SF Sourdough

Getting a lot of people coming on courses wanting to get into small scale professional baking at the moment – do I have to thank George Osborne and his economic policies for this?

Anyway I have Vicky coming up for a couple of days next week. I offer students the option of scaling up one of their own regular recipes for my customers to give them experience of baking something familiar on a larger scale.

She has suggested the San Fransisco Sourdough recipe from Dan’s Baking With Passion. I’m just in the process of telling her that I don’t think this recipe is a good one for the lone baker (or the amateur baker if they follow all the instructions).

This is a sponge based recipe in which half of the total flour is sponged with all of the water and the starter for several hours until active, then the remaining flour and the salt is kneaded in, after which the fun begins. Half of the remaining flour goes into the mixer with the sponge and is mixed with the paddle for 2 minutes. Then the mixer speed is increased to medium for 8 minutes. Then the final flour and the salt goes in, the paddle is switched for the dough hook and beaten for 8 minutes on low, followed by 2 minutes on medium.

The dough comes out and, having passed the window pane test, rests for an hour, is folded, then rested and folded every hour for (I think) a total of four hours. Then shaped and proved for 3-4 hours before baking.

When you bake for sale you aim for simplicity. Most of my breads are mixed in the evening, ferment in the fridge overnight, are scaled, shaped and proved for about 3.5 hours, get baked and in goes the next batch.

So my first problem with this recipe is the sponging period. It adds virtually another day to the process (sponge a.m., mix p.m., ferment overnight, prove, bake). It also means if I am only baking 20 large loaves I have to have about 15.5K of very wet sponge hanging about all day. Then you have all the “you put your left leg in, your left leg out” mixing procedure. Plus all the folds.

So, because I am a very conscientious person, I tried it without all the frills, and, Ladies and Gentlemen, present you with the unembellished results. Mixed the sponge yesterday morning, mixed in the second half of flour + the salt by hand in the evening. Did 3 x 10 kneads with a few minutes in between; into the fridge overnight.

This morning shaped and proved for 3.5 hours, baked in our new £210 Hotpoint oven (John Lewis managed to deliver a week late):



So, good rise though not large holes, moist – I expect it will be a good bread. But the method in the recipe is cobblers and I doubt if it will be as good as Lance Sullen’s bread that I baked for customers this week, a straightforward white sourdough with a rye starter –  what we call Lancebrot.

3 thoughts on “SF Sourdough

  1. Someone, who shall remain nameless (all right, it was Marcus) tried to goad me into saying that this is a crap recipe. Would I say something like that?

    No, the point is Baking with Passion was written a few years back and Dan has frequently said that he had very little control over the content. The basic recipe is fine if you remove all the bollocks. But it’s no wonder a lot of people end up thinking this baking lark is really complicated.

  2. oi, so much for remaining nameless!
    It’s true I felt like Dan’s recipe was another of those “take 2 freshly mown blades of twizzelwort, the eye of a newt sacrificed under a full moon…” recipes, which just seem to deliberately add complication to what is ultimately not that hard. I wasn’t aware before now, that Dan had had his work convoluted to such a degree, so I’ll let him off I guess 😉

  3. Hey, don’t go so easy on him. He has an audience of thousands with his Guardian Weekend feature. If he did one week in four on sourdough (one in six?) just think of the number of good bakers with a proper understanding of dough making there might be in the UK. Instead we are doomed to be a nation of cake makers.

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