The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is it with San Francisco sourdough?

Joyful Whisper's picture
Joyful Whisper

What is it with San Francisco sourdough?

Read several articles but none really tell me what makes San Francisco sourdough so special. Some say it is REAL sour dough, others say it is just a hint of sour. Several say it is the delightfully crunchy crust that make it special, others it is all about the crumb.

If San Francisco Sourdough is the ideal sourdough bread I would love to know what it is that makes it worth striving for.

Please pardon my ignorance in this matter, I have never been to San Francisco to try the bread. The one time I had the opportunity to eat it, it was in the form of a bread bowl filled with Texas chili.(all the foods were to remind his wife of all the places she lived - snails were also on the menu.)

amolitor's picture

SF sourdough isn't really a specific thing. It's whatever you remember that you liked.

Lots of people like Boudin's product, which is pretty much garbage as far as I am concerned. They have a "hundred and blah blah blah" year old starter (hint: If the bakery makes a big deal about how old their starter is, it's because their product isn't all that).

The people who actually make good breads are Acme, Semifreddi, and maybe a few others (I was always partial to a couple of Grace's products). Then you've got Tartine doing their own thing, but not widely distributed. All these bakeries are making different things. They're generally naturally raised and made in artisanal styles, but between the bakeries listed we're talking about, at least, more than 100 different breads. They're all excellent in their own way, I think, but they're all different, too.

At the end of the day "San Francisco Sourdough" is a marketing term, and doesn't mean much of anything. The SF Bay Area is a bit of a hotbed of high end breadmaking, which is probably more related to the "foodie" culture there than any "SF Sourdough" marketing.


Joyful Whisper's picture
Joyful Whisper

I truly appreciate the information. You have made me quite curious to try the different bakery breads when the opportunity presents itself.
I think my SF sourdough bread will have a tang that tickles the tongue and a crust that sounds delicious when broken open.

dabrownman's picture

I can't remember what bakery, I had the best SFSD bread ever.  That is SFSD for me and I have never had it quite the same since although I have to admit David Snyder's Quest to replicate it will be very close when he gets it just right!!!  Hurry David!!!

dmsnyder's picture

To me, "San Francisco Sourdough" was what we got at Fisherman's Wharf restaurants and sold by sidewalk vendors in the 1950's and '60's. It was made by Parisian Bakery and was pretty sour with a crunchy and chewy crust. We never bought any other. Later, when I tasted other SF bakeries' breads, they each were a bit different. I didn't enjoy any as much as Parisian's.


ratatouille's picture

I was born in SF, and as such, grew up with Parisian loaves until my family moved us out to Florida.  I hadn't even had regular bread until that point, from what they tell me.  I guess the main reason I'm on this site is to get more equipment and stuff going, as well as experience and what not so that my girlfriend and I can attempt to bake a better loaf of sourdough than is really accessible here in the Tampa area. 

To me, Boudin doesn't come close to the flavor and crumb that Parisian had.   I go back every year to SF for the MotoGP race in california, and while Boudin is good for a quick grab if I'm not going to be in the city that long, I haven't found anything to truly recreate Parisian's taste and style.  I've been away for 15 years though.  I still rage