The Boudin Bakery is a huge building that houses the bakery as well as a shop and a couple of restaurants. Honestly, we walked in and thought it was pretty touristy. It was a smooth operation, but that definitely doesn’t mean that they’re still doing things the right way.
We were lucky enough to be met by the master baker, Fernando (one of only 3 in the 150 year history of the company) and he took us right into the bakery. This was a well oiled machine. It was calm and people were going about their business quickly, the way only years of practice can allow. This place runs for 20 hours every day.
Fernando told us a bit about why San Francisco is so good for sourdough. It’s all in the air. There is a specific bacteria that only exists around the Bay Area (in fact it was named after S.F), and luckily it make bread taste incredible and different to anywhere else.He told us that even if you made your starter in S.F., he would have to ship out a bit of his own every month or the unique flavour only found in this area would be lost.
He was obviously passionate about what he did. He has to be, because as we said, it’s a real labour of love. The starter (or ‘mother dough’) is over 150 years old. It has to be fed every day in order for it to be healthy and happy. It is the most important part of the business. So much so that it’s kept in a locked, fireproof box.
It takes 72 hours from start to finish to bake a loaf of sourdough bread. Wild yeast needs a lot more time to develop the dough, but the end result has a bunch of flavour compared to shorter proves using commercial yeast.
Afterwards Ben and Jamie got a go at shaping some of the more interesting loafs… in the shape of teddy bears! Luckily there was no pressure… only the crowd of people gathered outside the glass wall that looks out from the bakery onto the street. The bakers usually give demos through the glass, but today’s crowd had the pleasure of seeing the guys not do too badly
It’s obvious that Boudin is a slick operation, but everything we saw was all about the bread and doing it right. No shortcuts are taken and the result is seriously good. It’s totally worth a visit when you drop by San Francisco!