Sourdough Loaf

Though itís difficult, time consuming and smelly to make, the sourdough loaf, once its baked, is coveted. Its tart flavor goes perfectly with a good, fontina cheese fondue, beef stew, or a hearty winter soup. A slice of bread topped by an oyster scooped from oyster bisque is delicious. Sourdough bread is perfection served with a drizzle of good, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sal, its sourness blending sublimely with the oilís sweetness and the saltís pelagic tang.

No one really knows who was the first cook to discover that milk and sugar left out for days and days could go into making a tasty and nutritious bread. Itís possible that sourdough, like so many other worthy things, traces its beginnings back to ancient Egypt. It was probably one of those happy culinary accidents that humanity would be poorer for had it not happened.

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Sourdough Bread
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Sourdough gets its singular taste from the lactic acid from the lactobacillus bacteria found from the sour milk that helps leaven it. Scientist have written pages on the convoluted chemistry that goes into making a perfect loaf.

The way sourdough bread was made was the dominant way to make bread till the Middle ages, when bread began to be leavened with barm, then with yeast. Barm is the foam skimmed from the top of beer during its fermentation process. That this too was found to help bread to rise was probably also a happy accident. People still use barm to make bread rolls.

But the substitution of yeast wasnít enough to cause the sourdough loaf to be abandoned altogether, fiddly as it is to make. Many bread lovers claim that the best tasting, and by some accounts, sourest, sourdough loaves can be bought in San Francisco. The tradition of making superb sourdough began during the 1849 Gold Rush in that part of the state. For prospectors, men largely without women, it was easier to keep sourdough starter than bakerís yeast. Sourdough baking in the San Francisco area, indeed, has been going on uninterrupted since 1849.

The sourdough loaf is here to stay, and good for all bread lovers everywhere!

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