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

lou1al's picture
lou1al

1st off I may have made a mistake (s) but I'm not aware of them. The recipe calls for a very small amount of flour. Recipe has only one rise ???

I multiplied the portions and made the bread. I was looking forward to a great treat but received great disappointment . My bread was very bland. It's going into the rubbish.

I can't understand how things could be so bad. I am ok with math. I'm going to try with experimental amounts of acid and vinegar.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Lou, it is an unusual formula and process. I am in the process of baking this for the second time. 

Did your dough come together well. Were you able to fully develop the gluten. 

Do you usually bake with sourdough. 

Dan

doughooker's picture
doughooker

"My bread was very bland. It's going into the rubbish."

Something is wrong somewhere. How does the lactic acid powder taste on your fingertip?

"I'm going to try with experimental amounts of acid and vinegar."

Yes, please do. I'll be interested in hearing the results of your experimentation.

I can't be the only one this recipe works for.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Chris, I tried texting you for your opinion on upping the hydration. The second bread is baked. While mixing (per Doc’s instructions) I determined that the acids and salt would be very dry and could be difficult to thoroughly incorporate into the dough. IMO at 63% your dough is very dry, so I opted to increase the hydration to a modest 68%. I added the extra water to the acid/salt slurry.

The dough came together a LITTLE better this time, but I was still unable to develop the gluten to my liking. No nice wndowpane. I think the acids are interfering with that, but might be wrong. I baked the dough seam side up without scoring. The oven remained @ 425 throughout the entire bake. First 20 minutes covered and the last 10 uncovered. The crust browned nicely, but once again the bread didn’t get any oven spring. I attribute that to the weak gluten development. The crumb did turn out much nicer than last time.

There is a slight sour flavor, but I can’t imagine that Larraburu’s bread tasted similar. It is ok for a yeasted bread but lacks when compared to a good sourdough. I will say that it is a breeze to prepare and bake, a very quick bread. I will continue to monitor the bread for staling. BTW - I think the increase in hydration may help the staling. I like this bread better than the last, but it will not replace my SFSD.

Chris, you might consider increasing the total weight of the boule. 247g TDW is very small. I’m from south Louisiana, and down here we’d call that a biscuit <LOL>

Danny

lou1al's picture
lou1al

When I feed my starter I do not throw away anything. I put "excess" starter in another container and feed it. After a while I wind up with a lot of starter.

I put it all ( about 4 cups) into my kitchen aid mixer ( with arms to hold bowl ) and go from there. I don't measure or weigh as I've "been there done that"

( I hate that term )  Just very recently I bought the items mentioned in the above recipe and will have some fun with them. Failures are certain that is why every loaf is an adventure.

If you want to have some fun if or when you are bring bread to a group put 2 tablespoons of black pepper in the mixture for 2 loves.

That will get there attention. Cheers Lou 

lou1al's picture
lou1al

Gluten : I was adding too much, way too much. This last batch had 2 tablespoons Next batch will have zero. It does make bread chewy BUT kills the rise.

Vinegar 2 tablespoons in last batch next one will have 1 TBL. These batches are about 6 cups of flour.

I have been making much more bread than I can eat. This makes my neighbor very happy.

I put 2 TBL of Lactic acid powder in last batch and did not detect it ??  Next time 3 TBL.

I THINK  adding gluten would be very good for pizza dough. Give it a 4 hour 1st rise then made you pizza layout maybe 1 hour rise ( it will be small rise ) this will give you a good chewy pizza.        Cheers Lou

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Please feel free to adjust the amount of either acid. Just heed my past warnings about overdoing it.

Too much vinegar will give itself away, and so will too much lactic acid.

We could increase the hydration. Keep in mind that Larraburu was 60%. All that will take a backseat to getting the flavor right.

rmzander's picture
rmzander

Thank you for the research and clear directions on this SF style sour bread sourced from Eastern USDA in Flourtown PA.  My loaf showed the 3 Cs well- crust, crumb, and color.  I followed the recipe, but know that some varibles couldn't be duplicated.  My yogurt whey may have been different, the all purpose flour protein content and ash could vary, temperatures and humidity are important sometimes.  The initial autolyse was 35% hydration and very difficult for me to incorporate all the flour.

I really appreciated the reminder of adding diastalic malt.  A little goes a long way to enhancing crust color. That's one I will use again and again.  Making sourdough bread is a wonderful hobby for me and I am grateful to all who contribute to my knowledge base.

lou1al's picture
lou1al

Does citric acid powder ,vinegar, or anything else you may know of damage natural sourdough yeast ?

I realize proper amounts must be used. I read somewhere lemon juice may be used instead of vinegar.

DOUGHHOOKER I don't know how to send a private message. I would like the formula. I'm at lou1al@outlook.com. Thank you Lou

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

If you still want to reach DoughHooker use this link.

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/messages/new/60830?destination=user/60830

Jacbuys's picture
Jacbuys

I would like the formula for San Francisco sourdough bread

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Jac, the very best method for sour tasting sourdough is taught by Teresa Greenway of Northwest Sourdough. It is an online class that is worth the effort if you are serious about San Francisco SD. I have contacted her to get a discount coupon.

 

https://www.udemy.com/course/bake-san-francisco-style-sourdough-bread/?couponCode=MARCHFUN

Use Discount Code FEBFUN. It is good till tomorrow. 

Here is the link to the course. I think the cost with the discount is about $10.

Let me know if you are interested.

Danny

Jacbuys's picture
Jacbuys

Thanks for the response. I have taken Teresa’s couse but am not getting a real sour profile like I remember San Francisco sourdough to have. Trying to figure out why...

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Jac, if you want to talk, PM me (click the icon near one of my post) and we’ll set something up. Teresa’s bread, if baked properly, will get you sour.

Danny

Jacbuys's picture
Jacbuys

PM does seem to work on ipad...

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

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