May 1, 2013

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

About three and a half years ago I took up bread baking. I didn't start with just any bread. It was a sourdough loaf. I talk about it in my post about basic sourdough. I bought my starter from King Arthur Flour and have kept it alive and well since 2009. It now has a couple of siblings in my refrigerator, and some cousins in friends' refrigerators. No matter how many breads I bake, I always come back to sourdough. 

I chose to bake this bread for the one year anniversary of Twelve Loaves, a monthly bread baking group started by Lora of Cake Duchess. I started baking along in June of 2012, and have been having fun experimenting with the different monthly themes. This month's theme, in honor of the anniversary, is celebrating bread. Coincidentally, while yesterday was the one year anniversary of my blog, today is the one year anniversary of the first time someone actually visited this blog. Thank you kind person! 

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

This bread can be made over a period of two to five days depending on your schedule and how much flavor you want to develop. To bake this bread, you create a "wild yeast starter" by mixing a small amount of your mother starter (the one you have been keeping in the refrigerator) with yeast and water and let it sit sit for six or seven hours, until it grows to 1 1/2 its size. The final dough requires an overnight or longer retardation in the refrigerator to develop it's great flavor. Go for it! Try making sourdough! 

San Francisco Sourdough Bread

San Francisco Sourdough

Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.

A few words about the mother starter.. in this case, the mother starter is a 60% water to flour ratio (e.g. 6 oz water for every 10 oz of flour by weight). I wouldn't go crazy over this (even though I do sometimes). If you maintain a 100% ratio starter, you can always adjust the the recipe to make up for this. While kneading the bread, just add a bit more flour to get to the consistency you want, or take some of the starter out and feed it at a 60% ratio to create your mother for this bread. It took me a while to realize that I could relax about this.

To bake this bread, I use the Lodge Combo Cooker. It helps the bread create its own steam, and you can place the lid on the bottom to make turning the dough into it and slashing it much easier. Just be careful, as it is very hot.

Wild Yeast Starter

57 g of fed and active 60% mother starter (see note above about percentages)
227 g unbleached bread flour
142 g room temperature water


The wild yeast starter
1 3/4 C lukewarm filtered water (95 degrees F or thereabouts)
567 g unbleached bread flour
18 g salt, preferably kosher
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (for a more purist method, this bread can also be made without this additional yeast. Give the dough an additional 2 hour rest before refrigeration)


Make the Wild Yeast Starter

  • Mix the mother starter, bread flour, and water with a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer for about 2 minutes, until all of the ingredients are incorporated. 
  • Place the starter in an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and allow it to rise, about six hours, until it reaches 1 1/2 times the original size. If you are going to postpone making the bread dough, place the starter in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you are planning on making the dough the same day, let the dough rise an additional hour.

Make the Dough

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the starter and the water and stir with a spoon or dough whisk until fully incorporated. If your starter is cold, cut it into pieces first.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients. 
  • With the dough hook, mix at the lowest speed for two minutes, then let the dough rest for five minutes. 
  • Mix on medium low for about five minutes, adding water or flour as needed to get a slightly sticky dough. 
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, form it into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes, uncovered. 
  • Do one "stretch and fold," taking the dough from each of the four "sides," stretching it, and folding it over itself like an envelope. 
  • Flip the dough over, and let it rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes. 
  • Do another stretch and fold, divide the dough into two pieces (or leave in one piece if you are doing a large loaf), form the dough pieces into balls, and cover and refrigerate in a lightly oiled container with enough room for the dough to double in size.  Refrigerate over night and up to three days.
  • Two hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape into a boule. You can place it seam side up in a floured brotform, or place it seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for about two hours, until it grows to about 1 1/2 times it's original size. 
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a cast iron dutch oven placed on a rack on the lower third of the oven. 
  • Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven, and place the dough seam side down into the pan. Slash the dough, cover, and place the pan back in the oven. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, and bake for 10 to 25 minutes more (possibly even more for a three pound loaf), until a deep rich color and the interior has reached 200 degrees F. 
  • Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Look at what our very talented #twelveloaves bakers made this May!
#TwelveLoaves May: Bake a bread, yeast or quick bread, loaf or individual. May is all about celebrating bread and the one year anniversary of #TwelveLoaves. Do you have a favorite bread? We would love to see it. Let's get baking!

Want to join the #TwelveLoaves group? It's easy!
  1. When you post your Twelve Loaves bread on your blog, make sure that you mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your blog post; this helps us get more members as well as share everyone's posts. Please make sure that your bread is inspired by the theme!
  2. please link your post to the linky tool at the bottom of my blog. It must be a bread baked to the Twelve Loaves theme.
  3. Your Twelve Loaves bread should be baked this May, 2013, and posted on your blog by May 31, 2013.
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  1. Karen, this is a phenomenal bread to celebrate! I love sourdoughs and had my years of baking with it all the time (bagels especially). Now I have a dormant starter in my fridge that I don´t know if will come out to life. Winter is near so maybe I should give it a try again. The texture in the bread is wonderful!

    1. Thanks Paula. I've let my starter go several weeks at a time and have been able to revive it. Go for it!

  2. Oh, my gosh...what a fantastic loaf! Looks like it came right out of a high end bakery...just beautiful!!!

  3. Man! These look amazing! My husband is a huge sourdough fan. I really need to get on top of it and learn how to use start better. This looks wonderful. I would make his day with this! Krista @ A Handful of Everything

  4. What beautiful loaves of bread! Sourdough takes me right to San Francisco and brings happy memories with it. I'd like to try baking with a starter, you have me motivated and encouraged to try it, thanks!

    1. Thanks Holly, you should definitely give it a try.

  5. Oh how I love the flavor of San Francisco sourdough bread. Every time I went there I ate it like there was no tomorrow. Your loaves are picture perfect and I'm sure they taste even better than they look.

    1. Thanks so much Renee! There is nothing like San Francisco wild yeast.

  6. Your loaves look great. I love Peter Reinhart's books 'The Bread baker's Apprentice' is the only bread book I use.

    1. Oh I love that book too. I have baked every recipe in that book. It taught me so much about bread.

  7. HUGE congratulations on the one year aniversary of your blog. So glad that I found it this year and kudos on the amazing recipes, shares, hints and tips that you give us each and every post. Looking forward to many more :)

    1. Thanks so much! I love hearing from you.

  8. Perfect looking sourdough loaves!

  9. ha! Your sourdough family has grown and prospered! My mother-in-law in Italy has sourdoughs from a long time ago and some more recent. The flavor is incredible. Your bread looks so incredibly tempting, Karen. Thanks for baking along with our group!:)

    1. Thanks Lora. I love participating with this group! Thanks for including me.

  10. I had no idea we could actually buy starter. :) That is something I might just try! I have never baked a sourdough loaf but I think I should try. I'm glad you shared this with us!


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