The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Refreshing my Sourdough Memory

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

Refreshing my Sourdough Memory

SFSD
SFSD 

One of the things that drove me to learn to bake bread was a memory of traveling to San Francisco in the late 60's with my parents. We went to Fisherman's wharf, sat at a table and ate a loaf of the best bread I had ever tasted. It was just amazing and in fact my 83 year old father still remembers how tasty it was.

I thought it was time to refresh my memory of that bread so I could make adjustments to my own sourdough process and improve my product. I searched for SF bakeries that were known to produce a high quality bread and also would ship me a couple loaves. I'm not a frivolous person and know that this is ridiculous, shipping bread half way across the country for what turned out to be $30. But, in the name of science and to improve the quality of life of all those around me, I took the plunge.

The bread arrived on Wednesday last and was fresh, with instructions to warm it at 375 F for 20 minutes or until warm and golden. It looked slightly pale out of the bag and I suspect it might of been just a little under baked in anticipation of being shipped. After heating it was golden, shiny and slightly sticky to the touch. I suspect it had been sprayed with something to enhance the appearance. As you can see, it was a beautiful looking loaf, although not more so than many I have seen here. The aroma coming off the loaf after cutting into the bread was, well, like a combination of vinegar and some other aromatically altered chemical. Nothing remotely connected to the sourdough smell I am familiar with. Honestly it was awful. My family turned their noses up at it saying it had a foul artificial smell. The crumb was more like a sandwich bread than what I strive for with SD. I toasted a few slices and made some Bruschetta which seemed to lessen the sour aroma and make it more palatable. Bottom line is I tossed the last half of the first loaf in the garbage and the second is in the freezer awaiting it's destiny.

My experiment was a flop. There is no way that my taste has shifted that far off center that I would have loved that artificial flavor as my first experience with sourdough way back then. My Mother always said if you can't find something nice to say, keep quiet. So, I won't mention the name of the bakery. I find it hard to believe anyone could use that product as a cornerstone for a famous bakery. I must be missing something.

So it's back to the drawing board for me. Trying to make a bread that tastes as good as it smells and lives up to an old memory. Maybe I'll try another bakery once I recover from the bruising I took on this one.

Eric

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Eric.

If your memories of SFSD are from the 1960 on Fisherman's Wharf, what you ate was from the Parisian Bakery. My family called it "wharf bread" and loved it. We always brought a loaf or two home to Fresno after our frequent trips to "The City," as everyone in Northern California called San Francisco.

This was before Boudin, Acme and all the other fine Bay Area bakeries sprung up in the '70's and after. Of course, none of them made what for our generation was "the real thing."

When I was in college, my parents had a loaf of SFSD over-nighted to me in Portland once a week for a few months. I made it last the week with difficulty. 

The SD breads I make at home are superior in many ways to Parisian SFSD, but the original is remembered fondly for the associated memories as well as the never quite duplicated taste and texture.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

David; For all the fuss that has been made about Sourdough from the Bay area, surely there is good bread available somewhere. I have read that the bigger bakers have developed  an over sour flavor that some people find to tangy and, that it's an acquired taste. The bread I had back when was wonderful and this coming from a kid who had never been west of the Mississippi river and didn't know what sourdough was.

I would love to get my hands on a loaf of good sourdough from the place that is famous for it.

Eric