Re: Newbie Question
> A lifetime sourdough lover and since my dad is no longer in California, I
> can't get my favorite bread anymore. So, I'm having to try and make it
I live in the heart of the SF sourdough bread heaven so I get lazy
about baking that myself, but you can do an approximation at home. What
was your favorite bread? I think mine is Acme WW lavain with a close
second being Semifreddi seeded baguette.
> I am using the San Francisco starter from Sourdough International. If
> anybody can point me to more sour tasting cultures, that would be
I like this culture. Try a longer fermentation which you can do at a
cooler temperature, say in the fridge, to develop the flavor.
> So far, I have baked 3 loaves and they haven't turned out how I want them
> to. The culture I am starting with from the fridge has a layter of hooch on
> it so I am thinking all is well in that department.
Starter in the fridge is not in an active state and needs to get to
room temp and be fed up as other folks have said, before you can make
dough. (Also it's not necessary to keep more than a very small amount
of starter in the fridge. That way as you reactivate it feeding it up
you aren't producing an excess of starter.)
> I am using my breadmaker (yeah, trying the lazy way first) for my mixing and
> kneading. When it is ready, I transfer the container to the oven and bake
> it there. Maybe this is my problem?
You need to incorporate flour, water, stater (once you've fed it up)
and salt. You can do that by hand or by any kind of machine. Mix only
as much as needed to see the ingredients are incorporated and the
flour is hydrated. I've never used a bread machine. So what I have to
say relates to using something like a Kitchen Aid on low power and may
or may not hold true for your bread machine. There's no benefit to
further mixing and there are disadvantages to overmixing. You can
oxidize the dough and more importantly for you particular concern about
taste you can raise the temperature of your dough by mixing longer, and
thereby speed up the fermentation giving you less of the flavor you're
seeking in a traditional SF sourdough.
To approximate sourdough you bought in SF you don't need to knead the
bread further. You can. But to get the large irregular holes prized in
SF sourdough, the folding method works very well in place of kneading.
This process has been posted on several sourdough groups in Yahoo
groups where you can easily find it.
And if you are baking in a bread pan, which your description
("container") indicates to me, then you're loosing all that crust on
> 1. After mixing the active culture with flour, water and salt, My bread
> isn't rising. Last night, as an experiment, I added yeast to this step and
> boy, did I get it to rise.
You can always add commercial yeast to the bread. Then many would say
you aren't making sourdough. I won't get into that topic, smile. Any
preferment added to bread enhances the flavor and the texture. You'd
lose the benefit of the long fermentation which is where the SF
sourdough taste you say you want comes from if you add commercial
yeast and spead things up. If you're looking for bread dough that rises
in 40 minutes then you're not talking about the taste and texture of
what your dad sent you.
> 3. Is that sourdough book they sell at Sourdough International worth
Look for it at your library. As I recall it's an interesting read.
(You might look in your library for Peter Reinhart's _Bread Baker's
Apprentice_, and Jeffrey Hamelman's _Bread: A Baker's Book of
Techniques and Recipes_ , and Scott and Wang _Bread Builders_ .)
There are loads of recipes on the internet. SF sourdough is a lean
dough so normally nothing more than culture/starter, flour, water and
salt. You can find the percents many places.
Two other factors you don't mention which affect the bread are humidity
and heat. Are you using a brick oven or a baking stone or quarry
tiles? Have you got a way you're introducing humidity at the start of
> 4. And lastly, as a backup since I can't wait, any suggestions on where to
> mail order good sourdough bread? I'm in Oklahoma and we can do biscuits and
> gravy but sourdough (good stuff) is no where to be found.
I don't know of any of the artisan bakeries doing mail order.
Boudin is one of the oldest sourdough bakeries in SF. Since I'm a crust
lover I can't imagine the classic crust surviving shipping but who
knows. And I don't think Boudin crust is actually crusty enough for my
taste. I'm a native and I remember when all the sourdough bread here
had the classic hard crust. That seems to have become less popular.
The Boudin photos don't appear to have that kind of hard crust. It
looks like they have the kind of crust that is easy enough to get at
home. And it probably arrives not that altered from the way it's
packed. I imagine they do as good a job as is possible.
I don't see any Trader Joe's in your area. I'm not sure about elsewhere
in the US but I have found that the TJ Organic Sour Batard is
remarkably traditional in crust, crumb and tang.
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