Boudin brings 'Mother Dough' to Santa Rosa

  • Boudin Master Baker Fernando Padilla, right, kisses a box of the original "Mother Dough", first cultured in 1849, before handing it off to Head Baker Jorge Andrade during its arrival at Boudin Bakery's newest location in Montgomery Village on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in Santa Rosa, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

What happens to a San Francisco sourdough bread when it leaves San Francisco?

Boudin Bakery's team of bread makers and a cadre of newly-hired local workers will find out over the next few weeks, as the chain prepares to open a new store in Santa Rosa at the Montgomery Village shopping center.

On Tuesday, Boudin staff traveled from San Francisco to deliver 20 pounds of the "Mother Dough," which directly traces its bacterial roots back to 1849.

Boudin 'Mother Dough' Arrives


That's when Isadore Boudin made the bakery's first sourdough starter, known as the "Mother Dough," by mixing flour and water and capturing ambient bacteria and yeast in the air, the company said.

"He started baking with the old French technique, but when he baked in San Francisco .... the spores that live in San Francisco, the wild yeast and bacteria, changed the flavor of his dough," said Fernando Padilla, master baker for Boudin. "The dough changed, and it got more sour, and it got kind of tangy, with a very fine crust."

There's a reason why San Francisco sourdough bread has its own flavor. The wild bacteria and ambient yeasts in the air aren't found elsewhere, and they impart a unique flavor on the bread.

To keep that flavor profile going, Boudin bakers kept that sourdough starter alive for 164 years, the company said.

"All you need to do is add flour and water continuously every day, and she will keep growing," Padilla said.

A 20-pound starter, which was delivered Tuesday to the Santa Rosa store, can be used to make about 500 pounds of bread, Padilla said. Over the next three weeks, before the Santa Rosa store opens July 11, Boudin will be training about 45 new employees and testing out the new ovens, a spokeswoman said. The hiring of cooks, bakers, cashiers and guest attendants is almost complete, she said.

The sourdough starter will not take up permanent residence in Santa Rosa. If it spent too much time outside San Francisco, its character would change as the yeast in Sonoma County's air and the minerals in its water make their mark on the fermenting mix.

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