The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

SFBI Sourdough at Home

emkay's picture

SFBI Sourdough at Home

A couple months ago I took a Viennoserie class at the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI). The students were mostly home baking hobbyists like me, but there were a few professionals too. Most of the 40 hours were spent hands-on in the pastry kitchen. The high quality of instruction combined with the excellent equipment and facilities were totally worth the tuition. The curriculum was designed with a professional production environment in mind so each batch of dough was in the 5-6 kg range and were mixed in large stand mixers. All the lamination was done using a dough sheeter. It was a bit exhausting handling such large pieces of dough and carrying fully loaded sheet trays around the kitchen, but I got used to the physical nature of the work fairly quickly. I learned so much in that one week and had so much fun doing it.

The SFBI also offers a few classes that are only 2 days long with a focus on baking at home. The quantities of dough are smaller and the mixing is done by hand. Although the baking is still done in their professional ovens, they demonstrate how to bake the items in a home oven too.

Last weekend I took the "sourdough at home" class. The students were mostly home bakers. Thanks to TFL and "Bread" by Jeffrey Hamelman, I already knew a lot of the information covered during class, but it's always good to hear it repeated again. It's the only way I'll remember. :)  The most important thing I learned was how to shape free formed loaves. Having the instructor correct my hand motions while shaping was the best part. I've watched a lot of shaping videos, but nothing beats the hands-on instruction I received in class. 

We made 6 different formulas in class. Each student came home with thirty 500g loaves and a little bit of SFBI liquid starter.

1. Sourdough with liquid levain



2. Sourdough with stiff levain



3. Multigrain (flax, sunflower and sesame seed soaker)



4. Sour rye


5. Olive


6.Semolina sesame




dabrownman's picture

and all of it fantastic  The class looks like a winner and your shaping is spot on  What a nice selection of breads  Well Done and

Happy Baking.

emkay's picture

a lot of bread. I got a lot of shaping practice with all those loaves. :)

Syd's picture

emkay, those are all good looking loaves.  I particularly like the crumb on the sourdough with stiff levain, the multigrain and the olive levain.  Did you get to make the SFBI miche?  

Nice baking,


emkay's picture

Syd - We didn't make the miche in class. I think they save that for the week long classes.

dmsnyder's picture

A really nice job shaping all the breads. Scoring, too!

I couldn't agree more about the value of face-to-face, hand-over-hand instruction for manual skills like shaping loaves. 

Who was your instructor for the SD workshop?


emkay's picture

was Miyuki for both the SD weekend workshop and the Viennoserie week. I really like her teaching style. And watching a pro like her work the dough is amazing.  I know that you attended a few of the Artisan bread classes. Was she one of your instructors? 

dmsnyder's picture

I had Miyuki for the Artisan I class. I thought she was a gifted teacher. When I thanked her at the end of the workshop she seemed terribly uncomfortable with the compliments. I don't know if it was cultural or just her personality.

She had exquisite judgement regarding the needs of each student. I remember her looking at the crumb of one of my baguettes. She thought the holes were just a little too big and suggested slightly more degassing next time. She was such a perfectionist, and was able to articulate the exact technique for correcting the slightest imperfection. 

Besides her knowledge and skill, she was a pleasure to watch handling dough. Her movements were so graceful - like a dancer's. As you say, she was amazing to watch but was also able to transfer some of her skill to her students. When I've been asked what I thought the most valuable thing I learned in the SFBI workshops was, I have said it was dough handling. 

I'm really happy for you, that you were able to take those classes.


aly-hassabelnaby's picture

Well done emkay, the bread looks amazing indeed.

Mebake's picture

Great array of baked goods, Marry. Next thing you know, you'll be on the lookout for a larger mixer / oven , no? 

Now, were are those croissants?! ;)