it helps to have a sourdough baking buddy. We failed so many times together, but we never gave up. We learned patience and perseverance. I can’t describe the feeling of starting to see the results of all of our hard work.

That’s why I’m actually grateful that I had this learning opportunity, instead of just sharing someone else’s knowledge.

Summary: What are the steps of making a gluten-free sourdough starter?

  1. Make the yeast water (takes 6-7 days)
  2. Make the lectin-free and gluten-free starter by combining a mix of teff, millet, and sorghum flour and the yeast water
  3. Make the “mother starter”, which from now on will be your own starter, which you will feed regularly and use to make preferments.

A PREFERMENT is a separate starter you will make a few hours before baking a loaf of bread. You will build a preferment exactly like your starter:

Mix 10 grams of the mother starter, 30 grams of water, and 35 grams of flour. The flour used in a preferment will be the same flour you use to make your bread. If you make a mixed bread, you will use the mix of three flours. If you only make millet bread, you will use only millet flour. If you make sorghum bread, you will use only sorghum flour, and so on. After mixing the ingredients, you will give your preferment time to ferment, the same way you do with the mother starter. Then you add it to the dough when making the bread.

But more about this in our bread-making article. I know it might seem all too much now, but I assure you, if I was able to figure this out, you will be too.

Before making bread, we need to build a healthy starter.

Step 1: Make the yeast water

Before we make the sourdough starter, we need to make the yeast water, a liquid obtained from fermenting fruits in water for about seven days.

What you need to make yeast water:

  • One 34oz mason jar with a tight lid (there is no problem if it’s bigger)
  • One wooden spoon or stick (something to stir with)
  • 1/2 cup organic blueberries
  • One organic apple
  • One or two tablespoons of organic, sugar-free dry fruits (dates are great, I used organic dried aronia berries)
  • Spring, bottled or filtered water (without chlorine or fluoride), BUT don’t use reverse osmosis water.
  • PH strips to measure the yeast water’s PH on day 6
  • Patience: this process will take 6 to 7 days

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Don’t use reverse osmosis water at any stage when making sourdough starter or bread. We tried and it didn’t work well.
  • Don’t use frozen fruits, even if organic. If you don’t find organic blueberries, see if you find organic grapes. Luckily, organic apples are more widely available, so you can use only apples and dry dates or figs (always organic) if you don’t find blueberries or grapes.

YOU WILL NEED AN DIGITAL KITCHEN SCALE FOR EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THIS PROCESS AND FOR MAKING SOURDOUGH BREAD. BEFORE YOU START PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ONE.

How to make the yeast water:

  • Rinse the fruits with spring water (bottled or filtered, without chlorine). Just run some water over them, or let them soak in water, but don’t scrub them. Remember, we need the wild yeast on fruits. Let them dry on a towel.
  • Cut the apple into wedges, keeping the pedicel, core, and calyx.
  • Add all the fruits to the jar, and cover with water, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch on top (I used about 3 1/4 cups of water)
  • Cover with a tight lid and place it in a warm place in the kitchen for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, open and stir. You will continue to stir twice daily, including on day 5.
  • During this time, the fruits will start floating, and you will observe some bubbles. Depending on the season you are doing this and the room temperature, you might get more or less fermenting activity.
  • On day 6, measure the PH of the liquid. If it’s a low PH (less than 6), your yeast water is ready to use to make the starter. Your water should smell fruity and fresh.
  • Strain the water, put it in a clean jar (or the same jar), cover, and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the starter.

Step 2: Make the lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter

Now that we have the yeast water, we are ready to make the starter.

Before starting anything, make sure you have a digital kitchen scale and two small jars with lids. I recommend these Wick jars or something similar in size. The jars need to be covered but not air-tight; that’s why I love using the Wick jars with their glass lid. Don’t use the seal-proof elements for the sourdough starter; just use the glass lid. However, it’s not a problem if you don’t find these ones. Any tall, about 7oz glass with a lid will work.

You will also need a bigger jar for when you start the process of creating your starter with yeast water. This jar should hold about 400 ml of liquid (like the one in the picture above).

Make the flour mix: teff flour, sorghum flour, millet flour

  • Prepare a mix of millet, teff, and sorghum flour, using equal quantities of each. Make sure you buy flour from trusted sources, the best quality you can get, and organic. There is also the option to mill your own flour from the three grains, but that’s another story.
  • Mix 100 grams of each of the flours, so that means you prepare 300 grams of the lectin-free sourdough flour mix and store it in a mason jar or container. Whenever it is finished, make the mix again. Make sure you combine the flours really well before using them. Of course, you can make more or less of this mix at once, but always keep the proportions: equal quantities of each. For me, the 300-gram mix works well.

My experience with flour and making lectin-free, gluten-free sourdough bread has been interesting. When I started (see the story above), I worked with the same flours the artisan baker teacher worked with. After a while, I had to reorder, and I couldn’t find the same brand of teff flour, and the new one acted so much differently. From that moment, I had issues with making teff bread. It seemed that it was proofing in half the time compared to the old flour.

Then I moved to Denmark and started with new brands of flour. The mix absorbed so much water that I had to change the proportions of water in the starter (from 30 grams to 35 grams). After a few weeks, I ran out of sorghum flour, and apparently, there was a shortage of sorghum flour. Luckily, I found one bag of sorghum flour in a store, but it was a different brand. When I fed my starter with the new mix, I realized I needed to go back to my initial quantity of water, 30 grams. So the new sorghum flour wasn’t absorbing as much water as the previous one.

I wanted to tell you this story because you might experience the same issues, and you need to adjust on the way.

Based on what I can find on Amazon, which many of you have access to, I can recommend the below brands, but I haven’t worked with them. You can, of course, source them locally if you find them. These are some of the organic ones I found on Amazon:

I also found this option for organic dark teff flour (the one above is a lighter teff):

According to Teff Tribe, an Australian producer of local teff, there is no nutritional difference between ivory teff and dark teff; however, the taste profile is slightly different. Brown teff has a rich and robust, earthy hazelnut flavor. Ivory teff is milder, with a slightly sweet, chestnut-like flavor. If you are in Australia, they are a great source of quality teff flour.

If you are in the US, you can also find good-quality flours on Nuts.com. My sourdough buddy in Dallas, Kristi, works with them and she loves them.

One more small note: there are flours made with the whole grain and flours made with hulled grain. Sometimes is not obvious, so you might have to ask the producer. The ones made with whole grain have more texture, and are more grainy, while those made with hulled grains are soft and fine, more like all-purpose flour. I’m still experimenting with different kinds of flour. More about this in the next bread-making articles (coming soon).

I’ll tell you more about each flour and the taste profile of the bread in Part Two of this series: How To Make Lectin-Free, Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread.

Combine flour and yeast water

  • To make the sourdough starter with the yeast water, combine 100 grams of yeast water with 100 grams of the lectin-free flour mix in the bigger jar you have (34oz or more). If your mix seems too dry, you can add a few tablespoons more water. If your mix seems a little too moist, it’s not a problem.

NOTE: These three flours can act differently depending on the origin of the grain, how it was milled, how old it is, etc. If you ever feel like your mixture is too dry (you are left with dry patches of flour) after all the water has been incorporated, just add more water, little by little, until all the dry spots disappear (I like to work with a teaspoon to make sure I don’t add more than needed).

  • Once you have made the mixture, cover it and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. You can add a rubber band around the glass at the level the mixture is now. This way, it will be easier to monitor its growth. You will notice the starter is getting active if you see bubbles (holes) and a rise, maybe some cracks on tops (but not necessary, this will also depend on how thick the paste is). From experience, it’s not going to double, but it will raise, and you will see these signs of fermentation.

Step 3: Now you are ready to make ‘the mother starter’

After 24 hours, if you have an active starter, you will make your mother starter, which will be now your own sourdough starter. These are the steps to make the mother sourdough starter:

  • Take one of the smaller jars you have – I have a 200ml / 6.7oz jar, and it’s a perfect size; make sure it is washed and dried properly.

NOTE: You can put the rest of the starter (the one in the big jar) in the fridge and incorporate it into baking or making pancakes and waffles; it will act as a raising agent. You can use it to make sourdough bread at this point, but I want to keep things simple for you at this time. From now on, when I refer to the sourdough starter, I refer to the small jar we will make now.

  • Add 10 grams of the sourdough starter you made to the jar, top with 30 grams of filtered, spring, or bottled water (measure the water in grams, not ml), and 35 grams of the lectin-free gluten-free flour mix.
  • Mix well with a spatula or spoon until all the flour is incorporated and you obtain a paste. If the mixture is too dry, you might need more water.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The type of flour you use will make a difference, and you might need somewhere between 30-35 grams of water. Start with 30 grams, then if there are dry spots of flour left, add a few drops at a time, continuing to measure until you obtain the hydrated paste. Take a note of how many grams of water your starter needs, as this will be the quantity you will work with to feed your starter from now on. When I started, I only needed 30 grams of water. When I moved country, and I started to use different flours, I had to use 35 grams. Then, I had to buy a different brand of sorghum flour, and I had to come back to using 30 grams. So, always pay attention and adjust if you make any changes to the flour you use. The quantity of flour will stay at 35 grams.

  • Cover with a loose lid (like the glass lid of the Weck jars, without the seal-proof elements) and let it sit on the counter for 12 hours. Then you do the next feeding.

You repeat the same procedure. There are two ways to do this. If you only have one jar, take the entire starter out of the jar and put it in a clean bowl or cup. Wash the glass with hot water and dry it. If you have an extra jar, use that one.

When you feed the starter, you only need 10 grams of the mother starter. Add 10 grams of starter to the clean jar, top with 30 grams of water (or whatever quantity you decide your flour needs), and 35 grams of flour. Mix well until you get a paste and no dry spots left. Cover and let it sit on the counter for 12 hours.

To make things easy, the two feedings a day should be in the morning and evening. It doesn’t have to be exactly 12 hours.

You continue with this feeding schedule, doing the exact same thing every time. What’s left after you use the 10 grams of starter is called SOURDOUGH DISCARD. You can keep the discard, and store it in a jar in the fridge. It can be used for making pancakes, waffles, banana bread, cakes, or anything that needs a rise. It won’t last forever though, best is to use it within two weeks.

The sourdough discard is one of the reasons we are making such a small starter (you may have seen huge jars of starter in other places). Plus, the lectin-free flours are expensive; we don’t want to waste too much flour. To make a pre-ferment for a loaf of bread, you will only need 10 grams of starter.

About the smell of your starter

In the beginning, your sourdough starter might smell pretty strong. It can smell something like acetone, but that is normal. It just means your starter is very hungry.

With time, the smell will become more pleasant. Mine smells like a delicious fruity wine right now. But whenever your sourdough starter is hungry, it will smell strong, like vinegar or just sour.

Now that you have your ‘mother sourdough starter’, you are ready to make bread

While it is good to feed your starter a few times before making bread, you can start making bread from the first day. However, making bread with this lectin-free, gluten-free sourdough starter requires another set of skills which will be the subject of Part Two of this series: Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Recipe With Sorghum and Millet (Lectin-Free).

What does a healthy gluten-free starter look like?

Just know that your starter will become better with time if you feed it regularly. After feeding it, the starter will be doubling in size, in about five hours (it can take more or less, but that’s my experience). When it’s at its peak, your starter will be doubled or somewhere near, have a dome and you can see bubbles on the sides of the glass. Inside will be light and airy, with lots of air pockets.

If you are not at home to feed the starter

It happens. We are all traveling at some point or another. Don’t worry. Just place your starter in the refrigerator, and you can resume feeding and making bread when you are back home.

Continue to keep your starter on the counter and feed it twice a day whenever you are home and want to make bread. If your starter is in the fridge and you are planning to make bread, you will need to feed it three times before you use it to make a pre-ferment for your bread.

Don’t compare your lectin-free, gluten-free sourdough starter with a gluten starter

I felt like I needed to add this note here. While we follow some of the rules of making a normal sourdough starter, our starter will not look like a gluten starter. I know, sometimes I’m jealous about what gluten can make, but I promise you, the bread you will make with this starter will be better than most of the bread you’ve had (with gluten or not).

Have any questions about making a lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter?

For the longest time, I was intimidated by making sourdough bread. I was never clear on what exactly the process was, everything seemed confusing.

I tried to be as clear and detailed as possible in this post, but please, I encourage you to ask all the questions you have in the comments or let me know if something is not clear and I’ll make sure I’ll clarify.

The next step will be sharing with you the lectin-free, gluten-free sourdough bread-making process.

Coming soon!

*This post contains affiliated links, which means I get a small commission if you choose to purchase something via one of my links, at no extra cost to you

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter With Millet, Teff, and Sorghum Flour (Lectin-Free)

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By Claudia Curici Serves: 1
Prep Time: 30 minutes

In this post, you will learn how to make a lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough starter with a mix of millet, teff, sorghum flour, and homemade yeast water made of fruits. After you make this starter, you will be able to use it to make lectin-free and gluten-free sourdough bread loaves, pizza, flatbread, focaccia, and more.

Ingredients

  • TO MAKE YEAST WATER:
  • 1/2 cup organic blueberries
  • One small organic apple
  • One or two tablespoons of organic, sugar-free dry fruits (dates are great, I used organic dried aronia berries)
  • Filtered, spring, or bottled water (without chlorine or fluoride), BUT don't use reverse osmosis water or tap water
  • TO MAKE THE SOURDOUGH STARTER:
  • 33 grams of teff flour
  • 33 grams of millet flour
  • 34 grams of sorghum flour
  • 100 grams yeast water (measure in grams, not milliliters)
  • TO MAKE THE 'MOTHER STARTER' (the starter you will work with from now on)
  • 10 grams of the big starter you made 24 hours ago
  • 30 grams of water
  • 35 grams of the flour mix (equal quantities of teff, sorghum and millet)

Instructions

1

MAKE THE YEAST WATER:

2

Rinse the fruits with spring water (bottled or filtered, without chlorine). Just run some water over them, or let them soak in water, but don't scrub them. Remember, we need the wild yeast on fruits. Let them dry on a towel.

3

Cut the apple into wedges, keeping the pedicel, core, and calyx.

4

Add all the fruits to the jar, and cover with water, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch on top (I used about 3 1/4 cups of water)

5

Cover with a tight lid and place it in a warm place in the kitchen for 24 hours.

6

After 24 hours, open and stir. You will continue to stir twice daily, including on day 5.

7

During this time, the fruits will start floating, and you will observe some bubbles. Depending on the season you are doing this and the room temperature, you might get more or less fermenting activity.

8

On day 6, measure the PH of the liquid. If it's a low PH (less than 6), your yeast water is ready to use to make the starter. Your water should smell fruity and fresh.

9

Strain the water, put it in a clean jar (or the same jar), cover, and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the starter.

10

MAKE THE STARTER:

11

In a clean jar with a loose lid, combine the 100 grams of the flour mix and the 100 grams of yeast water. Stir with a wooden spoon. Cover loosely with a lid or with a coffee filter tight with a rubber band. If the mix seemed too dry and you are left with dry spots after mixing very well, you can add a few more drops of water until you get a hydrated paste and no more dry spots.

12

Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. You can add a rubber band around the glass at the level the mixture is now. This way, it will be easier to monitor its growth. You will notice the starter is getting active if you see bubbles (holes) and a rise, maybe some cracks on tops (but not necessary, this will also depend on how thick the paste is). From experience, it's not going to double, but it will raise, and you will see these signs of fermentation.

13

MAKE THE 'MOTHER STARTER' (the one you will work with from now on):

14

You can start by making your own sourdough lectin-free mix of flours. Mix equal quantities of the three flours in a jar with a tight lid. I usually make a 300 grams mix at a time (100 grams of each flour), but you can make as much as you want. From now on, you will use this mix to feed your starter. Whenever is over, you make the mix again.

15

In a small jar (the one you choose to store your starter in, about 200 grams), mix the 10 grams of starter (from the big jar you made 24 hours ago), 30 grams of water, and 35 grams of flour mix.

16

Mix well, you should get a paste. If there are dry spots left (some flours absorb more water), add a few more drops of water until you get a well-hydrated paste (take a note of how much water you added and you will use this quantity from now on).

17

FEED THE 'MOTHER STARTER' (see feeding video in the post above):

18

The small jar will be on the counter, at room temperature, covered with a loose lid or a coffee filtered tight with a rubber band.

19

You will feed this starter twice a day, morning and evening (it doesn't have to be exactly 12 hours).

20

When you are ready to feed, have another similar, clean, and dry jar nearby. Always use a clean jat when you feed your starter. If you only have one jar (but please buy at least two, it's useful), take the starter out in a clean bowl, and wash and dry the jar with hot water. (don't use detergent).

21

Add to the clean jar: 10 grams of the starter, 30 grams of water (or whatever you decided you need in the previous step), and 35 grams of the flour mix. Mix well (preferably with a ceramic or wooden spoon or stick, but stainless steel works too), cover and let it sit on the counter until the next feeding.

22

You will repeat this twice a day, every day. You can start making bread from day 1, but have patience with your starter, the more mature it gets the better. Later, after you built your starter, if you decided not to make bread for a week or leave home, just put the starter in the fridge about 30 minutes after you fed it. When you go back, you take it out, let it reach room temperature, and resume feeding as usual. You will have to feed your starter 3 times before you can use it to make bread again.

23

TO MAKE BREAD:

24

When you want to make bread, you will feed your starter as usual, and in a separate jar, you will make what is called a PREFERMENT. Which is made exactly like a starter: 10 grams of starter, 30 grams of water, and 35 grams of the flour you are using to make bread. PLEASE READ THE POST ABOVE FOR MORE DETAILS.

Notes

Please read the entire post before proceeding to start. It is important you get the starter right in order to be able to make bread later. If you have any questions, please ask below in the comments.

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    TJ
    June 14, 2022 at 9:20 am

    I can’t wait for your next post on making gluten free bread with the yeast water starter! I’m in process of making the yeast water now!

    • Reply
      Claudia
      June 15, 2022 at 3:42 am

      It’s up now :)) Please let us know how it goes <3

  • Reply
    Julia
    June 27, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    I started the wild yeast project last week and will not get to the bread until tonight. I have quite a bit of sourdough discard in the fridge. How much of it do you add to other recipes? Also, how do you dry the starter for storage? I don’t want to feed it forever since the flour is so expensive.

    • Reply
      Claudia
      June 27, 2022 at 12:34 pm

      Hi Julia, that’s great! Send me an email at claudia.curici@gmail.com (or reply to one of my newsletters) and I’ll send you a recipe for waffles using the discard. I’ll edit the post to give instructions on how to dry and reactivate the starter.

      • Reply
        Julia
        June 27, 2022 at 9:27 pm

        That’s wonderful! I love your recipes and posts. The detail is very reassuring to a novice like me.

        • Reply
          Claudia
          June 28, 2022 at 1:23 pm

          So happy to hear it helps! xx

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