Talk about an American classic!  The sourness of this bread is quite unique,  but not everyone is fond of it.  For some, it’s a little excessive, but I happen to love it.  In fact, I’ve considered buying a commercial SF sourdough starter  to try and mimic this bread at home.  However,  the fact that soon that population would change by incorporating yeast and bacteria present in our own environment, made me reluctant to go for it.   Sure, it would be nice to bake a few loaves with a “close to the original” taste, but then I’d be left babying three starters instead of the two I own… and I already take care of way too many strains of bacteria in the lab!  😉

Browsing through the pages of “Bread Alone,” I spotted a recipe for San Francisco Sourdough, and almost did not pay attention to it, thinking that it would involve the authentic starter.  Nope.  Daniel Leader developed his own recipe for it, coaching a regular starter into a slightly increased level of acidity, resulting in a bread that, according to him, would be very  close to the original.

(from Daniel Leader’s Bread Alone)

for the poolish
4 oz starter (mine was at 100% hydration)
4 oz bread flour
4 oz water

for the dough
8 oz water
all the poolish
13.5 to 16 oz bread flour
1/2 Tbs salt

Make the poolish the day before you want to bake the bread, by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and leaving at room temperature for 24 hours, preferably from 74 F to 80 F, covered with plastic wrap.

Next day, pour the water at room temperature in the bowl of a KitchenAid, mixer, and add the poolish, breaking it up gently with a wooden spoon, and stirring until dissolved.  Add about 1 cup (5 oz)  of the total flour and the salt, and stir until combined.   Place the dough hook in, keep adding the rest of the flour (you may not need all of it), and knead for about 12 minutes at the second speed of the machine.

Remove the dough to a slightly floured surface, knead it by hand a few times, place it in an oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2.5 hours, with quick cycles of folding after 45 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes. After the second folding cycle, leave the dough undisturbed for the final 60 minutes of bulk fermentation.

Place the risen dough over a slightly floured surface, and without de-flating it too much, form it into a ball.  Let it rise 45 minutes.  Shape the dough as a boule or any other shape you prefer, place it in an appropriate container for the final rise, and leave it at room temperature for 1 hour.

Bake it in a pre-heated 450 F, with steam, for a total of 45 minutes, decreasing the temperature to 425 F after 10 minutes of baking.  If using a cover to create steam, remove the cover after 30 minutes.    Let it cool over a rack for a couple of hours before slicing it.


to print the recipe, click here

My main modification of the recipe was to include two folding cycles after kneading in the KitchenAid because I felt the dough lacked structure and strength.   I used regular, supermarket bread flour, so it’s possible that it behaved differently from the book’s description.   For the most part, I tend to bake my breads with regular bread flour, not going out of my way to find the one with “a touch of germ,”, or “harvested during Spring, under a full moon.”    😉

Did the bread deliver the promise in the taste department?  YES!  When I tried a piece all by itself to get the real taste of the crumb, it immediately hit me as VERY similar to a San Francisco sourdough, so if you live hundreds of miles away from the Bay Area and develop a craving for that bread, this recipe will soothe you.

A more authentic shape would  be a torpedo type loaf, but I have a weakness for round bread, so that’s how I shaped mine.  Round, oblong, it doesn’t really matter. It hit the spot.  Awesome bread!

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ONE YEAR AGOA Real Oscar Winner  

TWO YEARS AGO: Pane Siciliano

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