San Francisco sourdough is the mother lode of all sourdoughs, at least historically and for many, taste-wise. This is where the sourdough taste of today was developed, and is even more popular now than ever. Developed during the Gold Rush in 1849, the San Francisco area is renown for its breads, and justifiably so. The unique climate there contributes to the variety of yeast culture. Sourdough was first invented, if you will, in ancient Egypt, many millennia ago, but because of the relative ease of culturing wild yeasts, is still with us today in the form of this wonderfully tasty bread.
Sourdough is as unique as its location, but the San Francisco wild bacteria, Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, and of yeast, Candida milleri, are the culprits for the true taste of this region. The bread fell into decline post World War II, in favour of the Wonder Bread type of bread that Americans found more convenient at the time. Fortunately for all of us, this didn’t last, and with the advent of the 1980s “bread revolution,” artisan bakers rediscovered this special treat.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some genuine starter from that region, the above strains now having been isolated out. Mine came from Cultures for Health, whom I’ve mentioned in the past for their cheese and yogurt cultures. It’s also good to know they’re available locally for me, in Kingston, ON. I followed their recipe pretty closely, and the result was bread heaven. The starter began its life about a month ago, and some of the excess from the process went into biscuits, and then it started its aging process. I figure a month was about good.
I would encourage you to check out their website at www.CulturesForHealth.com where you can get all kinds of info, books, and of course, all the starters and goodies for lots of fermentation in general. They have numerous locations where you can buy products all over North America, not to mention others around the world. But on to the bread.
San Francisco Sourdough Bread Recipe
Here’s their recipe, with my interpretation (you can get their full recipe on their website). Yield one loaf.
2 1/3 cups fresh sourdough starter
3 1/3 cups flour
1 to 1 ½ cup water (approximate)
Scant tbsp salt
I followed their directions to mix everything together. The idea is to use just enough water to make a soft dough. As they say, better to be a little too wet than dry. They knead it, as did I, until I got a nice, smooth dough that I then sort of patted out into a roughly square shape, rolled it up, and placed in a large bread pan (see photo). I went the bread pan route, but you could have used a proofing basket or simply a board. They advise letting it rise for 4 to 24 hours. Mine took about 18 hours, as I made it late in the afternoon and let it go overnight into the next morning.
I kept close tabs on it, even getting up early to check it. I shouldn’t have worried, it was behaving itself perfectly (see next photo). The one part where I did depart from the recipe was that I baked it at 375 degrees instead of 400 degrees, as I was afraid it would bake too fast on the outside, and not enough on the inside. (I also have a convection oven, so it seemed the prudent thing to do.) It took about 35 to 40 minutes, when it was golden brown. Taking their cue, I did use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, just like a turkey. I was a couple of degrees shy, and put it in for another 2 minutes, which did the trick.
I let it cool for about 15 minutes before turning it out on a rack, where I let it cool completely (see last photo). The bread was proudly served with dinner last night, and one bite led to pure bliss. The crust was perfectly crunchy-chewy, a perfect crumb inside, and yes, you could die and go to heaven. You don’t even have to go to San Francisco first, but of course, if you get the chance, go for it.
You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at www.SueVanSlooten.com.
Michael Pollan’s mantra, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” is as close as I get to a diet plan. For one thing, the fads are always changing—who can keep up? And for another thing, there are always too many rules.
While I’m much too easily distracted to be a successful calorie-counter or a no-carb commando, I feel like certain trends—such as focusing on nutrient-dense foods and limiting refined sweeteners—can carry their weight.
So with that in mind, and with a pantry full of cocoa, nuts, and pitted dates dangerously close to their sell-by dates, I set out to create something delicious.
The resulting bars were dense, fudgy, and brownie-like; full of rich, chocolate flavor from a handful of wholesome, minimally processed ingredients.
Chocolate-Date-Nut Bars Recipe
Note: This recipe requires a food processor.
1 cup whole almonds
½ cup each walnut and pecan halves
2/3 cup cocoa (this recipe was tested with Dutch-process cocoa, which has been treated with alkali; natural cocoa will result in lighter-colored bars with a slightly fruitier flavor)
½ tsp kosher salt
3 cups (tightly packed) dried, pitted dates
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 T water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13” baking pan with coconut oil and line it with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the short sides of the pan slightly (this will allow you to pull the bars out of the pan after they cool, making them far easier to cut).
Place the nuts, cocoa, and salt in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Scrape around the bottom and edges if needed, and pulse several times until the nuts are finely ground—do not process all the way into nut butter. Transfer the nut mixture to a clean bowl and set aside.
Place the dates, coconut oil, and vanilla in the food processor and process for about 45 seconds or until the dates are finely chopped—this will be quite loud and may produce a small amount of steam from all the friction. Add the eggs and water to the date mixture and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides if needed, add the nut mixture, and process till the mixture comes together in a large mass—it will be quite dense and sticky.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and use a well-greased spatula to spread it out into an even layer. Bake at 350 for 17 minutes. Cool completely. Use the parchment “handles” to lift the bars out of the pan and use a greased pizza cutter (or knife) to cut into squares.
Store in an airtight container (with parchment between the layers to keep bars from sticking together) at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Makes approximately 18 bars.
For an alternative to a brownie sundae, try these bars warmed in the microwave for 20 seconds and topped with a dollop of natural peanut butter, some fresh, sliced bananas, and a sprinkling of chopped dark chocolate.
Pork confit, also called potted pork, is a frugal and tasty way to preserve meat. Like it’s cousin, duck confit, potted pork is made by lightly curing, then gently “poaching” pork meat in it’s own fat. Once cooked, the meat is then buried it in the fat, effectively keeping bacteria and air away from the meat, there by preserving it. It keeps quite well in a nice cold cellar, or in the back of your fridge, all winter long.You barely need a recipe. While pork shoulder is often used, I went the economical route and used my locally raised fresh ham hocks. The hocks have lots of fat and meat, which are the two main requirements, and the bones and connective tissue give the confit great flavor and texture. After a brief curing with salt and flavorings overnight, the pork is slowly cooked in fat. The seasonings are classic stock flavors like onions, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves, but feel free to improvise your own combination.
Once cooked and totally submerged in fat, pork confit is ready for cold storage for up to 6 months. The meat can be pulled from the fat as needed, always recovering any remaining meat with fat. Reheat the pieces in a very hot oven, then pull the pork from the bone. Use the meat in soups and salads, finely chopped and mixed with a little fat for an unctuous rillettes spread or layered into an elegant Pork Confit Parmentier with mashed potatoes and greens. The fat also makes fantastic fried potatoes or a hot salad dressing with a little vinegar and mustard.
Pork Confit Recipe
5 pounds fresh ham hocks
5 cloves garlic
bunch fresh thyme
small bunch parsley
1 large onion or 1 cup pearl onions
3 large bay leaves
2 quarts fresh pork lard, duck fat or olive oil
Generously season the ham hocks with salt and freshly ground pepper, much more than you would for regular cooking. Don’t worry, you will rinse them off before cooking. Finely chop the garlic and onion, roughly chop the parsley, strip the thyme leaves off the stems and crumble the bay leaves. Add all the aromatics and herbs to the hocks along with the cloves. Toss the hocks to coat and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. I like to use a 2 gallon ziplock bag so I can easily flip the contents to redistribute the resulting brining liquid.
After a day, remove the hocks and rinse off the cure, herbs and spices. Don’t worry if a few bits remain attached to the meat. If using lard or duck fat, melt it. Arrange your hocks in a heavy pot. Pour enough fat to cover the hocks completely by at least 1 inch of fat. Place in a 180 degree oven (or as low as it will go if it can’t reach that) and bake covered for 10 to 12 hours. I baked mine overnight. (The delicious smell made for interesting dreams.)
Transfer your hocks to a storage container and completely submerge them in fat, with at least an inch over the top. Chill completely and store in the refrigerator. Use as needed for up to 6 months. Mine didn’t last that long!
When I told my family and friends about my new job, their first reaction was laughter.
Let me explain. I come from a small town in Idaho. I have spent my whole life outside. I only have a kitchen in my home because it came with the house. The smoke alarm will let you know that dinner is done. With that being said, I was hired at Sourdoughs International, Inc.
Sourdoughs International, Inc., sells sourdough cultures all over the world. I thought that this was a perfect job for me — after all, I love eating bread! Little did I know, what I had signed up for was learning to bake bread and telling people how to do it. For most people this would not be a scary thought, but for me it was. I had to “proof the culture,” but first I’d have to learn what the word “proof” even means. Then, I had to go through all the steps. I am learning new things every day. I want to give you the point of view from a very inexperienced baker. My mistakes, my victories, and what projects may lie ahead. I would love your advice or hints that may help me make my journey better towards baking the best bread ever. I have the ingredients to do it. Now, the practice and experimenting are in full motion.
Sourdoughs International, Inc., sells 17 different sourdough cultures collected from all over the world. The difference with our starters is that there is no commercial yeast. Our starters work by natural leavening. So the culture that I started out with was our Original San Francisco.
According to Ed Wood, my boss, this culture is the easiest to work with and the most forgiving culture we have. He’s right. This culture put up with me testing it, playing with it, forgetting about it, and everything else the inexperienced baker could do to it. It still works! I have been making bread, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, crackers, and so much more with just this one culture. Not once has the smoke alarm gone off.
Next post, I want to share the first recipe that I used with my sourdough starter. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I have. In the meantime, we are posting recipes once a week on our website, www.Sourdo.com. Please check us out and happy baking.
Once you have eaten a soft, sourdough pretzel, all other pretzels will pale in comparison. These chewy bundles of delight are perfect dipped in whole grain mustard, washed down with a hearty beer. If you are lucky enough to live near a good, German-style bakery, go purchase some pretzels right now! If not, you can make them yourself.
Making sourdough pretzels is not much different from making any sourdough bread. There is one additional step, boiling the pretzels before baking to give them a chewy crust, but it doesn’t add too much time to the process.
Sourdough pretzels are heavy and flavorful. They bear absolutely no resemblance to the hard pretzels you find next to potato chips in the grocery store. They are much heartier than the pale, white mall pretzels, which are usually only good for dipping up hot processed cheese sauces. No, these pretzels are less snack food and more the backbone of a meal. Serve sourdough pretzels with an aged, sheep’s milk gouda, your favorite beer, my personal favorite Sea Dog Mustard from Raye’s Mustard and perhaps some good-quality sausage for a Sunday evening get-together.
Make a Sourdough Starter
You can make good-quality soft pretzels using a traditional yeast dough. However, sourdough gives the pretzels extra flavor, so that they are not overwhelmed by whatever dip or mustard you use. Make your own sourdough starter by using the method I prefer, found on my website Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. Or follow the methods found in earlier Mother Earth News articles, including Creating Homemade Sourdough Bread From a Starter Mix, and a previous blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough. It’s hard to completely fail with sourdough, so use the method that appeals most to you.
Prepare Sourdough Pretzel Dough
Start by mixing the following ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl to your stand mixer. Because this dough is fairly dry, it will easier to prepare using a stand mixer. However, it can be expertly prepared using only your own muscle power, and kneading is excellent exercise!
2 cups sourdough starter
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp malted barley powder or sugar
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
3/4 - 1 cup warm, not hot, water
Mix well to combine. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes, or using a stand mixer for 8 - 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, 2 - 4 hours.
Make The Pretzels
Gently fold to deflate. Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into desired shape, pressing dough pieces together where they touch. Set each pretzel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 – 2 hours, or until puffy.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to a boil. Carefully add ¼ cup baking soda to the boiling water, it will bubble up.
Gently remove pretzels from baking pan and drop into the boiling water. Simmer about 30 seconds, turn and simmer an additional 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and return to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
Sprinkle pretzels with kosher or flake salt, or sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Storing Sourdough Pretzels
Sourdough pretzels, like other sourdough breads, will stay fresh on the counter for up to a week. Pretzels can also be frozen, although the salt will dissolve when you thaw them out, leaving polka-dots on your pretzels. Still taste great, just not as pretty.
Changes are storing won’t be a problem. Kids and adults of all ages love sourdough pretzels. I got a little carried away and made two batches for our Super Bowl get-together. Everyone ate pretzels, but none of us could keep up with the three year-old. She ate 4 of them all by herself.
Sourdough has been in my family forever. My mom always had a mason jar of it in the back of the fridge that she restored and fed every time we wanted her special pancakes. Family legend has it that my mom was given her sourdough starter from a group of tough cowgirls on a working ranch in high plains Eastern Oregon. These women were the wives of equally tough cowboys, one of whom was my dad, that drove cattle in harsh conditions, often away from the ranch. Sourdough was a staple. And while my mother was never a cowgirl, she did keep the sourdough.
It was only as an adult that I learned to bake bread with sourdough starter. It can be a difficult to get a good rise with sourdough bread. After baking many heavy, flat loaves of sourdough, I finally found the knack. To work properly, sourdough starter needs to be fed quite often, particularly the week preceeding baking bread. So get out your starter, feed it some flour and water every few days, and when it's nice and bubbly, you're sourdough starter is ready to go.
If you need to make a new sourdough starter, check out the Kitchen Sink Sourdough Recipe on my blog at One tomato, two tomato.
Here is my recipe for Spelt Sourdough Bread Buns, which is perfect for hamburgers buns or dinner rolls. Plan ahead because you need to start them the night before. I love the earthy nuttiness of heirloom spelt flour in these rolls. They are toothsome and dense without being to heavy. Sourdough bread likes to take it’s own sweet time, but the flavor is well worth it!
Spelt Sourdough Bun Recipe
By Tammy Kimbler
1 c active sourdough starter
1/2 c water
1/2 c whole milk
1 large egg
2 Tbs olive oil
3.5 c whole spelt flour
2 tsp salt
This recipe makes 8 buns that are a great size for burgers. Start this dough the night before for best results.
Remove one cup of starter from your active sourdough batch. Be sure to replenish your starter! In a non-reactive bowl, combine the starter with the water, milk, egg, salt and olive oil. Stir in the flour. You want a loose-type dough so you should still be able to move the dough around with a spoon. (We will add more flour later if it needs it.) Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise overnight for at least 12 hours.
The next day, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until pliable, adding more flour if needed. The dough should come together quickly. Let rest for 20 minutes, then divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Form rounds out of each piece of dough and place on a well oiled cookie sheet. Loosely cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap so that the dough surface does not dry out. Let rise in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size. This may take 2-4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the rolls on the top rack of the oven for 20-30 minutes until puffed and brown.
It was a cold, blustery day here in the heartland, and I wanted nothing more than something tasty and filling for supper. Determined to create as many cost-effective and healthful dishes as possible, I decided to raid my pantry and freezer for items I preserved last summer. In the dead of winter, a dish prepared with garden produce is good for the soul.
After tossing around a few ideas, I decided on one of my favorites — Cold-Weather Bean Soup. It’s easy to make and such a comforting one-pot meal. Plus, it’s nutritious thanks to frozen garden peppers, home-canned tomatoes, and freshly dug carrots, onions, and garlic. Keep the cold at bay, and read on to find out how to make this wholesome, savory bean soup.
Cold-Weather Bean Soup Recipe
16 oz. organic chili beans (like Eden Foods Organic Chili Beans with Jalapeño and Chili Peppers)
1 pint stewed or diced tomatoes (I use home-canned)
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup purple/yellow onion blend
½ cup thinly shredded carrot
1 t. finely minced garlic
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cracked black pepper
1 T. fresh cilantro (optional)
Organic chili powder and salt to taste
1. Simply combine all ingredients in a pot and let simmer over medium low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring every so often. It usually takes about thirty-forty minutes for vegetables to completely cook.
2. Serve with freshly grated cheese, additional diced onion, chopped cilantro, or crushed crackers/tortilla chips if desired.
You may use dried, soaked, and rinsed kidney beans in place of organic chili beans. I just like the extra flavor that the chili seasoning, jalapeño, and chili peppers provide. I trust the Eden Foods brand because their products are organic, and all packaging is BPA-Free. You can check them out at Eden Foods for a variety of organic goods and seasonings at reasonable prices.
Please note that this recipe can easily be doubled/tripled and stored in freezer safe containers for a future quick meal. To serve, simply thaw in the refrigerator, pour into a pot, and reheat.