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Divine inspiration--for me it way Larraburu Brother's SF SD. What was it for you?

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bnom's picture
bnom

Divine inspiration--for me it way Larraburu Brother's SF SD. What was it for you?

Remember the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss obsessively worked to recreate in his living room the mountain that was imprinted in his mind by the aliens? 


For me, that "mountain" is the sourdough bread that Larraburu Brother's of San Francisco made.  Larraburu had a Gold Rush era sourdough and a gorgeous crust and crumb.  Unfortunately Larraburu went out of business in the 70s. It's taken me nearly 40 years but I'm finally making dough that reminds me of Larraburu.


I was surprised that I found no reference to Larraburu breads on Fresh Loaf because if you've had it, you likely consider it the holy grail of sourdough.  Anyway, I'd love to know if anyone on this board remembers Larraburu bread.  And I'd also be interested to know if others are similarly driven to recreate a memorable loaf from the past. 


 

leucadian's picture
leucadian

It was a sad day when Larraburu's went out of business. I was gone from the Bay Area by that time, but like you, I set their sourdough as my standard. I personally haven't been able to recreate the crust or the level of sourness in my own breads, but I think that if I could taste it again, I might opt for a somewhat less assertive sour taste. It's been 40 years and memory being what it is, and tastes being what they are, I'm very happy to have made some tasty sourdough over the last few years.


If Larraburu is you goal, this is the place to help you make it.


Stewart

Larraburu Bros's picture
Larraburu Bros

The secret is removing moisture from the baking process which will give you the hard outer crust.  The oven for Larraburu Bros. was specially made to achive this.  The only person I know how this was acomplished is the father of the owner of the Basque Bakery in Snoma Ca.  He used to work for my Great Uncles and the Paul family who bought the bakery.

bnom's picture
bnom

I never realized they had one-of-a-kind ovens.  I imagine they would have had steam at the beginning of the bake and them some way to radidly dry the conditions. 

So your uncles worked at Larraburu?

arlo's picture
arlo

That is a great story, something I like that makes me smile! I would love to have been able to taste a loaf of bread that was inspirational to someone that they can still imagine so many years later what it was like.


For me, it was my first time seeing and tasting Zingerman's Pain de montagne, or Mountain bread. It is a high extraction flour sourdough that Zingerman's deems as "the closest thing to Poilane'. Seeing this bread over two years ago and tasting it really made me come to and start baking bread more so than ever. Enough that I now bake in a bakery and constantly at home! : )


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

When I was just out of High School, my parents took me to San Francisco to vacation on the West coast. It was the first time for all of us and I clearly remember the experience that was imprinted on my memory. My Mother remembered reading about the wonderful sourdough on Fisherman's Wharf. My Dad bought a small boule and we sat on the wooden pick-nick table and ate it plain. It was so good we decided to get another. I had never tasted anything like that and it made an impression.


I was talking with my father a few weeks ago and mentioned sourdough breads in the conversation. He asked me if I still remembered that day in SFO on the wharf? Funny really, he's 84, asking me if I remember a day 45 years ago.


When I finally started wanting to learn to bake, it was to recreate the great breads I had eaten in France and Italy and also that great sourdough from so long ago.


I was completely ignorant about the process or content of good bread when I started. Everything I know about being a baker I learned here with a few good books as a guide. I was pleasantly surprised at how un mystical it all is. It hasn't been all that long ago when I first started down the road to bread enlightenment. I think that's one of things I like most about humans. We remember good things and try to duplicate them in the future.


Eric

dimitryh's picture
dimitryh

I really enjoyed your post.  It brought back some wonderful memories.  Until the age of eleven, I grew up near 2nd and Geary - a few blocks from the Larraburu bakery.  We ate no other bread during that time and still ate lots of it after we moved about a mile and a half to the West.  In 1974 I began to get interested in baking bread as close as possible to my favorite.  So, I went to the bakery and asked for a tour.  I got it and learned a lot.  The main thing was that they sprayed the risen loaves with live steam in order to get that fabulous crust.  No wonder my attempts of duplicating it were so far off.  At one point I was left alone with a large kneader full of sour dough while my guide went off to answer a phone call!  Sadly, it never entered my mind to grab a sample to take take home for starter.  It just never entered my mind that Larraburu could possibly someday not be there.


One of the unique characteristics of the bread was the large amount of crispy crust brought on by the diagnal cuts and the steam treatment.  Tastewise, I think that the Grace Baking Company loaf comes close.


Thanks again for bringing up this subject.  I would still like to see if there is a consensus as to what the best procedure would be to achieve this goal of duplication, so keep me posted.


Dimitry


 

bnom's picture
bnom

Wow, that's quite a story Dimitry!  I think you must have toured Larraburu right before it was closed (due to a tragic vehicle accident and lack of sufficient liability insurance). I see you live in Atherton. I grew up in Atherton (across the street from Encinal Elementary) and we used to buy Larraburu at Draeger's. My mother would have the butcher there grind up some beef chuck and would make me an open-faced sandwich of larraburu bread topped with butter, raw beef, and chopped scallions. It was fantastic! (That was when you could eat fresh ground beef and not worry about it.)


Can you tell me what you mean by "live steam"?


Barbara

dimitryh's picture
dimitryh

Live steam is steam coming from a boiler that is under some degree of pressure.  Kettle steam has very faint pressure.  So, when live steams hits the risen dough, it cooks the skin while it is enveloped in the humid atmosphere that comes with the steam.  Maybe all the commerical bakeries do that??


Your Atherton experiance sounds great.  We have enjoyed living here since 1973, given its rural character in an area that really might as well be one big city of 10 million people that is the Bay Area.  I didn't realize that Larraburu was distributed so far from San Francisco.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Steam, at atmospheric pressure, e.g., inside an oven, in the presence of water (liquid or condensed into airborne vapor) is at the same temperature whether streaming from a nozzle, or rising from the surface of a heated pan, rocks, towels, etc..Therefore, its effect on a dough's surface is the same. The only difference is how the steam is introduced into the oven.


David G

dimitryh's picture
dimitryh

Thanks, I stand corrected.

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

Raw ground beef on good buttered bread with sweet pickle relish.  We called them "cannibal sandwiches" growing up.  Brings back memories ...

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

a fresh raw egg yolk,  Memories .........

Anna

cryobear's picture
cryobear

I bought a big box at an storage unit sale that was marked "Turbofan" Paid $15.00.

It was bought in 1997 and never opened. To my surprise, it is a E32 BakBar oven. Gets up to 600 deg's in 7 minute and stays hot. will bake 12 loves at a time.

NOW I KNOW WHAT THAT WATER BUTTON IS FOR, I thought, why would anyone in their right mind want to spary water on the electric elements except to put out a fire! So, I'm 75 and can be a little bit slow....

rhomp2002's picture
rhomp2002

I just googled the E32 BakBar oven.  You really lucked out there.  Current price for that is close to $5000.  Looks like a good one as well.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

What a deal you got, cryobear !

Anna

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Instawares is advertising one for $5800. 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The Larraburu oven was not unique, and their sourdough process was captured for the record.

I found the following from a 1978 . The copy I have is a pdf image file so I have extracted and transcribed the relevant data into text.

Title: Lactic and volatile (C2-C5) organic acids of San Francisco sourdough French bread

Cereal Chemistry 55(4): 461-468; Copyright 1978 The American Association of Cereal Chemists

Authors: A. M. Galal, J. A. Johnson, and E. Varriano-Marston

The Larraburu Company produces San Francisco sourdough French bread by the sponge and dough process.  Each day a piece of straight dough or starter sponge known as the "Mother" is saved and refrigerated to be used as a starter sponge the following day.  This starter sponge is used to make more starter sponge as well as sponges for bread production.  The starter sponge consists of 100 parts of clear flour (14% protein), approximately 50 parts of water, and 50 parts of the starter sponge.  The ingredients are mixed and fermented for 9-10 hr at 80°F.  The bread dough is made by mixing 100 parts flour 12% protein, 60 parts of water, 15 parts of sponge, and 1.5-2% salt.  The dough rests 1 hr and then is divided, molded, and deposited on canvas dusted with corn meal or rice flour.  The dough is proofed for 4 hr at 105°F (41°C) and 96% relative humidity and baked at 420°F (216°C) for 40-50 min in a Perkins oven with direct injection of low pressure steam (5 psi).  Oven shelves were covered with Carborundum.

bnom's picture
bnom

Thanks so much for going to the trouble of posting this article about the Larrabaru.  I don't know much about professional baking techniques but found it interesting that it's proofed at 105 degrees, I would have thought that too warm.  I was also struck by the mention of "low pressure steam"   I wonder what impact 5psi has as compared to, say, 25psi.  It's a good thing lack of chemistry knowledge re doesn't prevent one from making good bread! 

What prompted you to dig around for the article?  Did you used to eat Larrabaru?

Barbara

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Barbara,

When I saw the Larraburu process it didn't immediately make sense to me and I had to go back to Kline and Sugihara and Ganzle to rationalize what may be going on. The long refreshment at a relatively high temperature assures that the LAB has produced as much acid as it possibly can and the 80°F puts the growth cycle right at the maximum growth rate for the conventional SF SD yeast.  The very stiff starter slows down the process (presumably because the mobility of nutrients is inhibited by viscosity but that is pure speculation on my part), and the 105°F final proof temperature? That really didn't make sense, but it has to be correct.  Since 41°C is above the temperature at which both the yeast and the LAB will reproduce, it may (intentionally or inadvertantly) stop the biologically active components of the process from the outside to the inside as the proof-box temperature heats the dough to 105°F.  I can't predict what the final result would be, perhaps it keeps the acidity from degrading the gluten as the 105°F thermocline migrates from the surface to the center of the loaf, shutting down LAB (and the yeast)  reproduction as it moves - though while reproduction stops it may not shut down acid production which is limited by pH, or CO2 production which is limited by nutrient availability.  It would be interesting to solve for the temperature of the dough at the center of the loaf over the proofing process timeline (or perhaps measure it if somebody can approximate the weight and size of the loaves).  It is indeed a conundrum.  I am sure others have (perhaps more valid) thoughts about why it worked to such great effect. I for one would be interested in hearing their views.

When Larraburu was operating, I was living in Redwood City and was eating Pisano bread (since they had a bakery next to where we did laundry I had many opportunities to tour their facility, but was not yet educated enough to be interested in paying attention to the details).  Hopefully somebody will work through this description and figure out how to replicate the results (and describe them here!!).

Doc

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The following is transcribed from the (hard to find) 1970 paper "Nature of the San Francisco Sour Dough French Bread Process, I. Mechanics of the Process" by Leo Kline, T. F. Sugihara, and Linda Bele McCready in Baker's Digest 44(2), p48-50. (Note the use of the two word form of sourdough)

Table I

Sour Dough Starter Sponge
100 parts previous sponge
100 parts flour (Hi-gluten)
46-52 parts water

Make up and hold 7-8 hrs. at 80°F
Starting pH = 4.4 to 4.5
Final pH = 3.8 to 3.9

Table II

Sour Bread Dough Formulation
20 parts starter sponge (11% of final mix)
100 parts flour (regular patent)
60 parts water
2 parts salt
Make up – approx. 1 hr floor time – then proof 8 hr. 86°F
Starting pH = 5.2 to 5.3
Final pH = 3.9 to 4.0

Preparation and Handling
The bread dough, as shown in Table II, is made up simply with the fully developed starter sponge, flour, water and salt. None of the other usual ingredients of white pan bread such as yeast, sugar, shortening, non-fat dry milk, monoglycerides, dough conditioners, oxidants, mold inhibitors, etc. are needed or used. The starter sponge is used at a level of approximately 9 to 15 percent of the final bread dough which , after make-up is allowed to relax for at least 30 minutes. Then it is scaled (divided), rounded and given an overhead proof of about 20 min at 90°F, after which it is molded, placed on canvas dusted with rice flour and/or corn meal and allowed to proof about six to eight hours at 85 to 90°F. This long proof time may be reduced somewhat by increasing the proportion of starter sponge or by lengthening the floor time before molding, but is generally essential for development of the acidity and the coarse grain typical of this bread as well as for volume.

The pH of the bread dough on make-up is about 5.3 and drops to about 3.9 when the long proof is completed, or roughly to the same point reached by the starter sponge itself.

Baking

Baking is carried out in a hearth (generally carborundum) oven for a relatively long time (45 to 55 minutes) at a relatively low temperature (375 – 390°F). It is quite essential to slash or make cuts on the surface of the fully-proofed dough just before it is placed in the oven, otherwise the crust character will be wrinkled and generally unsatisfactory and the eating quality of the crust is probably the most essential part of this bread. Also an absolute requisite to achieving the desired crust character is the use of a very wet oven, particularly the first part of the baking cycle and continued until the crust attains a light tan color. Generally this is achieved by saturating the oven with low pressure steam.

This has some similarity with the Larraburu process but is run at a lower temperature. The description is contemporary with the description of the Larraburu process so I think it is fair to say that this documents what was being used by one of Larraburu's competitors.

It is perhaps significant to note the reported sensitivity of the starter to freezing which would suggest that any attempt to revive the Larraburu bread from frozen starter after a few weeks would have failed.

LizPacini's picture
LizPacini

I am fascinated by this discussion.  A couple of weeks ago, I took a tour of Northbeach and the guide slipped a piece of the bakery's sponge in a rubber glove for me.  I was making my first loaf of sourdough bread when my mind wandered to my childhood and Larraburu bread.  I grew up in Carmel and Monterey.  Whenever we came to San Francisco, we would buy Larraburu bread.  The Mediterranean Market on Ocean Avenue in Carmel actually carried Larraburu, but it was usually gone if you didn't get there early in the day.  My first attempt wasn't the prettiest loaf of bread, but it was very good.  I have picked up some very good hints on how to improve it next time. Looking forward to learning and sharing on the site!

bnom's picture
bnom

That's interesting....is Larrabaru up and running again? 

I did some growing up in Carmel/Monterey as well (Pajaro Dunes).  There was a restaurant in Carmel ( Jolly Roger?) that had the best French dip sandwich I've ever had.  Do you know the restaurant? 

My absolute favorite sandwich as a kid was something my mom would make me that would probably shock people today:  A thick slice of Larraburu, a schmear of butter, raw freshly ground beef chuck, green onions, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  I recently acquired a meat grinder and am baking Larraburu-ish breads so I'm going to recreate it soon.

Good luck with your SD attempts . . . and do share! 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I lived on Monterey/Pacific Grove in the late 60s and worked at CHOMP.  I remember the Jolly Roger well.  And of course the Red Pony on the Wharf and sighing Clint at the Mission Ranch ;)   The Ranch had an AWSOME dance annex.

Anna

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

Was the Jolly Roger the first place on the right as you entered the wharf? Still remember the Abalone there after 50 plus years. That little book store is where I first picked up the Tassajara Cookbook. After years of reading that yeast is yeast and the air in a particular place can't really affect the taste of sourdough-I just don't think so.  I agree with those who say that all sourdough is the same, its just that Bay Area sourdough is more so.  Anna, your post brought back lovely memories of the Red Pony, the Butterfly tree in Pacific Grove, walking along the old side  streets and poking around in those tiny shops in Monterey.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

on the wharf had the see-through floor, remember ?  The boys and I would ride our bikes down 17 Mile drive and dig around the rocks for abalone shells, still have 3 :)

And the Steinbeck theater on Cannery Row.   Great memories.

 

julialee23's picture
julialee23

I can't believe that I have stumbled upon this forum.  I am the great grand niece of Hal Paul and of course grew up eating Larraburu bread.  My family has never quite recovered from losing the bakery and often talk about the old days.  No sourdough quite takes the place of that wonderful bread.

I have just begun baking bread of my own and now want to venture into the sourdough realm.  I have always wondered how to get my hands on Uncle Hal's starter which is rumoured to be "stored" in Boudin's kitchens.  Failing that, I suppose creating my own starter will have to suffice. 

Does anyone know what made the bread so particularly tangy?  I've never tasted anything quite like it.  I understand it was likely a combination of things but wondering how significant the age of the "mother" is to the taste?

Thanks so much for this discussion.  I will phone my mother and my great Aunt - Hal's only surviving sister, to tell them that Larraburu is still so fondly remembered by so many!!

 

 

bnom's picture
bnom

Glad you stumbled across this thread and glad you've decided to get into breadbaking Julia.  You certainly have good roots and inspiration to draw upon.  The memory of the taste, texture, and smell of Larraburu has certainly helped me in developing my own skills.  To your question about what made the bread so particularly tangy, you'll find some clues in this thread.  I don't think the age of the mother is that important. You might want to read this TFL thread:  

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/26117/sourdough-starter-age

I have been baking a sourdough that I think delivers the Larraburu experience.  I can't offer a taste but here's a look -- you can see the crust has similar carmelization (which I think accounted for a lot of the great flavor of Larraburu).

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Would you share the formula and procedure you used for that bread? It looks wonderful.

I see bubbles under the crust. Did you cold retard the loaves? What was the weight of the loaves? At what temperature did you bake? For how long?

I'm making a bread using the procedure Doc.Dough cited, above, with some modifications. Stay tuned.

David

bnom's picture
bnom

Thanks David.   The crumb is quite nice too.  The formula is my adaption of a Columbia SD.  It makes two 1.5 lb loaves

275 g liquid levain

600 g AP

40 g dark rye

10 g whole wheat

20 g malt syrup

460 g water

16 g salt (added after 30 minute autolyze of all the above including liguid levain)  

Baked at 470 -   12 minutes with steam (wet towels over lava rocks) and then about 15 minutes w/o steam.  

Technique:

I do about a 5 minute slap and fold (ala Bertinet) on my breads -- using a spritzer to add more water if needed.  I know the argument that a slap and fold aligns the molecules and thus impedes the sort of open irregular crumb we desire, but I haven't found that to be the case at all. Perhaps because I'm only doing about 5 minutes (Bertinet does it for 20) and I am still doing a stretch and fold (once or twice every 45 minutes or so).  For me, the slap and fold is the very best way to inform my hands that the dough is properly hydrated and sufficiently kneaded.  I often don't use any measurement so being able to trust the feel of the dough is really important to me.  I use the same technique with baguettes and get a very open crumb. 

As for the cold retard, I don't recall if this particular loaf was cold retarded.  I seem to get the same sort of bubbles whether I overnightit in the fridge or just let it do a long cool rise (60 or so)

I am currently in the midst of a kitchen remodel. I got rid of my beloved old '50 electric range and am getting a quite powerful Capital Culinarian gas range. I've never baked in a gas oven -- I'm excited and terrified at the same time.  I worry that I won't acheive the same sort of crust in the gas range as I did in the electric.  I believe you bake in a gas oven correct?  I may be pestering you for advice.

 

Tidewater's picture
Tidewater

Hi, when I was a child, my father owned a Flying A service station on Geary one block east of Park Presidio next to Geary Auto Parts. Larrabaru and some school buses (I believe they were from Notre Dame) parked their vehicles in the back. This was in 1959-1960,my dad died in 1960. Anyhow, I remember going to the bakery in the morning to get bread at the bakery. I distinctly remember the smell and going there was a favorite experience. If I could get it I would buy nothing but Larrabaru and if I could, purchase only sandwiches made with Larrabaru; which wasn't to hard living in the Sunset. I stumbled on to this site and am glad I did.I am enrolled in Baking in Culinary School at this moment and I am somehow going to try bnom's recipe. It looks like Larrabaru, It was a distinct bread. After they closed, I couldn't find anything like it.

chris319's picture
chris319

After struggling mightily with the starter, I made my first small loaf of faux Larraburu. It's a little off from the genuine article but I think with some adjustment a more authentic loaf is within reach. I had made a test loaf with the 4-hour 105-degree proofing used by Larraburu but I think the longer proof at 86 degrees as used by the other S.F. bakeries gave me a better sour. Flour, water and salt were the ONLY ingredients used. No pineapple juice, no cumin, no grape-skin yeast, no cabbage leaves or potato water, no milk or yogurt.

In my early efforts at starter I used whole-wheat flour. The resulting bread is a little too golden and a little toasty for genuine S.F. SD. I need to make a starter with clear flour as called for in the recipe. The leavening worked well and the flavor imparted by the lactobacillus is definitely there. The crust is crispy but not golden brown. I think this loaf could have used another 10 minutes in the oven and the crumb could be softer. Overall, creditable results for a first effort.

Tidewater's picture
Tidewater

I believe you are right about a proof of 86-90 deg. and being longer.

 

 

mixinator's picture
mixinator

I have attempted to reduce the two SF SD formulae to the BBGA format: http://www.bbga.org/files/2009FormulaFormattingSPREADS.pdf

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1jf4z67bgMbJcNWUnJJ94zHkscFVZXYiPUWgMenz8tFE/edit#gid=1165365046

I would appreciate anyone who is interested checking these over to see if they make sense. I have also attempted to calculate dough hydration. Does it seem right that Larraburu would use such a low hydration, 50% vs. 60% for the other bakery?

I have interpreted "seed" to be the portion of the previous day's starter as given in the formulae.