The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

San Francisco-Style Sour Bread

doughooker's picture
doughooker

San Francisco-Style Sour Bread

I am a San Francisco sourdough snob. I grew up on the San Francisco peninsula when the gold-rush-era sourdough bakeries for which San Francisco was renowned were still going strong. Our family was particularly partial to a brand called Larraburu  it was a staple at family gatherings that is, until the bakery closed in May, 1976 due to financial problems. After Larraburu closed, the competing bakeries were taken over by corporate interests which, in the name of efficiency, cut corners in the manufacturing process. They continued to bake for several years and are no longer in operation.

I now live in the Los Angeles area. A supermarket near me (Gelson's) carries a house brand of sourdough. One day I picked up a loaf in the store and sniffed it, thinking "This can't be any good." Much to my surprise, I liked what I smelled. I took a loaf home and sampled some.

It was not exactly the sourdough I remembered from my bay area days but it had a lot going for it. I examined the ingredients and saw that they did two things right: they added lactic acid and a powdered form of acetic acid. No wonder I liked this bread! Lactic and acetic acids are the main souring agents in gold-rush-era sourdough. These two acids gave the bread a very authentic flavor.

San Francisco sourdough bread has been much studied the world over. In the late 1960's the USDA studied sourdough samples obtained from five San Francisco-area sourdough bakeries. The acid content of the bread was studied again several years later and the results published. The two souring agents lactic acid and acetic acid are now well known.

Here is a paper in which the acidic composition of S.F. sourdough was studied:

http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/cc/backissues/1978/Documents/chem55_461.pdf

Mythology had it that San Francisco sourdough could only be made within a 50-mile radius of the city due to the magic imparted by San Francisco's fog, the air, the climate, the local yeast, etc. We now know that the microorganisms found in San Francisco sourdough cultures can be found anywhere in the world. Sourdough bread is still available in San Francisco but it is a mere shadow of the breads produced by the legacy bakeries that traced their origins to the California gold rush, brands such as Larraburu, Parisian, Toscana, Colombo and Baroni (Toscana and Colombo were actually baked in Oakland). Modern-day San Francisco bakers produce delicious breads which could be from any city in the world. None of the city's sourdough legacy lives in them; there is nothing uniquely or distinctively "San Francisco" about them.

I had been working on replicating San Francisco sourdough in my own kitchen which is hundreds of miles from San Francisco, with gooey starters and hours and hours of proofing time. I had some success capturing the flavor of the bread. The techniques presented here, though unorthodox, produce a bread which authentically replicates the flavor of traditional San Francisco sourdough, to be used as a guidepost in keeping the legacy alive.

 Send me a private message on TFL if you are interested in the formula.
 From USDA  Scientists at the USDA's Western Regional Research Laboratory in Albany, California, found an unidentified bacterium in starter doughs from local San Francisoco bakeries. It worked cooperatively with a yeast to produce the bread's unusual crust, texture and slightly sour taste. Subsequently, researchers at the USDA's Eastern Regional Research Laboratory in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, worked with industry to develop a simple new procedure for making the bread. It used sour whey and vinegar instead of bacteria as sources of acetic and lactic acid. When the acids are added to a French bread formula in the quantities and proportions found in the traditional product, the result is a bread with the resilient body, robust flavor, coarse structure, and crisp chewy crust of the native San Francisco product. As a result, supermarkets everywhere today feature, not only sourdough breads, but also rolls and English muffins.

Comments

GregS's picture
GregS

Do you have any pictures of your typical loaf and perhaps a cross section? I'm fascinated to explore this.

GregS

doughooker's picture
doughooker

A photo won't tell you what it tastes like, but I can make it and take a picture if you need to see one.

It seems anything I bake comes out with a not-very-open crumb regardless of whether I use instant yeast or a conventional sourdough starter. I don't know why -- maybe it's the water or something to do with the high acidity (low pH) of the dough. Keep that in mind when you look at the photo. When I bake it, the slashes usually open up pretty well, which suggests good oven spring.

Have you ever had pre-1990 S.F. sourdough such as Larraburu, Parisian, Colombo, Toscana or some other? I would be interested in your feedback if you make this. First you will need to obtain some lactic acid powder which is $12 plus shipping from amazon. The one-pound bag will last you a good long time if you make it regularly.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Here is a shot of the finished boule and a cross-section of same.

GaryBishop's picture
GaryBishop

I tried this yesterday copying your recipe as well as I could. The brand of lactic acid was unavailable so I got this one from Amazon. It is white powder as I expected. I scaled your recipe to 415 grams and used by 9x4x4 pullman pan without the lid. In the photo the loaf on the left is a sourdough with 18 hours fermentation. The loaf on the right is your recipe. 

The flavor is good. Not as complex as the real thing but nicely tangy.

It is shorter as I expected from your post but it is also extremely pale. Almost like it has a white coating of some sort. 

Any ideas on why so pale?

Comparing two loaves of sourdough bread

doughooker's picture
doughooker

The only difference between your bake and mine is the lactic-acid powder used. I've never made it with that brand of lactic-acid powder so I can't vouch for it, but I can't imagine why it would inhibit the crust from browning.

Sadly, it looks like the Milliard powder is M.I.A. What happens if you make a loaf without any lactic-acid powder at all?

GaryBishop's picture
GaryBishop

My loaves without lactic acid brown normally.

It looks to me like the powder I used and the Milliard are the same stuff. 60% lactic acid, 40% calcium-lactate. 

Thanks for the reply. I'm going to do some further experiments to see if I can figure out what happened.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Bakers who routinely make Old School SF SD bread that we grew up with in the 60's and 70's, this bread has to be called Franken SF Sourdough.  Many a Fresh lofian has published their versions of the old school SFSD knock off, Josh, DM Snyder, myself and so many,many others easily come to mind.  Just make it like any of those and you will get a true representation of the real thing rather than something that isn't even near the same state much less city.  Getting the color, taste, crust and crumb of the real thing is worth the effort.  Lucy's sprouted 20% whole 6 grain SD this week is her latest example of making SFSD bread that reaks of the real thing in every way.

Lucy and I do like scientific oddities more than most so we like the effort  and time spent here but the real thing is so easy - so why go to the trouble to make it so horribly wrong and Franken?  I just had 5 weeks of Franken SFSD style Bread using these ingredients in Houston and it is just something that sort of reminds you of something like the SFSD of old and nothing more.  Better than nothing though.  Just saying.....no harm no foul

Happy baking.

GaryBishop's picture
GaryBishop

What I really want is a really tangy mostly whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread. I can make really good bread but I can't make it tangy. So I looked at this acid approach as a way to get to tangy.

I've tried many variations involving pre-ferments, and refrigeration.  I can get a nice soft even crumb but only the mildest tang. 

I have posted a new question here to follow up. 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

This approach is easier than the traditional approach, and I've tried both. You have complete control over the sourness and the proofing time is but a fraction.

This board is full of posts by people struggling with starters and too much or too little sour and assorted other maladies.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Disregard

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Disregard

doughooker's picture
doughooker

It turned out to be a simple solution. Adding 1/2 tsp of diastatic malt powder (malted barley flour) to the dough greatly improves the browning and is highly recommended.

Diastatic malt powder is easy to find on line and is a handy addition to any baker's arsenal.

Normc's picture
Normc

Hi all.

I have been baking sourdough using the preferment method for some time now. I have been able to approach the old SF sourdough flavor but apparently like everybody else... no cigar.  As all know it takes about 3 days to do it properly using a preferment.  I came across this article and thought, hey what a deal so tried a loaf today.  It came out much like in the pictures that were kindly sent but the taste is no where near my sourdough or more importantly the taste I grew up with as a kid living on the Peninsula with Larabaru, Pariesiene, Columbo, et. al. so  am wondering what went wrong.

Im also a home brewer so I gound up some of my pale ale 2 row malt and sifted out the malt to harvest the diastatic powder.  I had liquid lactic acid and powdere citric on hand from brewing, white vinegar  from the kitchen. Note the receipe calls for powdered lactic acid so I diluted my 88% lactic to approximate the equivalent of the powder.  I tasted it and it was definitely tart but not overwhelming.  I was concerned that the low Ph would turn my dough into a gelatinous mass but not so since the baked loaf looked much like the picutres.

The problem is the bread, much to my surprise, actually tasted somewhat sweet.  Not a trace of tartness.

Comment any one?

Thanks and best regads, Norm

doughooker's picture
doughooker

"the recipe calls for powdered lactic acid so I diluted my 88% lactic to approximate the equivalent of the powder.  I tasted it and it was definitely tart but not overwhelming."

"It came out much like in the pictures that were kindly sent but the taste is no where near my sourdough or more importantly the taste I grew up with as a kid living on the Peninsula with Larabaru, Pariesiene, Columbo, et. al. so  am wondering what went wrong."

If the recipe is altered in any way and not followed to the letter, I can't vouch for the results. It took many, many test bakes to get the recipe and the balance between the acids just right with Milliard lactic acid, and again when Milliard discontinued its lactic acid powder and Druids Grove was substituted.

The amount of lactic acid is minute and it must be measured precisely. If you diluted liquid lactic acid then we are in unknown territory and all bets are off.

If you're trying to replicate Larraburu, try using lactic acid powder and following the recipe exactly and see if you have better results. Alternatively, you could make many test bakes with a different amount of liquid lactic acid each time until you get the flavor just right.

Here is the actual Larraburu process:

Larraburu process

People tinker with the recipe by adding rye flour but then it isn't authentic Larraburu.

Don't give up!

Normc's picture
Normc

Thanks DoughHooker.

I'll look at my notes from that loaf and, as you suggested, experiment with the liquid lactic acid.  I'm thinking I will add a drop of full strength liquid lactic acid to the water used when adding remaining water and flour to my fully developed preferment for the final loaf and see how it goes. Im hoping that way the pH shock won't be enough to have an effect the gluten or the mixed culture in the preferment. If the gluten holds up and I still dont get much tartness I may add another drop in the next loaf.

I realize I am not following your formula exactly by using a culture of  evnironmental yeast and bacteria vs using dry commercial yeast and an organic acid to simulate the flavor development from a bacterial culture.

Down the pike I do have powdered citric acid on hand and may give that a try or use both so long as the gluten and bugs can stand it.

Thanks, again. Norm

doughooker's picture
doughooker

What would be the point of adding citric acid? It is not found in sourdough and is likely to make your bread taste lemony.

Just spend the money and get some lactic acid powder.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Disregard

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Drive over to your local Smart&Final market and pick up a block (vacuum packed) of instant dry yeast for less than $6.  I think they may be 16oz packages (Fleischmann) or they may still have the 500g size (SAF the last time I have a record of buying that brand).  Sure beats the packets from a price perspective.  I keep a quart jar in the freezer and by habit  replace it annually (I never use more than 1/4 of the original package)  though it seems to still be quite viable.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Thanks for the yeast suggestion.

If you try this recipe, I will be very interested in hearing your reaction, be it favorable or unfavorable.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Doughooker, can I get the exact process for your formula? I want to replicate it exactly as you bake the bread. If the instructions are published, I missed them.

If you know temperatures of dough, fermentations, ect. that might be helpful.

Below is a screenshot of my spreadsheet. If you or anyone else would like to download a copy, let me know and I'll post a link.

Thanks,

Danny

doughooker's picture
doughooker

It seems the USDA had the same idea I did. They came up with a formula for sourdough using vinegar for the acetic acid and sour whey for the lactic acid:

"Sourdough Bread

ARS scientists at the USDA's Western Regional Research Laboratory in Albany, California, found an unidentified bacterium in starter doughs from local San Francisco bakeries. It worked cooperatively with a yeast to produce the bread's unusual crust, texture and slightly sour taste. Subsequently, researchers on the other side of the continent, at the USDA's Eastern Regional Research Laboratory in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, worked with industry to develop a simple new procedure for making the bread. It used sour whey and vinegar instead of bacteria as sources of acetic and lactic acid. When the acids are added to a French bread formula in the quantities and proportions found in the traditional product, the result is a bread with the resilient body, robust flavor, coarse structure, and crisp chewy crust of the native San Francisco product. As a result, supermarkets everywhere today feature, not only sourdough breads, but also rolls and English muffins."

https://www.ars.usda.gov/office-of-technology-transfer/tech-transfer-success-stories/page-3/

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Temperature isn't critical in this process because we are not cultivating microbes.

A 2-hour proof at room temperature should suffice.

slick204's picture
slick204

Thanks for sharing this, I'm going to give it a try this weekend. One question though, in your revised recipe (3/9) you call for 1.5 g of lactic acid powder but shortly after that in a different post you said you increased the amount of lactic acid to 1.2 g. I just want to make sure I use the correct amount!

Also, Danny, I would love a copy of your spreadsheet.

Thanks!

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

https://www.dropbox.com/s/d51o2x4q4puqmow/SFSD_DoughookerVersionYeasted.xlsx?dl=0  You can enter any total dough weight you wish in Cell B(10). All ingredients will auto-calculate.

Chris, if the percentage of Lactic Acid has been changed recently from 0.8%, please let me know. Slick asked about a possible change in the acid weight. Want to get this accurate.

I'm a little bummed. Amazon was scheduled to deliver the Lactic Acid today, but it is late so I may have to wait until tomorrow for delivery. If so, Friday will be the bake day.

Danny

slick204's picture
slick204

Thanks very much for the sheet. It has lots of nice extra calculators too. I'm a spreadsheet guy and really appreciate all the extra effort (color coding, instructions, notes, etc).

My lactic acid did arrive from Amazon today but, unfortunately, I can't bake until Saturday.  Ah well, I'll be interested in hearing how yours turns out.

Steve

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Steve -

Thank you for pointing out the error. Too many copies of the recipe in too many places!

The correct amount is 1.2 g lactic acid powder, or 0.8 B.P.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Steve, if you PM me with your email address I will send you the template with full instructions and accompanying files. You are free to se it as you wish. For security purposes the files contain. No macros.

Danny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

SF Sour Bread bake.

Since there are a number of post dealing with Doughooker’s bread, I decided to post to a New TOPIC. 

The bake is super fast and although it has not been sliced yet, the smell is unique and nice. I plan to slice and report in a few hours.

I appreciate your time and help, Chris...

Danny

doughooker's picture
doughooker

I doubt the acids are causing a problem because the same acids would be present in similar quantities in a loaf of conventional sourdough with a conventional culture.

Do you think we need to adjust the hydration? We could easily change the quantity of water without affecting the balance of acids and thus the flavor.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Chris, something is hindering the gluten development. I am very familiar with the flour (12% protein) I used and I know it to be very strong. Either I did something wrong or the formula needs tweaking.

Increasing the hydration might help prolong staling. It would probably open the crumb a little. 68-70% might be a good place to start. But so would longer fermentation.

What do you think about reducing the yeast in order to increase the fermentation?

I baked your bread in order to learn about the add-in acids. Ideally, I would like to incorporate your acid idea with a sourdough levain. Do you see this as a possibility?

I just don’t see how a short fermented bread can begin to compete with a long fermented bread. <A Thought> What about incorporating a poolish (pre-ferment)?

Just thinking out loud. I appreciate your help and the effort it took to develop your method.

Innovative people have always interested me. Whether one fails or succeeds, those that think outside the box are rare and interesting. 

Danny

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Doc.dough sent me this PM. I have yet to sit down and fully digest it.

Anything from Doc.Dough carries a lot of sway.

"What kind of flour are you using?

I would be inclined to mix the IDY with the flour and malt (no salt) then add 130°F water and stir to incorporate and make sure all of the flour gets wet.  Let it sit for 15min then mix and incorporate everything else during the mix.  That way the amylase makes maltose from the starch (which also goes faster at higher temperatures) and the yeast gets off to a good start before you add the salt and acids that can mess with the metabolism.  When using IDY I target 107°F for the dough temp right after the addition of the liquids.

And I can't imagine that a two hour straight dough could run out of sugars and fail to brown.  If somebody retards for a couple of days or does a super long bulk ferment and then a long cool proof that can happen, but even then it can generally be addressed with an extra 25° of oven temp and a bit of a reduction in oven time.

Do you bake with convection or just radiation?  That can affect the way the crust comes out, especially if you don't have a lot of steam.  It is incredibly hard to over knead, even with a machine to do the work.  The simple test is to pull a window pane when you think you are done.  I have (over more years than I care to think about) figured out how to read the surface of the dough in the mixer and judge gluten development that way.  I was surprised how much difference there can be compared to using the clock for determining when you are done.  Just the way the hook or the beater grabs the dough ball and small variations in total hydration can mean that my mix times for small batches vary by ±2 min (based on a nominal 7min for my standard batch). 

Flour moisture content is something that I thought only commercial bakeries had to be concerned with, but over time you get to the point where you can tell in the first minute of mixing how much additional water to add.  I find that for a 1600g batch, 15ml of added water will do a lot, and that a few milliliters can make the difference between a dough that handles perfectly when shaped and one that is a bit stiff and wants to tear.  It is hard to test whether you are having the effect you want and it may all be illusory but in the winter I am reminded that the flour can dry out, even if it is measurably at 14% moisture when you buy a new 50# bag at S&F with a recent milling date.

"

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Re: baking: both Danny and I use a Graniteware roaster, which is like a small Dutch oven. I spray the inside of the lid with water to generate steam. I bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid for an additional 40 minutes. My oven is a Wisco 620.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013SF411M/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Let's first try Doc.dough's method of mixing before we go changing anything else.

1. Mix the IDY with the flour and malt (no salt) then add 130°F water and stir to incorporate and make sure all of the flour gets wet.

2. Let it sit for 15 min then mix and incorporate salt and acids into the mix.

This is like a mini-autolyze. Let's try it before we go changing the hydration.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Chris, to be honest the flavor was disappointing. It lacked sour and it staled very quickly.

I think it will be necessary to increase the fermentation time, either by reducing the yeast, or better yet using a small amount of yeast to build an over night poolish. What do you think?

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Let's try a loaf using Doc-Dough's suggestion first, then we can alter the amount of the ingredients.

Whe I get home from work I'll start a loaf using Doc-Dough's method.

Keep in mind that we're not cultivating a colony of microbes when thinking about proofing time.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

"I would like to incorporate your acid idea with a sourdough levain. Do you see this as a possibility?"

We could do that to see how sour bread can get without tasting artificial.

It still concerns me why your bread isn't sour and mine is.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

“It still concerns me why your bread isn't sour and mine is.”

It is difficult to compare flavors when our breads are not available to each other. Sour is relative. I did detect some sour notes, but compared to what I bake it was subtle. I was hoping to get an idea of how Larraburu SD would have tasted.

The 3 hurdles that I encountered with the intial bake were

  1. Instant dough degradtaion
  2. Lacking sour
  3. Staling, the bread began to stale right away. I waited 2 hours before slicing

Chris, In order to conduct identical test, please let me know your exact plans for the bake. If cahnged, I need hydration, and changes in ingredient percentages that vary from my spreadsheet, total dough weight ( I plan to mix the same weight as you and will compare the weights of your ingredients with mine.), time line of all procedures (including autolyse).

To be sure that I am using the identical ingredients; SAF Red Yeast, Druids Grove Lactic Acid Powder (link you provided on Amazon), Distilled White Vinegar. Please confirm that these ingredients are correct. I also used Morbread flour (12% protein). It is my favorite flour and has remained so for over a year.

Danny

doughooker's picture
doughooker
doughooker's picture
doughooker

Here is Doc.dough's preferment:

1. Mix the IDY with the flour and malt (no salt) then add 130°F water and stir to incorporate and make sure all of the flour gets wet. 

2. Let it sit for 15min.

3. Then mix and incorporate acids and salt into the mix.

That way the amylase makes maltose from the starch (which also goes faster at higher temperatures) and the yeast gets off to a good start before you add the salt and acids that can mess with the metabolism.

slick204's picture
slick204

My attempt is proving now. They aren't kidding about the instant yeast! It's only been proving an hour and it's already at least doubled in size.

Should I let it go the full 2 hours? I'm assuming the 130 degree water (102 dough temp) sped things up?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Slck, I’m probably too late, but if it has more than doubled I would go on to shaping. You may have to preheat the oven sooner because the final proof will also move quickly. I over proofed my first bake.

slick204's picture
slick204

I just put it in the oven. I did the poke test and it only came partially back so I figured it was time. I still had to warm up the oven though.

Scored and in the oven in a Lodge combo cooker. Did you bake for a full hour or the usual (for the instructions I follow with a starter) 20-25 covered and 20-25 uncovered?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I don’t remember the timing, I think I Baked hotter tha Chris instructed and it didn’t work out well. BUT, be very careful with the heat. The diastatic malt will cause the crust to darken a great deal. Use his temps and watch the bread towards the end of the bake. I had to tent mine with tin foil to stop burning.

Also, try to bake this bread less than normal. I think over cooking may dry out the crumb and speed up staling. I’m not experienced in this area, but I’m guessing 203-204F.  Maybe someone with experience will reply with a more definitive answer.

Good Luck!

slick204's picture
slick204

Out of the oven now. I had it at 450 then turned it down to 400 after I read your message. Took the lid off after 25 minutes and baked for another 20 minutes at 400. The internal temperature was 209 so I stopped. Unlike yours, I didn't get much browning. Still needs to cool for a while before cutting it open.

I'll get some pictures up soon. Thanks for your help.

Steve

 

doughooker's picture
doughooker

slick204 -

Please, please let us know if there's any sourness in your loaf. Hopefully there's sour to spare!

Danny's first loaf lacked sourness and  it is a problem we are trying to diagnose. I have not had a problem with insufficient sour.

slick204's picture
slick204

I cut it open late last night but I wanted to try it again this morning to see if it changed. I would say it has a very slight sour taste. On some bites I think it taste just right and on others it could use a bit more sour. It may just come down to the individual.

Next time I will modify the baking time/temp to get more browning and try to make it slightly more sour.

doughooker's picture
doughooker

"On some bites I think it taste just right and on others it could use a bit more sour."

Maybe the ingredients weren't properly dispersed?

doughooker's picture
doughooker

You can adjust the diastatic malt or oven temp to control browning. You can do controlled experimentation to get these thing right.

"I over proofed my first bake."

Could this be the reason you didn't get very much sourness?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Chris, over proofing will definitely lean to more sour, not less. Slick’s sour report seems similar to mine. I had a little sour, but not glaringly noticeable.

I am going to start the mix now for your sour bread. WOW! Do the birds know something? There are flying into the back yard by the droves. <Just Kidding>

As for browning. I baked at a much higher temp. I couldn’t locate your instructions so I guessed. I think I started at 500F and dropped to 450.

Pages