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The Magic of Sourdough Bread

Mark at SFBI posing with some excellent bread

Hi everyone. It's another report from the road as I wrap up my second week at the San Francisco Baking Institute. The Artisan II course is called "Mastering Sourdough" but we did so much more as well.

The bread in the picture is from Wednesday when we made four different sourdough loaves using different formulations. Just like the baguettes we made last week, the baker can make several adjustments to get different flavours from a sourdough loaf. He can use a liquid starter to get more lactic acid development for a yogurty, buttermilk-y sour taste. Or he can use a firm starter for more acetic acid development and a vinegary sour taste. Then he can adjust the number of times the starter is fed, and how much starter is put in the final dough, to manipulate the flavours even more.

The result? A wide variety. The loaves in the lower left are your classic San Francisco sourdough like you'd get on Fisherman's Wharf. High acid content and a vinegar-sour flavour. The loaves closest to me have a much milder flavour and is closer to the mild sour taste I prefer. I'll make them both for you when I get home so you can tell me what you like best!

We didn't stop there, however. There was sourdough rye to make, sourdough whole wheat, and then some variations of regular yeasted dough like Ciabatta (I now know what an ultra-wet dough looks like), olive bread, walnut and raisin bread, and regional decorative breads. I can tell my Vivarais from my Auvergnat, but I can't always pronounce them properly!

One more week. Just one more week till I'm back home and firing the oven again. But first I need a crash course in whole grains and specialty flours with guest instructor Didier Rosada. The word is that he's a Very Special Bread Instructor so I'm really looking forward to meeting Didier and learning from him. I'll keep you posted.

Until next week!


PS -- For those of you who can't get enough dough -- Daily updates from San Francisco are at my madbaker blog. More photos are on flickr. Click the links for more.