Sourdough in the Bread Box

I am kicking myself lately because I was given a breadmaker 15 years ago and I did not appreciate it. It was big and bulky and I was a new mom with no time for anything but nursing and changing diapers. So, I gave it away. Sigh.

Now that my feeding and cleaning duties are over, I have a little more time to slow down and get creative and I am wishing I held on to that machine. Dangit. I have never been a baker, so my oven is mainly used to roast veggies and meat. I love good foods – especially breads and sourdough has always been my absolute favorite.

My parents lived in California when I was born – near San Francisco – and they became accustomed to sourdough bread (and hard salami, but that’s another story). Sourdough bread became popular in San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849. The miners loved it because it was easy to obtain the yeast and the bread itself was very durable. The famous sourdough bread was made with a pre-ferment of bacteria (Lactobacillus sanfrancisco) and wild yeast (Candida humilis) called a “starter” and local bakeries would keep them going from the original batch called the “mother sponge”. It was very popular – there were over 60 bakeries in the bay area in the mid 1800’s and Boudin (which was our favorite) is still producing breads today.

We left California (and that amazing bread) and moved across the country when I was still under 5 years old. But, luckily, we lived next door to an airline pilot and his flight attendant wife. Every time they travelled for work to Cali, they would bring back our favorite sourdough bread and salami. I remember running over to their house to pick up the gifts and how my family would gather around and just feast on the food. Even though I wasn’t living in SF anymore, I still got to enjoy the lovely food. As I grew older, our neighbors stopped bringing us our favorite goodies. I longed for the bread, but the ones we purchased locally NEVER tasted the same. Not enough of the pungent sour flavor. So. Much. Sadness. And. Disappointment.

Now I know why. The bacteria used in that incredible bread was SPECIFIC to the bay area and we were now on the east coast.

All is not lost, though! I have done my research and we CAN get the specific cultures needed to produce a super tangy San Francisco Sourdough bread right here in Connecticut and anywhere. The best part? As long as I keep my starter alive, it can last for generations. Second best part? If I let it die, I can purchase more.

But all this talk of sourdough bread got me hungry and I don’t want to wait days for the culture and then even more days to get the yeast going in a starter. I am too impatient when it comes to bread. So, I found a little cheat recipe on Pinterest using yogurt for the tang and decided to give it a go. No starter is involved in this recipe, so it’s not a true sourdough, but I will give all breads an equal opportunity.

Using my Instant Pot, I proofed the dough (final rise before baking) for 4 hours (on a yogurt setting) and then baked it in my Le Creuset in the oven for about 40 minutes total. It was beautiful, easy to make and my family pretty much ate the whole thing already. This just proves to me that I need to be doing this more often. (I also believe that my potter’s hands are GREAT at kneading dough)

So, as I eat the last heel of the loaf tonight, I am planning out my shopping list for my TRUE San Francisco Sourdough Starter. Wish me luck. For those of you that can’t wait either – here is the delicious bread recipe that I followed today. It’s not a perfect sourdough, but it is still a beautiful and tasty bread and I love any chance to use my Instant Pot. Tell me what you think!

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