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james 08-20-2007 12:15 PM

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.

DrakeRemoray 08-20-2007 12:40 PM

Re: Mass produced sour dough
Nancy Silverton (La Brea) sells through Costco nearly broke my heart...It is better than white bread, but not excellent...

james 08-20-2007 12:50 PM

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.


jwnorris 08-20-2007 01:57 PM

Re: Mass produced sour dough

Originally Posted by james (Post 13995)
<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


BrianShaw 08-20-2007 02:37 PM

Re: Mass produced sour dough

Originally Posted by DrakeRemoray (Post 13999)
Nancy Silverton (La Brea) sells through Costco now...

La Brea is also available at Ralphs... or is it Safeway/Pavillion, in the LA area?

james 08-20-2007 02:40 PM

Re: Mass produced sour dough
Yeah, but do they also do corn dogs? :-)

DrakeRemoray 08-20-2007 03:45 PM

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...


Dutchoven 08-20-2007 04:54 PM

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 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!

james 08-20-2007 05:29 PM

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? :-)

DrakeRemoray 08-20-2007 05:56 PM

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% 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? :D


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