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Food and Drink Things To Do

Barter For Starter! This SF Bakery Will Give You Their Sourdough Starter In Exchange For A Poem

By Jamie Ferrell

Barter For Starter! This SF Bakery Will Give You Their Sourdough Starter In Exchange For A Poem

Or a painting. Or an origami crane. Or a six-pack of beer.

San Francisco is known for having delicious sourdough bread, and Josey Baker Bread is a city staple. They mill all organic, whole-grain rye flour on-site daily, and you can enjoy dozens of different loaves at The Mill, their SF coffee shop (currently open for takeaway and outdoor dining). They have rye, country, black pepper parmesan, and plenty of other interesting sourdough flavors.

But hey, we all just spent our free time in quarantine honing various arbitrary skills… so we’re basically professional bakers now, right?

To make your own sourdough, you need a proper sourdough starter (a live culture of flour, water, wild yeast and bacteria) and Josey Baker Bread will actually give you a bit of theirs if you can manage to strike a deal.

The amateur bakers of San Francisco have been known to exchange hand-written poems, drawings, paintings, photography, six-packs of beer, and more for some of that special Josey Baker starter. Of course, you can also just ask for some… but where’s the fun in that?

We talked to Josey Baker himself, founder of Josey Baker Bread and co-owner of The Mill coffee shop.  “We maintain our starter with 100% fresh-milled whole grain rye flour,” he told us.

“We actually had our starter analyzed by a company in Belgium… and funny enough, there actually was no Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, which is the strain of bacteria that was named after San Francisco. Our sourdough did not have any of that, but it did have a lot of yeast and bacteria that are often found in sauerkraut, which I thought was fascinating and makes our starter unique.”

If you’re looking to make your own sourdough bread, Baker’s advice is simple: “The main thing I would say is to just not be intimidated and to just try it.”

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“It has been one of the great joys of my life, falling in love with bread baking, and the thing about the bread baking is that the process is a really incredibly beautiful thing in and of itself that I think is worthy of practicing, just for the process.”

“The big bonus is that at the end of it you get a loaf of bread, which has served a critical function to human civilization since we discovered it thousands of years ago… so, you know, you can take part in that.”

Baker’s cookbook, Josey Baker Bread, guides first-time bread bakers through the steps of creating their own bread. It increases in complexity from beginning to end, so you can improve your bread-baking as you work your way through the book.

In case you really want to get down with the science of it all, the Exploratorium also has a step-by-step guide to creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. And there are some quarantine-era bread baking tutorials from Baker himself on the @joseybakerbread Instagram page.

If you want to try your hand at bread baking, or if you just have a hankering for freshly milled, handcrafted sourdough bread and more, be sure to stop by The Mill. You’ll find them at 736 Divisadero Street in San Francisco from 7am-3pm during the week and 7am-5pm on weekends. You can also keep an eye out for their upcoming “Flour of the Month” club, which will be shipping products nationwide.

Good luck on your sourdough baking adventure!

 

[All Images: @joseybakerbread via Instagram]