San Francisco Sourdough, the super tangy bread that supposedly can only be made correctly in the sea soaked, humid air of the City, is a bread but it is not sourdough. Not exclusively, anyway. Sourdough is a process.
Instead of using traditional yeast, one uses a mixture of flour and water to culture bacteria that when added to more flour and water, allows the bread to rise. It has a distinct taste and is a little bit of a challenge to manage but some feel it’s how bread should be made.
It’s like cooking over a stove vs. cooking over the coals. Both techniques arrive at the same general conclusion, but each has its own characteristics. Like cooking over the coals, sourdough is more fraught with failure if not done right.
I enjoy the challenge and have learned to make delicious bread, yummy pancakes, and Holy Cow pizza crusts. Yes, all the staples of life.
But one of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis is “Do you make the bread completely from scratch?”
Well it depends on your definition of scratch.
I do feed my starter on a regular basis. The bacteria needs to be kept alive in the refrigerator. Yes, alive. Like a pet creature.
I do mix the flour, salt, and water with the starter and create the bread dough from mixing the ingredients together.
I do not carry the water from the stream to the kitchen.
I do not grow the wheat and mill my own flour.
I do not evaporate sea water to make the salt.
I do not make a fire but do use an electric oven. And no, I didn’t construct the oven on my own.
I don’t churn the butter and I don’t toast the bread on a hot rock.
I’m not sure where one draws the line for “from scratch”, but I can tell you that when the house smells of fresh bread and the butter melts onto a warm slice of sourdough bread, it doesn’t matter.
And is well worth keeping and feeding the little creature in your refrigerator.