Sourdough Starter Survived Earthquakes, Fires
Location Gives Dough Unique Taste
Boudin’s specialty is sourdough bread, which bakers make using a culture of yeast and bacteria to leaven bread dough.
Historians can trace the origins of sourdough back to ancient Egypt. Sourdough starters typically consist of flour made from local grains, sugar and water. The mix is left sitting at room temperature where airborne yeast will get into the mix and create fermentation.
Leavening bread in this way produces a tangy or sour taste which is why the bread is known as sourdough. Sourdough is popular in countries where rye is prevalent because the grain will not rise as well using ordinary yeast. The local, wild yeasts give sourdough a different flavor based on the place in which the baker makes it.
During the mid 19th century, miners who flocked to California during the gold rush packed
The bread starter became so important to the miners that they would put it into bed with them on cold nights to keep it from freezing. The miners themselves eventually became known as sourdoughs.
Over time, each bread baker’s yeast changed with the ingredients that the baker added, start times, refresh times, rest times, elevation and climate. For large bakeries, this meant that the bread they made tasted different from that of their competitors.
In San Francisco, bread makers noticed that the wild local yeast produced an even tangier flavor to the bread. San Francisco soon became known for their sourdough bread.
When Isidore Boudin, a descendent of master bakers in Burgundy, France, established his bakery in 1849, it was one of 60 bakeries in the city. Boudin’s bakery offered something that other bakeries in San Francisco didn’t. Namely, he used his special family recipe for French bread to produce “San Francisco French Sourdough Bread.” The bread became a hit with locals and as the gold rush swelled the population of San Francisco from 1,000 in 1847 to 20,000 in 1849, residents flocked to Boudin’s bakery.
Boudin Bakery is one of a few San Francisco establishments that has operated continuously since 1849. During the great San Francisco fire and earthquake, Boudin’s wife Louise saved their sourdough bread starter by placing it in a bucket and carrying it with her when she fled the fire that wiped out most of San Francisco.
Despite the changes, bakers with the company continue the legacy by utilizing the same “mother dough” that Isidore Boudin used to create the famous sourdough bread when he opened the business so many years ago. Thereby leaving one thing unchanged, a slice of Boudin sourdough French bread is truly is an authentic taste of San Francisco history.