They don't make sourdough bread like they used to — not even
in San Francisco! The city used to be renowned for its
sourdough as far back as the California gold rush of 1849. I
call this recipe "sour bread" because it does not use a
traditional sourdough culture; thus, it would be misleading
to call it "sourdough".
San Francisco sourdough has been closely studied by
microbiologists and food scientists through the years. The
microorganisms that produce the two acids that give the
bread its tangy flavor are well known.
This recipe is for a basic yeasted bread; it does not use a
conventional sourdough starter. It captures the flavor of
old-school sourdough by adding the two main souring agents,
lactic acid and acetic acid (vinegar), directly to the
dough. This recipe is the product of much research and many,
many test bakes to get the blend of lactic and acetic acids
just right. I grew up on San Francisco sourdough in the
1960's and 1970's and am satisfied that this recipe almost
exactly captures the flavor of that bread. Because it uses
baker's yeast, proofing time is greatly reduced, from 16
hours to 2 hours. As an added bonus, you don't have to
maintain a sourdough starter.
These directions are for one small loaf or boule
You can make a larger bâtard
simply by doubling the
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
A digital scale
acid powder (available through Amazon.com)
Instant or "rapid rise" yeast.
Do not use "active dry" yeast. Make
sure the yeast is "instant" or "rapid rise". If
Fleischmann's yeast is used, look for the bright yellow
An electric mixer is helpful but not required.
Some knowledge of artisan baking techniques is helpful.
As you can see, we are dealing with very small quantities.
It is thus very important to measure the ingredients as
precisely as possible. I use an eyedropper to measure the
vinegar drop by drop.
Start by making the following "cocktail":
92 grams water
3.5 grams (one half packet) instant
1.5 grams white vinegar
Combine the following dry ingredients in a mixer bowl:
146 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder
1.2 grams lactic acid powder
Disperse the dry ingredients with a wire whip or fork.
Add the "cocktail" to the dry ingredients and mix until a
dough ball forms. DO NOT OVERKNEAD!!!
Place the dough ball on a towel or preferably a flax linen
cloth and allow to proof for 2 hours in a warm place.
With a sharp knife or blade, make some slits in the top
crust, about 1/4 inch deep. These slits allow the crust to
expand while baking.
Bake at 400° to 425° F for one hour. You can steam the oven
in advance of baking by placing a shallow pan of water in
the oven as it heats up, or bake in a Dutch oven or roasting
During baking, the slits you have cut into the crust will
open up. This is an indication of oven spring, or the degree
to which the yeast has raised the bread.
VERY IMPORTANT: It is important to let the loaf cool
completely after baking. This will take some time, anywhere
from one-half to one hour. The flavor is still developing as
the bread cools, so for the best flavor it is important to
allow the loaf to cool completely.