Califonia Bountiful

Secret ingredient distinguishes San Francisco bread

San Francisco fog, called 'lacto bacillus San Francisco,' mixes with the dough and creates a natural starter.

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San Francisco is replete with tourist attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and Fisherman's Wharf. But no visit to the City by the Bay is complete without taking a bite of the culinary classic the city is famous for: San Francisco Sourdough bread. And to truly get a taste of history, you need not go any farther than the Boudin Bakery—San Francisco's longest continuously run business.

"Boudin was started in 1859 by the Boudin family that came over from France. It went through their family for about 90 years. My grandfather came into the business in 1935. He came over from Italy and bought the bakery in 1941," Dan Giraudo of Boudin said.

And from there, the family has continued the breadmaking tradition that dates back to the days of the Gold Rush. You see, everyone knows 1849 as the year San Francisco was swarmed by raucous young men in hot pursuit of gold, but another valuable resource "discovered" here that year put San Francisco on the culinary map. "Lacto bacillus San Francisco" may not sound like a precious commodity, but it's the secret ingredient that makes San Francisco's sourdough bread world-famous.

"Everyone can make San Francisco Sourdough bread, but not authentic sourdough bread. And the reason ours is different is because we use a natural starter. Our starter is made up of San Francisco fog, which is called 'lacto bacillus San Francisco.' It mixes with our dough and creates a natural starter which gives San Francisco Sourdough its tangy flavor," Giraudo said.

That special dough is affectionately known as the "mother dough." And around here, everyone listens to mother. The wild "lacto bacillus San Francisco" contained in the mother dough is specific to each bakery—combining with the temperature and humidity to give each bakery its own distinctive brand of sourdough. And as is the case with many bakeries, the mother dough has been around since the beginning, carefully maintained and replenished by each generation of bakers.

Built on old-fashioned values and traditional baking methods, the Boudin Bread Co. has managed to survive the test of time. Those who work here cite the quality and care that go into each and every loaf of bread made as the main reasons for success. It was the tradition 150 years ago, and it still exists today. So the next time you bite into a loaf of SF sourdough, remember, it's not just bread—it's also a piece of history.

For more information on Boudin, log onto their Web site at

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