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Sourdough Bread - What's Available?

Updated on February 11, 2016

Loaves and Slices

Sourdough bread starts with starter. That seems pretty straightforward, but starter is an amazing thing, a whole culture!

More technically, starter is a bacteria/yeast "symbiotic culture" added to flour and water. It's the bacteria that's key, and the name of one used most widely tells a lot: Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. Even if you're in NYC or Miami or Chicago, you're eating SF.

This symbiosis makes for a noticeable and delicious slightly sour taste (lactic acid is produced). Starter is traditionally made with a "mother," a small amount of old dough, saved from prior batches -- a process that can go back decades!. The bread is made by adding to the mother newly made dough in quantities that traditionally range from 75% to 90%. This amount and the history of the mother (however long ago she was born) together give the sourdough of different bakers different, distinctive qualities.

Vive la difference!

A good, local example

Coastal

Not too far from the original Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis.

Obviously this particular bread is not available everywhere. It comes from Capitola, not far down the coast from where the bread became famous. But you can look around. You might find craftpersons of equal skill right in your own backyard. Maybe even some of them moved to your area from the Bay Area.

Panoramic view

Here we have a full baguette laid out as if it were sun bathing.

Wonderful look to it. Not everyone would agree, but it seems to my eye that sourdough crusts have a slightly darker, richer look to them than the crusts of non-sourdough.

At any rate, the width of a baguette like this one is perfect for sandwiches.

What's inside this one

Taste: Mildly sour.

Taste: Very delicious.

Texture: Firm and chewy.

Verdict: Will serve to make terrific sandwiches, can be eaten just by itself with a little EVOO drizzled on it or scooped up from a plate (maybe also a little balsamic added), could be lightly grilled or toasted to add an additional layer of flavor, I'm going to search hard to find something like this where I live.

(For EVOO, click here).

Outside view

Of course there are other places to find sourdough bread. This one is from a place near you, or very likely is within striking distance of you since this chain is continually expanding.

This one's a loaf rather than a baguette. "Pugliese" means "in the style of Puglia" (aka Apulia), a southern region of Italy on the Adriatic. They know how to make bread there. More about Publia below.

What's inside

Taste: Moderately sour.

Slice after slice -- think of the potential! And speaking of slicing, there are so many ways to slice this loaf. The straightforward straight down from top to bottom, then an inch over and do the same is great. But you can also cut off one of the ends and enjoy the greater percentage of crust with your EVOO. Or you can cut off a large piece of the end, turn the cut face down, and then proceed to slice your piece into two halves and use it as a super delicious hamburger bun or for a very thick Italian Cold Cuts Sandwich.

More than one way to slice this cat

I decided to add a picture which illustrates the sentence above, the one that says ". . . cut off a large piece of the end, turn the cut face down, and then proceed to slice your piece into two halves and use it as a super delicious hamburger bun or for a very thick Italian Cold Cuts Sandwich."

Looks attractive from this angle, does it not?

Boule

Here we have another very common shape for sourdough bread -- in your better bakeries. A round loaf of sourdough, a boule, which gets its name from the French word for 'ball'

A boule need not always be sourdough. The shape and name of this loaf, interestingly, is the reason a French bakery is called a "Boulangerie" and the bread baker is called a "boulanger."

This is a very good shape for a loaf of bread because the shape presents you with so many opportunities to vary the size of the slices you want. Big slices from the very center can be used for very big sandwiches, of course, but they can also then be cut in half, grilled a bit, and then used for a Mahi Mahi burger. As you proceed towards the outer rim, of course, pieces get smaller and smaller and you can thus make just the size of sandwich you want.

Lengthy

"Diva" is the 1981 classic French film, which centers around a tape recording made surreptitiously of a famous operatic soprano -- a Diva -- who gives live performances but never makes CDs. The trouble that recording leads to!

One of he main characters, a good guy who lives in a loft around which his girlfriend roller skates, at one point demonstrates and explains the Zen of buttering a baguette. It is quite a scene.

Not sourdough, though. The baguette shown here one would challenge even Zen. But it would be worth the challenge.

A couple of pieces

Waiting for butter or extra virgin olive oil.

Maybe butter on one piece and EVO on the other.

Taste: Moderately sour.

Alternatively

Jams are great coverings for pieces which have been toasted.

There is one problem with this, however -- choosing which of these jams tastes better!

And of course the solution, as in all such cases, is to use and taste both.

Parting facts

Puglia is basically an agricultural region of Italy, but in the past few decades it has shown itself to be on the move. Small and medium-sized firms now account for a majority of jobs. Let us hope that this does not affect the quality of the bread (or its shape). Actually, this growth in local businesses is a very good thing, for during a long period after the Second World War people left Puglia to seek jobs in the north of Italy. This flow stopped some years ago.

Puglia is basically the heel of the Italian boot, though a long heel because it extends up the Adriatic coast a good bit. The local cuisine is classic Mediterranean diet in many respects, so no doubt people live a long time in its warm climate. EVOO, tomatoes, figs, capers -- also mushrooms and artichokes. What a delightful place to live and make bread.


Part of a series

Pictures, pictures, pictures

Series within series, actually. Food & Cooking, for example, then -- within that -- series on vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, etc. Books, too. Ideas, too. Travel, too. Click on "featured" at the top of the right-hand column, under my profile, for examples. Key virtues:. pictures, clear step-by-step text. Delicious -- whether foods or ideas! All of the series, and all of the items in each series, can be found, organized by floor, at this link: Lee White's Department Store. Happy shopping! -- everything is for free!

Real Meal

My usual statement here is "Real Meal. Unlike fancy food mags, where images are hyped and food itself is secondary, all pix shown here are from a real meal, prepared and eaten by me and my friends. No throwing anything away till perfection is achieved. This is the real deal --- a Real Meal." Of course the food item here is sourdough bread and not a meal I have prepared for you to consider following. But the basic principle still applies. Here we've taken something basic from the marketplace and showed simply how to use it to achieve a delicious result, nothing hyped about it.

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