The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread 3/4/2012

dmsnyder's picture

San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread 3/4/2012

I made two 1 kg boules of my San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread this weekend. (For the formula, see: My San Francisco Sourdough Quest, Take 3) The formula and procedures were little changed. Some of the fermentation and retardation times and temperatures were changed slightly to fit into the times I (and the oven) had free, but the dough always had the final say as to when it was ready for the next step. 

These loaves were proofed in linen-lined bannetons. Overnight cold retarding was done after dividing and shaping a well-fermented dough. Final proof was for about 3 hours at temperatures varying from 68 to 85 degrees F, mostly at the higher temperature. (I baked each loaf seperately, so I had to use variations in temperature to have the second loaf at just the right degree of proofing when the oven was free and re-heated after baking the first loaf.  If you are curious, the loaf on the right was the first one baked.

I scored with a diamond pattern this week, rather than the square pattern of previous weeks' bakes. The loaves were baked at 450 degrees F for 45 minutes, the first 15 minutes with steam.

This weekend's mix had about 1% more whole wheat. I think I can see the effect of even this very small modification in the crumb, and I thought the flavor of the whole wheat came through a bit more. This bread was less like a 1960's-type San Francisco Sourdough and more like a French Pain de Campagne.

The crust was nice and crunchy. The crumb was cool and moderately chewy with a nice complex flavor and moderate sourdough tang.



Wild-Yeast's picture


The web is an awful thing! If only I could break a piece off and taste it...,

Seems you're nearing the irridescently translucent crumb structure so difficult to achieve.

Bien Cordialement, Wild-Yeast

dmsnyder's picture

I'm still waiting for some one to develop the Fax-a-Slice function for us. In the meantime, I can only assure you that this batch tastes as good as it looks. :-)


fancy4baking's picture

Hi David,

I made this bread and it turned out just beautiful, the only thing is i wished it had a little bit more sour flavor.

Do you happen to know how i can increase the sourness of the bread?


Thanks man, keep it up :)


Dhull100's picture

Simply Beautiful!

FlourChild's picture

Gorgeous boules, David!  The crumb looks shiny and perfect, and I love your scoring and the judicious amount of flour still clinging to the crust.  Sounds like you did a great job of managing temperatures and oven schedules as well.  I'm with Wild-Yeast, if only I could have a slice...

Salilah's picture

an inspiration - thank you

dmsnyder's picture


dabrownman's picture

you've created beautiful bread with a rich dark rust, shiny crumb and photographed it very well.  We will try not to expect perfection from you every time but it may be a wasted effort:-)

 Am trying your Pugliese C. in a 50% larger size today since it is my favorite SD.  Sadly, it stuck to the cloth in the benetton and was rather odd looking as a result - possibly rustic :-)  This would never happen too you but for me it is always a new and fun adventure.  Up till then and there after, all was well.  It is crisping on the stone post bake now and very provincial looking - sort of :-)

Congrats on another fine bake David

dmsnyder's picture

Believe me, I have a fine collection of photos of my disasters. I really should pull them together, although I have posted some of them already. 

I use a 50/50 mix of AP and Rice Flour to dust my bannetons. I almost never have problems with the loaves sticking.

Anyway, thanks for the kind words


Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

David; Do you spray the banneton with non-stick spray and then dust?  I'm still learning the basics.


dmsnyder's picture

No spraying is necessary or desirable. Currently, I use a flour shaking/dredging can and shake a fairly even, light coating of flour over the inner surface. It sticks fine as long as you don't bang the banneton around. You can also put your flour in a fine-mesh strainer and shake it over the banneton, as if dusting powdered sugar over a cake or pastries.

The same method is used for un-lined coiled brotformen or linen-lined banneton.

Also, after you have finished using the banneton, it's good to brush out the remaining flour really well before storing. I store mine in food-safe plastic bags. You want to keep flour moths from getting at them.


Syd's picture

Looks great David.  Reminds me of a curled up armadillo.  Great caramelisation of the crust.  I know that is just bursting with flavour. 

I have tried the original recipe (the one that you posted in your first post) three times now.  Great bread each time, but hardly a hint of sour. The same recipe appears in the Handbook of Dough Fermentations, Chapter 6 of which I have a copy.  Sugihara says: 

Of great importance here is the ‘‘acidity’’ or pH range of the system. The starter begins with a pH of 4.4 and levels off at a pH of 3.9, an extremely acidic system.

I have no way of measuring the ph of my stiff levain but I did realize it wasn't getting sour enough in 8 hours (which is what the formula reccommends) so I left it for sixteen hours this weekend.  It tasted very acidic but still my final loaf was hardly sour at all.  On the first two occassions I proofed for the full 8 hours after a meagre 1 hour bulk ferment and that didn't produce any sour, either.  That could be due to the fact that my stiff levain wasn't sour enough.  Unfortunately, on my last attempt, when I started with a really sour stiff levain we had a really hot day and it was proofed in 6 hours instead of 8.  Perhaps the time made a difference this time.  However, it all  seems contradictory because a higher temp should favour the lactobacillus and hence produce more acid.  

The main difference between what I have been doing and what you have been doing is that I haven't included any wholegrain at all.  It is all pure white flour.  I wanted to see if I could do it as per the recipe without any changes and so far haven't succeeded. 

There is no mention of temperatures in the Handbook of  Dough Fermentations.  He just presents the formula:

Starter Sponge

100 parts of the previous sponge (40% of final mix)
100 parts of flour (high-gluten flour)
46–52 parts water
Starting pH 4.4–4.5
Final pH 3.8–3.9

Final Dough

20 parts starter sponge (11% of final mix)
100 parts flour (regular patent)
60 parts water
2 parts salt
Starting pH 5.2–5.3
Final pH 3.9–4.0

The only other hints of the process are the time frames: 8 hours for the starter to mature and a 1 hour bulk, followed by an 8 hour proof.

Anyway, I plan to re-read it all thoroughly and give it a fourth try this weekend.  It has me puzzled and I keep on thinking I must be missing something.  I also feel a little stupid about shooting my mouth off and saying how easy it was to make a sourer sourdough.  In the past I have always used some form of whole grain and perhaps that has made the difference.  It seems very difficult to do it with all white flour.  It could, of course, have something to do with the particular brand of flour I am using.

The only other problem I am experiencing is the sometimes random large holes in the crumb that seem to be a result of the very short bulk fermentation.  I still try and give it three folds, though.  I fold at 20/40/60 mins respectively.  The fold at 60 is really a preshape.  I then let it rest and do the final shaping about 10 to 15 mins later.  At this stage it doesn't show  any signs of fermentation and hasn't increased in volume at all. 

The only thing I did change from the original recipe is the hydration. The first two times I went with a 60% hydration but I find it easier to hand knead higher hydration loaves so I increased it to 65% for the third attempt.  I don't think this is a significant deviation from the original recipe, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, suffice it to say your original post has kept me distracted for the last three weekends and now it looks like, at least, one more.  Happily distracted, though. :)




dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Syd.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why you are not getting more acetic acid too. I know that adding a bit of whole rye to the levain results in a sourer bread. 

I'm not sure of your exact fermentation schedule, but, since "everything matters," here are a few more details of my procedure that might make a difference for you:

1. I start off with a stock starter that has been fed with a mix of 50 g starter, 100 g water and 200 g of my starter feeding mix. This mix is 70:20:10 AP:WW:Rye flour. The stock starter is kept at room temp. for an hour or so after feeding, then refrigerated. It is typically renewed every 2-3 weeks before re-activating.

2. In preparation for baking, my next step is to activate the stock starter. I mix 40 g starter with 100 g of the feeding mix and 100 g water. This is fermented at room temp for 12-16 hours. I've been letting it get really ripe. I'm sure the pH is quite low before I use it in the next step. Depending on my schedule, this activated starter may get refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours before being used, or it may be used immediately.

3. I then mix the levain as described previously - 50% hydration, mostly Bread flour (12.5% protein) with a little medium rye.

My current understanding is that the best fermentation conditions for the levain are some hours at 70-76 degrees F, which is optimal for yeast multiplication, followed by some hours at 85 degrees F, which is when the LB's generate the most acid. I refrigerate the levain overnight. Eventually, metabolism really slows down, but, as the levain cools, there is still significant activity. What I've been doing is fermenting the levain at room temperature before retardation and at 85 degrees F the next morning for 2-4 hours before mixing the final dough. Again, I want the levain really ripe, if a more sour bread is the goal.

So, the morning of the final dough mix I take the levain out of the fridge and put it in the Folding proofer at 85 degrees F. I then fix breakfast, etc. About an hour later, I mix the water and flour for the autolyse. I autolyse typically for 1 to 2 hours, during which I run some errands. When I return, I add the salt and levain to the dough and mix. I find the longer autolyse really reduces the necessary mix time and results in a more open, irregular crumb structure and better flavor.

I think all the other details have been covered in my blogs.

I hope some of the more microscopic details of my routine provide you with useful ideas.

Happy baking!


Syd's picture

Hi, David

Thanks for all those details.  You have given me some more ideas to work with.  The major differences between your schedule and mine are:

  • you refresh your stiff stock starter into a liquid one (100% hydration) and then build back to a stiff levain - I on, the other hand, do one refresh of my stock starter and that is the levain I use in the final build
  • you refrigerate your levain and then let it ripen for a few hours at 85F - I let mine ripen at room temp for 16 hours without any refrigeration.  My room temp is probably a lot higher than yours, though.  Right now at 7 in the morning it is 80F and might only drop to 76F during the night.  In the day time it goes up to 86F (It did last weekend, anyway).
  • you include some rye and some whole wheat - mine is only fed with AP
  • you autolyse, I don't - I always include this step for my other loaves (usually a 50 min autolyse) but for this recipe I didn't because I wanted to stick to the formula as closely as possible

My schedule is:

  • refresh stock starter (which is already at 50% hydration) 40g starter, 40g AP, 20g water
  • ferment at room temp. until really sour, 16 hours at temps ranging from (76-86F)
  • mix final dough 100g stiff levain, 500g bread flour, 325g water, 10g salt
  • bulk ferment for 1 hour with folds @ 20,40 and 60 mins respectively
  • shape and place in cloth lined banneton
  • final proof 8 hours
  • slash and bake 390 for 45 mins (lower than I usually do for my other sourdough because that is what Sugihara says in the formula

I have been looking on the Net for an inexpensive, hand held pH meter.  Might just buy one this week as they are quite cheap and a lot of them are made out here anyway. 

I think a final proof for the last two hours at 85F might make a difference.  At any rate you have given me more to work with and I shall give it some more thought and have another crack at it this weekend. 

Thanks again David,



ananda's picture

Hi David,

Your San Francisco Sourdough experimenting is turning out some wonderful looking bread.   If you and Syd are taking this further, then you will need bread labs.

All good wishes


dmsnyder's picture

I think about getting a pH meter from time to time but haven't yet.

My belief is that, between the information in Hamelman and in Suas and Debra Wink's work, the "answers" are available, if I systematically translate the science into concrete procedures. I find that returning to these texts periodically generally results in another quantum shift in my understanding of what I'm doing. And the bread just keeps getting better. :-) 



asicign's picture


I got a pH meter a couple of years back to keep tabs on my fish pond.  I started doing sourdough around the same time, and it came in very handy for that as well.  It was rather inexpensive, and still works fine... surprisingly it hasn't really drifted much.  I had done a fair amount of research for that purchase: I can post info if you'd lile.

Andy  (not the same one as above)


dmsnyder's picture

Sure! If you've done the research and found a good meter at a reasonable price, let's hear about it. I'm not the only one who would be interested, so I suggest you start a new topic. I'll look for it!


sweetbird's picture

These loaves look spectacular, David, and I'm sure the flavor matches the beauty. Wow!