The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Larraburu two - variations on a classic San Francisco Sourdough

dmsnyder's picture

Larraburu two - variations on a classic San Francisco Sourdough

A couple days ago, I blogged on my bake of a San Francisco sourdough bread based on Larraburu Bros. recipe as described in the 1978 Cereal Chemistry article by Galal, et al., as cited by Doc.Dough. (See San Francisco Sourdough Bread using Larraburu Bros. formula.) It was a delicious bread, but it lacked the sourdough tang usually associated with San Francisco sourdough. This blob describes some modifications of the recipe. I hoped to retain the good qualities of this bread while increasing the sourness somewhat.

In summary, the modifications were:

  1. Substitute some whole rye flour for some of the high-gluten flour in the sponge.

  2. Ferment the sponge at a lower (room) temperature for a longer time.

  3. Substitute some whole wheat flour for some of the AP flour in the final dough.

  4. Compare breads baked with and without an overnight cold retardation of the shaped loaves.

For three 667 g loaves:

Sponge (Stiff Levain)

Baker's %

Wt (g)

High-gluten flour



Whole rye flour






Stiff starter






Mix thoroughly and ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.

Final dough

Baker's %

Wt (g)

AP flour



WW flour









Sponge (stiff levain)







Procedure (Note: I actually mixed the dough in a Bosch Universal Plus, using the dough hook. I have left the instructions as if I had used a KitchenAid mixer. This amount of stiff dough would have challenged my KitchenAid. Also, I retarded one of the 3 loaves I made overnight in the refrigerator.)

  1. Mix the flours and water in a stand mixer with the paddle for 1-2 minutes at Speed 1.

  2. Cover the mixer bowl tightly and autolyse for 20-60 minutes. (I autolysed for 60 minutes.)

  3. Sprinkle the salt on the dough and add the sponge in chunks.

  4. Mix for 1-2 minutes with the paddle at Speed 1, then switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes at Speed 2. Adjust the dough consistency by adding small amounts of water or flour, if needed. (I did not add either.) The dough should be tacky but not sticky. It should clean both the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.

  5. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly.

  6. Ferment at 105º F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a humid environment. Stretch and fold once at 1 1/4 hours.

  7. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.

  8. Pre-shape the pieces round and cover with a towel or plasti-crap.

  9. Let the dough relax for 15-20 minutes.

  10. Shape as a boule or bâtard.

  11. Proof at 105º F in a floured banneton or en couche, covered, until the dough slowly fills a hole poked in it with a finger. (This was in 30 minutes, for me!)

  12. About 45 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480º F with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  13. Transfer the loaf to a peel and score it as desired.

  14. Transfer the loaf to the baking stone. Turn down the oven to 450º F.

  15. Bake with steam for 15 minutes. Remove your steaming apparatus, and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes until the crust is nicely colored and the internal temperature is at least 205º F.

  16. Turn off the oven, but leave the loaf on the baking stone with the oven door ajar for another 10-15 minutes.

  17. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack, and cool completely (at least 2 hours) before slicing.

This bread came out very dark for reasons that are not clear to me. Again, the “poke test” failed me. The loaves seemed ready to bake after 30 minutes in the proofer, but their oven spring and bloom seemed to indicate under-proofing. The crust was nice and crisp. The flavor was different from the first bake, partly because of the rye and whole wheat flours, but it was also very slightly sour – more so the day after baking. I would still categorize it as “very slightly sour.”

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula 

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula crust

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula Crumb

I cold retarded one loaf from this batch for about 24 hours en couche, inside a plastic bag. Because of the apparent under-proofing problem described above, it then was warmed up at room temperature for about 90 minutes and proofed at 105º F for another 75 minutes. The smooth surface of the loaf which had been face down on the couche was significantly dried out. The couche had absorbed a lot of its moisture.

Because of my experience with the previous bake, described above, I baked this loaf at 440º F for a total of 30 minutes, leaving it in the turned off oven with the door ajar for 20 minutes. The oven spring and bloom were moderated by these changes. The color was pretty much perfect, to my taste.

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula and procedure

Larraburu SFSD, modified formula and procedure: Crumb

The aroma of the sliced bread was whole-wheaty and ... slightly sour. The crust was crunchy and the flavor of the crumb was decidedly sour ... very sour. It was a very different bread from the ones that had 1) not been cold retarded and 2) had been proofed for a very much shorter time at a warmer temperature.

I'm a very happy sourdough baker!

The next step will be to return to the original formula but use the present modified procedure.


Submittted to YeastSpotting



OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I just love the boldness you get in your bakes.  I am still studying hard on that.  You commented that the spring and bloom  of these loaves says underproofing, but that is not apparent in the crumb, at least visually.  It looks very well proofed.

On the sour tang, I will not presume to teach you of what I know not, but in my recent blog post on my double levain I commented about the overly strong sour flavor in that bake.  That led to some additional discussion, and eventually to Paul McCool reminding me of some notes on the subject by Debra Wink in her blog series on Lactic Acid Fermentation in Sourdough.  It is all about microbiology, fermentation and metabolic pathways, and way over my head, mostly.  One thing stuck though.  In the case of levain build, longer and cooler is the wrong direction for stronger sour (more acid production).   Here is the quote

2) higher temperatures mean acids accumulate faster, with a higher ratio of lactic to acetic. Lower temperatures produce acids slower, but the percentage of acetic increases. See note*

* NOTE: The limiting factor for lactic acid is the buffering capacity (ash content) of the dough, while the limiting factor for acetic is availability of co-substrates (electron acceptors for you chemistry types).

It is still counter-intuititve to me, but it is pretty clear in her notes.  That quote tied directly to my double levain bake where I had done my builds in my home-made proofing box at about 80F, and I got a very strong sour.  Since then I have repeated that same bake building the levain at room temperature (about 68F in my kitchen for last month, at the warmest)  resulting in a very "not sour" flavor. I have also baked again building in my new Brod and Taylor proofing box at 76F, and that sour is pronounced, but not biting like the original 80+F build was.  These last two bakes also reduced prefermented flour to 25% and decreased the rye (increased whole wheat) by 5 points.

My point is not to pirate your blog to talk about my bakes, but I noticed in your modification notes on this bake that you went to a longer, cooler fermentation for your sponge.  Based on (my limited understanding of) Debra Wink's writeup, the ensuing discussions among many TFL members, and my own experience, it seems to me that you may want to try increasing the temperature of your levain build to strengthen the sour tang in this bread.

Beautiful loaves David.  I apologize for not getting the above said in fewer words, and I look forward to your next step.

dmsnyder's picture

I haven't read your discussion, but I will do so.

The sourdough "tang" is due to acetic acid, primarily, and that is increased with lower fermentation temperatures. My first bake of this bread had more of a lactic acid flavor, which was very good. The last bake, with cooler fermentation of both the levain and the formed loaf was more "sour." This is what I expected.

If my expectations were wrong, which the results do not suggest, please elaborate on the reasoning. I'm sure my understanding is still far from complete.

I think the inclusion of whole grain flours (with increased ash content) were a significant factor also, as Eric suggests. I would credit the rye as much as the WW, however, even though it is a low percentage of the total flour.]


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

and would not dispute anything you have said here.  And trust me, my own understanding is far from complete!  My comment was really about the levain build, not the bulk fermentation.  My thinking was that if you could develop more acid in the levain you might be able to get a good sour tang in the bread from just the bulk fermentation, without the overnight retarding.   It sounds like you are satisfied with your results though, and that is what matters most.  Best of luck with the next step.


ehanner's picture


Very nice. I suspect the WW helps bring on the sour. It does for me. The retard also. I can see a commercial bakery using a high heat ferment and proof to help the schedule along. If this is the bread of my youthful memory, I'm going to be a very happy camper.


dmsnyder's picture

I think the whole grain flours definitely provide more ash which enhances lactic acid production, anyway. The cold retardation should boost the acetic acid.

BTW, the bread seemed less sour this morning, toasted. It's going to be garlic bread for dinner tonight, to accompany Joe's Special, another San Francisco traditional dish.


GSnyde's picture

I notice that all three have an unusual bloom pattern. Crumbs all look great, though.

I guess if an old San Franciscan tried your bread and was reminded of the tang of Larraburu's bread, it would be a kind of acid flashback (another old San Francisco tradition).

I wish Cat liked Spinach; we'd have Joe's Special some time too.


rossnroller's picture

OK, please give guys. What's Joe's Special? I have a garden bed full of the most glorious organically raised Swiss Chard (close enough to spinach to substitute, I've found - at least with classic spinach-based dishes like spanakopita and saag). Always on the lookout for new recipes with spinach as an ingredient, and especially dishes that are regional specialites. It sounds like Joe's Special might qualify...?

BTW, most interested in your quest to replicate Larraburu's bread, David. I'm not a huge fan of very sour SD, but that nothwithstanding, I am keen to try a SD bread that is close to those tangy ones San Franciscans hold so dear. Next best thing to hopping a plane to SF is bakin' one myself, so watching on keenly as you tune this baby up...

PS: Glenn, your witty "acid flashback" crack hit the spot. I've lined up some Eric Burdon for later on. Your fault. I have a big collection of 60s psychedelic and American garage (many of which are obscure gems I've 'discovered' way after the event), but there are times when only Eric will do.


dmsnyder's picture

Joe's Special was a specialty of New Joes, a restaurant, now long gone, that was a fixture in North Beach. Their specialties were hamburgers. Don't think McDonald's. Theirs were about a pound of ground sirloin grilled with the outside charred and the inside raw, served on a quarter of a loaf of grilled sourdough bread. (That was before anyone thought about cholesteral, not to mention E. coli.)

Another of their specialties was Joe's Special. It is a delicious concoction of lean ground beef, onions, spinich and eggs. It probably had garlic or garlic powder. It may have had some wine. See, I had it twice at the restaurant. The last time was probably 40 years ago, so my memory of the specifics is fuzzy. Here's how I make it:

To serve two hungry people:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 lb lean ground sirloin (very lean, i.e., 9% fat)

1 largish onion, coarsely chopped.

3/4 lb spinich leaves, whole if they are small, otherwise coarsely chopped.

3 large eggs, lightly whisked

Salt and pepper to taste.

2 cloves garlic chopped or a few dashes of garlic powder (optional)


Pre-heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on medium-high.

Add the oil and onions.

Sauté the onions and optional garlic until translucent. Shove the onions to the pan margins.

Add the beef in chunks and turn up the heat a bit. Sauté the meat, breaking it up with a spatula, until no longer pink. Mix with the onions.

Season with a little salt and quite a lot of fresh-ground pepper.

Shove the onions and meat to the pan margins..

Add the spinich, about a third at a time and sauté until limp. Stir into the other ingredients in the pan. Shove it all to the margins of the pan.

Add the eggs. Scape up continuously until they are about half-set. Mix with the other ingredients.

Now, keep turning over and mixing the pan contents until the eggs are dry.

Serve with sourdough garlic bread and a green salad. A fruity, dry red wine goes well, as would beer.


BTW, if you were not as hungry as you thought, I like the leftovers, cold, for lunch the next day.



rossnroller's picture

Appreciate your going to the effort to type out those clear directions. Sounds good. I'll give it a go.

It seems quite unusual to me for a Western-style dish (especially one from a hamburger restaurant) in a couple of elements. First, the spinach/mince combo. Second, that the eggs are half-fried, then finished off mixed into the other ingredients. This is common enough in Asian fried rice and noodle dishes, but I can't readily recall many such Western-style dishes.  Could this dish be an instance of early fusion cooking, I wonder? San Fran would have been pretty multicultural even 40 years back, I'd think?

Anyway, looking forward to trying a Joe's Special, be it removed a hemisphere and several decades from the original source!


hansjoakim's picture

Happy 2012 to you David! I hope you had a merry and peaceful Christmas.

Some lovely bakes you present here, David!

I haven't studied the formula in detail, but it does remind me of Hamelman's pain au levain: That's a formula using a stiff levain, a modest hydration (around 65% if I recall correctly), and bulk + proof at room temperatures. Have you tried that one yourself, David?

In his notes, Hamelman actually advises against retarding the dough, as some of the subtle flavours could be lost along the way. It's been a while since I baked a loaf following that procedure, but I do remember the resulting bread being not particularly sour or tangy at all. By the way, Hamelman suggests approx. 2.5 hrs bulk fermentation and an equally long proof (again if memory serves me right). From my own experience, the "poke" test doesn't really work for my sourdough loaves, so I go much more by the clock and loaf volume when I try to judge doneness of the final proof.

dmsnyder's picture

Oh, yes! Hamelman's pain au levain, in it's various permutations, has been my most-baked bread for the past few months. Your memory of the procedures is without fault. 

My first bake of the Larraburu bread had many of the virtues of Hamelman's pain au levain, even thought the fermentation temperatures and times were very different. You might have noted the relatively small percentage of pre-fermented flour.

I trust all goes well with you. Have a Happy New Year!


lumos's picture

Have always been a little confused about what defines 'San Francisco' sourdough as there seem to be so many variations, and I've only tasted a few that are baked by some artisan bakeries in London, so I'm not even sure if theirs are anything like you can get in San Francisco Bay area, either.....and tghey are quite different from each other in flavour, texture, aroma, too, which is even more confusing!  Is it special wild yeast breeding in Bay area that makes SFSD genuine or is the secret in formula/method?  

Whatever 'THE genuine SFSD' is supposed to be, your experiments are very interesting, nevertheless.  Looking forward to your next post.

dmsnyder's picture

Certainly, the character of SF SD is reflective of the local flora. However, it is not at all clear that the local yeast and bacteria are unique to the Bay Area. Moreover, there is considerable variation in the SD breads produced by SF bakers. Most associate "San Francisco Sourdough" with a more acetic flavor profile.

I cannot honestly say there is a consistant, identifiable SF SD flavor such that one could identify a bread as having been baked in San Francisco and nowhere else. I rather doubt it.


Jean6's picture

For those of us who have a Bosch Universal Plus, would you kindly post the instructions for using it in this recipe?

I lived in the Bay Area for years back in the early 1970s and the mid 1980s and well remember both Larraburu's SD and Joe's (and Little Joe's). I would love to try your version of the SD -- using the Bosch.

dmsnyder's picture

The instructions in the OP apply to the Bosch as well as the KitchenAid, but here is what I did in more detail:

1. Weigh the ingredients. (Mis en place)

2. Pour the water into the mixer bowl.

3. Add the flours, about 1/3 at a time, and mix at low speed until each portion of flour is thoroughly mixed with the water.

4. Mix to a "shaggy mass." Scrape the dough into one mass. Cover the bowl and autolyse for 20-60 minutes. (I find some additional benefit to autolysing the longer time.)

5. Add the salt and levain. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes.

6. Mix at second speed for 5 minutes.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board. Do a stretch and fold and form into a ball.

8. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and proceed with bulk fermentation, etc.


hanseata's picture

David, your sourdough breads are always a pleasure to look at and hear about. Your San Joaquin SD is one my most favorite breads. I admire your dedication to achieving the perfect tang - I prefer a tangier sourdough, too.

Right now, alas, no baking - after our trip to Mexico I'm on a fast - the one thing that's hardest for me is not the fasting part, but the baking abstinence. And, mysteriously, during this period I always feel an unexplainable urge to buy more cookbooks - as if I didn't have enough already.

Happy 2012 baking,




dmsnyder's picture

You are kind.

I must reciprocate the sentiment. If my wife shared my enjoyment of German-style rye breads, I would be baking a lot of the lovely ones you have posted. 

Let me know how your cookbook acquisition diet works! And please explain how the word "enough" applies to cookbooks. I can't grasp the concept.


hanseata's picture

Father David - now I can go forth and buy Don Lepard's "Short and Sweet" with a clear conscience.



patnx2's picture

for this recipe. I tried it tonight. Made half an order and made 3 baugettes. Great taste and texture, and easy to work with. One Question, Is this dough fairly low hydration? Patrick

dmsnyder's picture