Sourdough Epiphany

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Peter Andrus quickly became rather good at his chosen hobby. But if he wanted to approach perfection he had to abandon some old, comfortable habits.

I started baking about 10 years ago. Delicious cakes and cookies were plentiful after some practice, but I yearned for something unique, something I was known for. Then, at a friend’s house for dinner, she unveiled her home baked sourdough bread and I was smitten.

Sourdough bread is so quintessentially San Francisco. It involves strange, microscopic creatures called starter. It has a cloak of mystery surrounding it. I wanted in. I got the recipe and after some practice was baking a few loaves a week, most of which went to grateful friends and family.

Recently, I grabbed a loaf from a sourdough peddler on Embarcadero. The silky crust struck me with awe. The crumb was airy. My bread lacked both. I needed this new bread in my life (no pun intended). Abandoning my familiar, memorized recipe for something new was intimidating, but I was determined. I longed for that delicious crust to emerge from my oven. After some hemming and hawing, I started looking for a new recipe in earnest. I felt guilty, like I had taken a bread mistress.

During my research at the library, I found a book by a bohemian sourdough baker in San Francisco. His loaves looked perfect. They appeared to be what I was looking for. But the recipe meant I’d have to abandon almost everything I knew about sourdough and start over. A sudden wave of self-doubt washed over me. I doubted my ability to pull off such elegant fare. Dare I risk everything for delicious bread?


I finally set aside some time to try it. I felt unprepared and vulnerable. Guess what? The bread was amazing. The crust was a deep, crackling brown. The crumb was practically perfect in every way. The new recipe was far superior to my original. I realized I’d been circumventing critical sourdough practices for years to save time and hassle. I settled for mediocre until that fateful San Francisco trip precipitated my bread epiphany. My old bread wasn’t bad. Without it I couldn’t appreciate the superiority of the new. But I was ready for a new loaf.

I’m excited for my new bread adventure.

With a Perspective, I’m Peter Andrus.

Peter Andrus bakes and lives with his family in Livermore.