As a kid, my mom could be so taken in by a book and a loaf of bread, that she’d sit inert for hours devouring both. She described one such episode, where as a teenager she bought a fresh loaf from my family’s favorite bakery in Nürnberg and walked the few blocks to her beloved cathedral, the Lorenz Kirche. And she sat on a wood pew from late morning until sunset, tearing into the Rye bread and Kirkegaard until she was done with both.
The bakery is still there. When anyone’s passing through town, my aunt will put in a very earnest request for a few loaves to bring back down south to the mountains of Bavaria where she lives. They make gorgeous bread in the Alps but there’s just something about this particular loaf. It’s a smooth round rye with a very dense crumb. And it’s from home.
In America, we have the powerhouse that is San Francisco Sourdough, packed with a style and flavor that is pure chillaxed west coast.
And like most great breads, both use a sourdough starter, a great mother sponge. And if you’ve been tending to your own starter like a 2nd grader dotes over a sprouting avocado seed, I’m sure you’re ready to set that puppy loose.
Like anything of artisinal quality, this bread takes a few days. But we want to make the good stuff. So relax and enjoy.
CLASSIC SAN FRAN SOURDOUGH
2 cups warm water + ½ cup warm water in separate container
½ ounce of instant yeast
6 cups unbleached white bread flour
1 cup cheater's sourdough starter or my favorite natural mother sponge
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup sourdough starter, 2 cups water and 4 cups of flour. Mix well, cover and leave to rise overnight.
2. Go back to your original starter and feed it. 1 cup flour and ½ cup of water. Stir it in and let it rest. If you’re leaving your starter out of the fridge, feed it this amount every day. If you are allowing it to rest in the fridge, feed it the same amount every three days.
3. Rise and shine! In a small bowl with the ½ cup warm water, bloom yeast.
4. In a large mixing bowl with the hook attachment, add yeast, starter mixture along with 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons sugar and remaining flour. Kneed until a smooth stiff dough forms.
5. Cover and let rise about 2 hours.
6. Punch down and divide in half
7. Kneed until smooth and shape into rounds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and lightly cover with a dish towel. Allow to proof about an hour, until double in size.
8. Preheat oven to 375. Right before you put the bread in the oven, place a oven proof bowl filled with 2 cups of water, this creates steam that will create a nice crisp crust on top of the bread.
9. Bake ½ hour to 45 minutes. If you have very heat resistant paws, turn a hot loaf over and knock on the underside. If it sounds hollow, you’re done.
ALTERNATIVE: Instead of white bread flour, add the same amount of rye for a traditional German flavor.