San Francisco Sourdough Bread

The saga of the sourdough starter has come to a close.

This was my second attempt at creating a sourdough starter from scratch and it was indeed a success! I started the seed culture on January 15th. After 10 days of diligent stirring and feeding, the culture was most definitely alive and ready to transform into a mother starter. That step was a pretty simple one, but involved some resting time on the counter before hitting the refrigerator. Once in the cool and cozy confines of the refrigerator, the starter is good for 5 days before it needs to be “refreshed.”

Well, at the four day mark, I had some time to whip together a bread dough using this mother starter. I chose to go with the San Francisco Sourdough bread. I mean, that’s the gold standard right?

So, I took the 2 ounces of mother starter I needed. Wait. What? 2 ounces? Do you realize how small of an amount that is? What am I going to do with the rest of the starter? The “refreshing” process only needs 4 ounces of starter. Hmmm… This could get wasteful. More on that later.

After mixing the sourdough, well, dough, and letting it proof, and storing it overnight in the refrigerator (man, this is a long process), it was finally time to bake! For loaf #1, I forgot to turn down the temperature of the oven after putting the bread in, and I didn’t rotate the loaf. It still turned out just fine, but it cooked a little faster than it was supposed to, and the lack of rotation caused it to rise a little faster on one side and lean a bit. No big deal. Loaf #2 included a much more careful following of the directions and turned out awesomely.

Here’s one of the loaves:

And here’s a look inside after we cut off a slice:

Check out those air pockets!

The bread was delicious. It had a heartier, yet spongier quality to it than the lean breads we’ve been making to date, and it had a really nice flavor.

Now, as I alluded to before, the downside is the maintenance of the sourdough starter itself. Realistically, if I was going to keep that starter going at the same size, I would either need to bake about 20 loaves of bread a week, or basically discard 3-4 cups of flour every week. One of those options is just not gonna happen (I mean, who would eat it all?), while the other seems super wasteful. So, after some careful deliberation, it was decided to discard the mother starter that I had taken so long to grow and focus on the non-sourdough bread varieties for a while. At least I know I can successfully create a sourdough starter though, so maybe this experiment will live on again someday.

By the way, this recipe and the process involved all came from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Bread Every Day book.

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4 thoughts on “San Francisco Sourdough Bread”

  1. Wow, that’s so exciting! I’m on the fifth day of my seed starter and it’s really coming along. Great to hear others are learning along with me!

  2. Hi, Paul,

    Why didn’t you just give part of your mother starter away to your friends, or throw part of it away? Then you would have had a smaller amount of starter to feed each week, and you would still be able to provide your readership with wonderful wild yeasty breads to admire.

    It would have been like feeding a lap dog instead of a teenager each week. For instance.

    At any rate, that is a gorgeous loaf. A gorgeous loaf!

  3. @Coco Bean, patience was definitely the key for me. I think the dryness of winter caused the process to take a little longer than it would in the summer months.

    @Molly, yeah, thought about that. Still though, I don’t think we were going to be making sourdough loaves frequently enough to make even a 1/4 of the starter last.

  4. I just read this blog post and I feel the same way. I don’t want to throw it away and I don’t want to pester friends and strangers with gifts of starter. That is why I have not done the starter in the past.
    However, I have recently started a starter — also Peter Reinhart’s and am planning to use one of the low/no waste methods to manage the starter.

    Here are a couple of links:
    http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/6330/waste-free-sourdough-starter
    http://lumpymuffins.home.comcast.net/~lumpymuffins/Sourdough/NoWaste.html

    Hope this helps, though it is a bit late.

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