Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kneadlessly Simple San Francisco Style Sourdough Bread

The recipe for this bread comes from Nancy Baggett's Kneadlessly Simple, a book I rewieved here. Ingredients: 496 g all-purpose unbleached flour (+ more as needed) 9 g de sel (the bread wasn't quite salty enough to my taste. Next time I'll use 2% of the total amount of flour indicated in the recipe, including the flour in the starter, i.e. 13 g) 1/4 tsp instant yeast (I used SAF) 12 g corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil + more for coating dough and pan 368 g wild yeast sourdough starter (hydration 100%) 350 g ice water (water chilled to around 50 F/10 C by adding ice cubes)
  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, salt and yeast
  2. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk the oil and starter into the water
  3. Vigorously stir the mixture into the bowl with the flour, scraping down the sides until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. If too dry, stir in just enough ice water to be able to incorporate the flour but don't overdo it as the dough should be very stiff (conversely, if necessary, add more flour)
  4. Brush or spray the dough with oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap
  5. If desired, for best flavor or convenience, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 to 10 hours
  6. Then let rise at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. If convenient, vigorously stir the dough once partway through the rise (I forgot to do that part)
  7. When ready for the second rise, vigorously stir the dough, adding more flour as needed to make it very stiff and hard to stir (as I couldn't bring myself to do that, I more or less stopped following the author's instructions at this point and proceeded my usual way. I still did steps 8 and 9 however)
  8. Then using a well-oiled rubber spatula, fold the dough in towards the center, working your way all around the bowl (which will help organize the gluten)
  9. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes
  10. Invert the dough on a lightly floured counter, sprinkle the dough with flour and pre-shape it into a boule (ball)
  11. Let it rest for 20 minutes under a damp cloth
  12. Shape it into a tighter boule and place this boule into a floured cloth-covered basket (probably because I hadn't added flour as recommanded by the author, the dough wasn't stiff enough to rise by itself on a baking sheet)
  13. Place the basket into a large clear plastic bag, blow in the bag and close it tightly. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or 4 to 24 hours in the fridge (I chose to let it rise overnight in the fridge)
  14. On the day of the baking, take the loaf out of the fridge and invert it onto a semolina-covered parchment paper and then to a Dutch oven lined with parchment paper (I use a 5-quart Lodge cast-iron oven but Pyrex or any large enough other covered ovenproof dish would work too). Do not cut the paper to the diameter of the Dutch oven as you will need the extra paper to carry the loaf into and out of the Dutch oven as on a sling
  15. Sprinkle some flour on the loaf, then score it in a tick-tack-toe pattern
  16. Close the Dutch oven and place it into the cold oven (once again, this is not the author's method, but mine) and turn the oven on to 470 F/243 C. Bake for 45 minutes
  17. Take the Dutch oven out of the oven, get the bread out of it (lifting it on both sides using the paper as a sling) and set it back in the oven, without the paper, directly on the baking stone (if using)
  18. Lower the oven temperature to 440 F/227 C and bake for another 15 minutes (tenting the top of the loaf with foil to avoid overbrowning if necessary)
  19. Take the loaf out of the oven and check its internal temperature with an instant thermometer. If it has reached 204 F/ 96 C, it is ready. If not, put it back in the oven for another few minutes (taking care to protect the top with foil)
  20. When the bread is done, take it out of the oven and set it to cool on a rack before slicing it.
This bread didnt taste like the one I had several times in San Francisco but I like it better that way as I am not a huge fan of the famous San Francisco sourdough bread, except when eaten with clam chowder. But I like the fact that without being exceptionally good, this bread is really tasty (especially after a few hours or the next day as it truly improves with age), that the work involved is minimal and that, best of all, all I had to wash afterward was a couple of bowls and a wooden spoon...


  1. I've heard that even if someone took sourdough starter from SF to another part of the country, within a month you'd have sourdough that is not of the SF variety - the cool moist air here is a big factor!
    Very interesting!

  2. Hi MC, thank you very much for your posts. Your instructions are very detailed and informative and your photos are just lovely. Now, I did a quick calculation and the dough hydration of this Kneadlessly Simple San Francisco-Style Sourdough bread is 80% - that to me is a very wet dough! You said this is a very stiff dough. Is my calculation wrong? Thank you. Shiao-Ping

  3. Thanks for your interest in my book. I didn't ever really care for the San Fran sourdough either, so tried to do something that tasted a little less sour and more satisfyingly bready. And indeed the method is designed to enable those who have little or no experience with yeast recipes turn out a good bread with virtually no muss or fuss. Sounds like this was the case.

  4. Indeed it was. Very nice recipe. Thank you, Nancy!



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