My sister and I went to Estonia to last June to learn about the country where our grandparents grew up. Estonia has very delicious dark sourdough rye bread called Leib. Our grandmother used to make it, and although I have had other dark sourdough breads (Russian mostly) none of them ever tasted quite as good as my grandmother’s to me. My sister and husband both ate a lot of this amazing rye bread on our trip. Rye has gluten in it and gluten makes me ill, but the thought of not eating bread that might taste like my grandmother’s made me very sad. So, after holding out for a few weeks, I ate some. It tasted like my grandmother’s bread, but it made me ill. Surprise! I decided that I would figure out how to make a gluten-free version of this bread when I got back to New York this fall.
I was so excited about this project that I made a gluten-free sourdough starter and began baking loaves of bread in August in New York City. I justified this madness by pointing out that the apartment felt like a sauna (only much much less clean) anyway and why not just go with it. The good part is that after a few months of fiddling around I have a recipe for Gluten-Free Leib to share just in time for the start of sensible baking season!
Linguistic side note- I am pretty sure that the word Leib refers specifically to bread made with pure rye flour, so maybe I can’t call this bread gluten-free Leib. In anyone who knows Estonian would like to suggest an appropriate name I am open to suggestions! If you type “sourdough bread made with buckwheat, teff, tapioca, potato and arrowroot ” into google translate you get…”juuretisest leib valmistatud tatar, lembehein, tapiokk, kartul ja maranta” …but that seems much too long!
Each sourdough starter is a little different. Mine is really sour. Traditionally, with this sort of bread you take a some of the flour and mix it with bit of the starter and let it sour for 12 hours before adding the rest of the flour and starter. When I do this with my starter, the bread turns out much too sour. If you try this recipe and find that it is not as sour as the bread that your grandmother used to make try letting it proof for a bit longer. The longer it proofs, the more sour the loaf will be. If that still isn’t sour enough, try subtracting a few ounces of the flour and a few ounces of the starter and let it sour for a night before making the bread.
The bread pictured above was made in a standard loaf pan. Although the top crust is very pretty, I should warn you that it is dry and crumbly. Also, as my sourdough starter has gathered leavening power, later loaves actually overflowed right out of my loaf pan. I ended up getting a pullman loaf pan, which is larger (9″ x 4″ x 4″) and has a sliding lid, so that the top crust does not dry out. A pullman pan also insures that you end up with perfectly square slices of bread. This one below is made with a pullman loaf.
You may also notice that the first loaf pictured has a nice almost black color whereas the second one is lighter. I cannot tell you why, but some of my loafs have turned out dark and some have turned out light. Odd, but true.
I have been eating this bread slathered with anchovy, lemon dill butter and topped with sliced tomatoes. When the fresh tomatoes dwindled, I started frying cubes of the bread in butter and using them as soup croutons. I am very happy with my bread.
GLUTEN-FREE DARK SOUR BREAD
Inspired by Estonian Leib
Buckwheat/Teff Gluten-Free Flour Mix
- 4 ounces Teff flour
- 4 ounces Buckwheat flour
- 4 ounces arrowroot starch (corn starch would be an acceptable substitute)
- 4 ounces potato starch (not potato flour!)
- 4 ounces tapioca starch
Mix them all together! This will make 20 ounces, so you will have a some leftover. Use the leftover mix in place of regular flour to make delicious pancakes.
- 4 ounces sunflower seeds
- 8 ounces cool filtered water (do not use tap water unless your water is not chlorinated!)
Combine the sunflower seeds and water in a small, non metal container. Cover and let soak for at least four hours and up to 8 hours, then drain.
- 25 and 1/2 ounces ripe gluten-free sourdough starter (about 2 and 1/2 cups)
- 12 1/2 ounces (about 3 cups) Buckwheat/Teff bread flour mix (recipe above)
- 8 ounces filtered water (do not use tap water unless your water is not chlorinated!)
- drained soaked seeds (above)
- 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
- 2 teaspoon whole caraway seed, coarsely ground
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel, coarsely ground
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- Coat a 9″ x 4″ x 4″ pullman bread pan with oil. Dust the pan with gluten-free flour.
- Thouroughly combine the sourdough starter, flour mix, 8 ounces water, drained seeds, molasses, caraway seed, fennel, salt and cocoa powder in a large bowl using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon (or your hands). The dough will be sticky.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan leveling it off. Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in the top of the dough. Set the bread pan in a warm place with no draft and let it rise until the bread is about to overflow out of the pan. The amount of time will vary depending on how warm your kitchen is and how strong your sourdough starter is. Mine takes 3 hours.
- When the bread has risen, dust the top with more gluten-free flour. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Close the pan and bake 30 min. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 45 more minutes.
- Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out of the pan right away. Since black bread tends to have a gummy interior, it must sit 24 hours before slicing.
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