Who Doesn’t Love Sourdough Bread?

Reader Contribution by Jodi L. Wise
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It does not seems to matter where I go, if I ask, “Do you like sourdough?”  I always end up with a big yes and a story to go with it.  Sourdough seems to have a link to every person that I talk to.  A bit of history or a favorite story.  I hear, “When I was little my grandmother made the best bread from sourdough….” People love to hear about sourdough.  Better yet, people love to eat sourdough!

There is a reason that sourdough was such a great staple in our history.  I love that it is made with such few ingredients but can make so many great things.  I thought when I started at Sourdoughs International that sourdough was just for bread.  Boy oh boy was I mistaken.  Sourdough is used in so many different recipes.  I have made crackers, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, bread sticks, waffles, pancakes, brownies, and the list goes on and on.  Some of these recipes call for a very minimal amount of ingredients but provide a big taste. 

Because I am new to baking, the cost of experimenting is one of the things that puts me on hold in the kitchen.  So sourdough allows me to experiment to my hearts content.  I am learning that I can throw all kinds of things into my bread.  It may not look pretty when it comes out of the oven but it sure tastes good and that is what matters to those of us starting out. 

Here is a very basic recipe that I like to add things to and see what turns out and what doesn’t.

San Francisco Sourdough

This bread is the best known sourdough of all breads and all cultures. It is produced today in many forms that rarely duplicate the original version. It is easy to produce the familiar crumb with its large and irregular holes and spaces but the fabulous flavor and baking aroma are rare indeed. This recipe utilizes the Original San Francisco culture, from Sourdoughs International, made with a slow fermenting natural leaven that requires an overnight slow fermentation and no commercial yeast.  It seems incredible that the ingredients in this well-known bread are so few: a wild culture, flour, water and salt. Yield one 1 1/2 pound loaf.

1 cup fully active San Francisco culture
1 cup water
3 ½ cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Dough Proof

Pour the culture into a mixing bowl.  Dissolve the salt in the water and stir it into the culture.  Add the flour a cup at a time and stir until it is too stiff to mix with a spoon.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Proof the dough overnight (8 to 12 hours) at room temperature, about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap.  During this time, the dough should double in size in the covered bowl, or rise to the top of the machine pan.  After the proof, use a spatula to gently ease the dough out onto a floured board.  Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.  If marked flattening occurs during this time, knead in additional flour before shaping.

Loaf Proof

After the 30 minute rest, shape the dough.  Flatten it slightly, then lift a portion from the periphery and pull it toward the center.  Continue this around the dough mass to form a rough ball, then shape as a French loaf by gently patting the dough into a rough rectangle, then folding over and pressing the edges together to make a seam.

Place the shaped loaf, seam side down, on a baking sheet and proof for 2 to 4 hours until it doubles in bulk.  For a good combination of sourness and leavening, proof the loaf for the first hour at room temperature and then at 85 degrees to 90 degrees in a proofing box.


Place the baking sheet with its shaped loaf in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375° and bake for 70 minutes.  For a firm, chewy crust, place a pan of boiling water below the loaf or spritz the oven with water every 4 minutes for 15 minutes while the oven is at baking temperature.  When the loaf is baked, remove it from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Now that my very small garden is going strong, I want to add some fresh herbs to this bread and see what turns out.

Happy baking and try something new today!

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