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Mass produced sourdough

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  • Mass produced sourdough

    We drove down to Disney for our last weekend before the girls head back to school, and there is a new demonstration by Boudin, the San Francisco sourdough company. These are the guys who claim their sourdough culture is 150 years old, and dates back to the gold rush. Lactobasillus Sanfrancisco.

    Anyway, the demo was very informative, in that it helped me understand by why even mass produced bread where they try pretty hard still isn't good. The process takes 72 hours, including the bulk fermentation, and the final proofing. They have created some nifty machines that cut the dough into the right weight, shape it into a round, and rock it back and forth while it is proofing. They have temperature and humidity controlled final proofing and a steam injection oven that turns while the bread bakes. They bake at 450F.

    Still, there is no real "handling" of the dough, and the boule is never really shaped, other than the conical machine that makes it round.There is no crackle in the crust, which as they point out in Pixar's Ratatouille, is one sign of nice bread. If you have had it before, it's the type of bread you use for clam chowder in a bread bowl.

    It reminds me of the way Korbel makes sparklinig wine. They also came up with some nifty ways of automating the methode champagnoise process, and they also make a pretty mediocre product. The Korbel tour is also very educational.

    I guess it goes to show how hard it is to make great bread, and that it is probably impossible to make great bread on a large scale. It also reminds me how lucky we are to have brick ovens, and to have bakeries like Jim's Mary Gs.

    Here's to great bread.
    James
    Pizza Ovens
    Outdoor Fireplaces

  • #2
    Re: Mass produced sour dough

    Nancy Silverton (La Brea) sells through Costco now...it nearly broke my heart...It is better than white bread, but not excellent...
    My Oven Thread:
    http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...-oven-633.html

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    • #3
      Re: Mass produced sour dough

      Hey Drew,
      Exactly. Carrie and I had the same conversation last week. Our first time in Costco for a year, and there it is. It's definitely not great...

      That's another funny sub-plot in Ratatouille. The famous chef who sells out and starts selling corn dogs.

      James
      Pizza Ovens
      Outdoor Fireplaces

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Mass produced sour dough

        Originally posted by james View Post
        <snip> It also reminds me how lucky we are to have brick ovens, and to have bakeries like Jim's Mary Gs.

        Here's to great bread. <snip>
        My hats off to Jim and the wonderful information that he has shared with us all. My bread baking is better because of him.

        To go along with the good bread theme here, this is a link to a baker who has something to say about sourdough that you may find interesting.

        Bohemian Bread Homepage

        J W

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        • #5
          Re: Mass produced sour dough

          Originally posted by DrakeRemoray View Post
          Nancy Silverton (La Brea) sells through Costco now...
          La Brea is also available at Ralphs... or is it Safeway/Pavillion, in the LA area?
          Last edited by BrianShaw; 08-20-2007, 02:39 PM. Reason: fixed grammar... sort of.

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          • #6
            Re: Mass produced sour dough

            Yeah, but do they also do corn dogs? :-)
            James
            Pizza Ovens
            Outdoor Fireplaces

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            • #7
              Re: Mass produced sour dough

              Don't get me wrong, if I were Nancy Silverton and was able to sell a product through Costco, I would jump at it. But I bet it is not what she is eating...

              Drake
              My Oven Thread:
              http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...-oven-633.html

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Mass produced sour dough

                Funny that this thread came up...I was shopping with my wife in a store called Schnuck's here in the midsouth and I was stunned to see LaBrea Bakery Breads in bags! I did not resemble anything I would have expected! We tried one and it was really bland...no crackle...paler color. Really, I was stunned. Great bread is like great pizza, has to be fresh and there has to be care and love in it. Can't take great pizza home with you and you can't ship a great bread? a thousand miles and still expect it to be great 3 days later...I don't think but maybe I am wrong. Pizzeria Bianco...number 1 in the US by BonApetit does not do take out!
                Best to you all!
                Dutch
                "Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. " Charles Mingus
                "Build at least two brick ovens...one to make all the mistakes on and the other to be just like you dreamed of!" Dutch

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Mass produced sour dough

                  I am really glad this thread came up. I was talking about it all night when we first came across it -- and I was all riled up.

                  Drew, would you really start selling corn dogs? :-)
                  James
                  Pizza Ovens
                  Outdoor Fireplaces

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Mass produced sourdough

                    If I could make enough money, sure. I would be the Corn Dog King! Then I would move to Italy and bake yummy pizza and never look back.

                    La Brea sends par baked bread around, that is why it is so pale...

                    I got all riled up too when I first saw it at costco. Nancy Silverton is pretty much the reason I have an oven. I started making some pretty good bread using her cook book, seeing how careful you have to be with the starter. She wants you to feed it 3 times a day! Madness, I said, but now I wake up each morning and feed it, and feed it again before I go to bed, so not 3 times, but pretty obsessed for a home baker.

                    I started baking pretty good bread, then I decided the next step was an oven, then I bought the Alan Scott plans, then I found this site...

                    So I figure she is a positive influence on me...

                    Anyway, I read that she sold the bakery recently for $55 million (less assumed debt of $13M) and that she and her partner owned a 50&#37; stake....that is not chump change...

                    So, I would like to think that she is still going to do some good in the world with that money. I can't be too disappointed, I could not shop at La Brea from Denver anyway.

                    Any my bread is WAY better than that La Brea stuff I had from Costco. So does that mean the student is now the master?

                    Drake
                    Last edited by DrakeRemoray; 08-21-2007, 08:19 AM.
                    My Oven Thread:
                    http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...-oven-633.html

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Mass produced sourdough

                      Drake, JW, James,

                      First off, thanks Drake, JW, for the kind words. It's humbling and inspiring at the same time. Makes me want to keep going further into the mysteries of bread baking.

                      As to the the LaBrea saga, I have a similar story, though on not so grand a scale. There's a bakery here called ACE; they use gas ovens, but years ago their bread was very good indeed (no sourdoughs, just straight or preferment), and they were all the rave among Toronto foodies. Then they expanded and expanded and mechanized and mechanized, entering the dangerous realm of French-designed baguette dividers, conveyor belts (the baguette now have traction marks on the bottom), and the quality nose dived. It's passable bread, but nowhere near where it was. I'm sure that the difference is the mechanization and lack of hand work. They're also now using proofer/retarders to slow down or speed up production. This is a factor as well. You can't rush great bread--ever.

                      Both LaBrea and ACE stumbled into the pitfall of large success, the economies of scale and the benefits of technology--to the detriment of the bread. It must be very, very tempting.

                      It's true that hand made bread is very difficult to produce on a large scale. Many of my customers understand that my production is limited by time, the size of my oven and the number of qualified hands involved.

                      However, they do produce levain breads on a fairly large scale in France. This is done with several quite sizable WFOs and many skilled hands in shifts (Poilaine, I think, has something like seven sites in and around Paris). Eventually, I'll have to go to an 8x10 WFO, maybe more than one, then hire and train staff. Where the money will come from is more a mystery than lactobacillus right now. Unlike pizza, the margin on good bread is pretty slender, even though I sell it as a premium product.

                      Having said all that, I guess the point is that you can't mechanize or rush hearth bread. If I did, I'd deserve the comments written in this thread: pale, uninspired, no crackle, passable but not great.

                      Jim
                      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827

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                      • #12
                        Re: Mass produced sourdough

                        Jim,

                        You should sell shares in Mary G's, and everyone can own a small &#37; of your bakery. That way you raise your capital to finance your larger oven, refrigeration, etc., and pay a dividend every year.

                        I've seen micro brew pubs do this.

                        I'd bite.
                        James
                        Pizza Ovens
                        Outdoor Fireplaces

                        Comment

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