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Why San Francisco Sourdough Reigns Supreme

This month’s recipe turns a sourdough loaf into the most delicious Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread. And it’s perfect for casual entertaining (hello Super Bowl snacks).

San Francisco Sourdough

Happy New Year! If you’re anything like us, you’ve left the whole “new year, new you” thing in the dust a long time ago. But, sometimes we might resolve to take more steps to live sustainably. Or maybe we feel the pull to learn a new skill — making San Francisco sourdough bread for example. This humble bread has quite a history in California. Like the Hangtown Fry, sourdough also was introduced to the Golden State during the Gold Rush in the 1840s. Miners didn’t have much in the way of baking supplies, but some managed to keep a sourdough starter alive and it, along with plenty of gold, made its way to the city by the bay. Turns out that San Francisco’s famously cool, foggy days are the perfect environment for wild yeast to thrive. San Francisco sourdough is pleasingly tangy, with a light springy interior and a sturdy, crisp crust. Of course, it’s great smeared with butter or hallowed out and filled with clam chowder. But this month’s recipe turns a sourdough loaf into the most delicious Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread. And it’s perfect for casual entertaining (hello Super Bowl snacks). The recipe is below and, between us, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy a loaf if sourdough wasn’t a part of your New Year’s resolution.

We’re #1!

vineyard

California’s number one for a lot of reasons — and we’re not just talking about the sourdough, the beautiful scenery or the awesome weather. The Golden State is the sole producer of many specialty crops including almonds, artichokes, clingstone peaches, prunes, figs, garlic, olives, persimmons, pistachios, pomegranates, canned tomatoes, raisins, sweet rice and walnuts. California is also the largest wine producer in the United States by a large margin. And California is the largest milk producer in the nation. Even though it’s number two in cheese, Real California Dairy produces more Monterey Jack cheese and mozzarella than any other state. Importantly, California is also a global leader when it comes to sustainable dairy.

California is number one in tech — and that includes technology in farming and ranching. Dairies and ranches in the Golden State are coming up with innovative solutions to be more sustainable, including exporting technologies to capture methane to places like Denmark. Did you know that the wine industry plays a role in sustainable dairy too? About 40% of a dairy cow’s diet consists of byproducts from fiber and food production including grape pomace, which is residue originating from winemaking, consisting of grape berry stems, skins and seeds.

Ewe Heard it Here First

Animals play an essential role in sustainable winemaking as well. From mealybug-sniffing dogs  that protect and preserve grapevines from infestation, to the falconers who work the vineyards at Jackson Family Wines and many others, sometimes the old ways are proven to be the best ways. Tablas Creek Vineyard, Cline Family Cellars and more are using “wooly weeders” — sheep — for weed control between the vines and around the property. The animals are light on their feet so they don’t compact the soil, plus their manure is a natural fertilizer. Other winegrowers are putting owls to work. At J. Lohr they’ve installed several owl nesting boxes around the property to help with “vertebrate pest control.” Researchers at Cal Poly Humboldt discovered that a nesting owl family can devour a whopping 3,400 rodents a year!

falconer

Whether it’s by utilizing advanced technologies or applying science to investigate which low-tech solutions are proving to be most effective, when it comes to sustainability California is a global leader in agriculture, dairy and wine. If you’ve made a resolution to live more sustainably in 2024, an easy way to do that is by buying food and wine from the Golden State. And if you’ve gotten on the sourdough bandwagon, by all means, make your own loaf for our Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread!

Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread

This tangy, round-shaped loaf we know as San Francisco sourdough bread, brushed with garlic butter, stuffed with cheese, then baked until toasty is the golden melty goodness you didn’t know you needed. Sourdough bread certainly wasn’t invented in San Francisco—that’s a credit to ancient cultures of Egypt—but it became closely associated with the city during the California Gold Rush era when it was a staple of miners’ diets. Today, loaves are often hollowed out, filled with creamy clam chowder, and served to visitors. Some say the foggy climate gives San Francisco’s sourdough bread a special bounce, and others say it’s a specific local strain of yeast that gives the characteristic flavor. That bounce and flavor are notes that pair perfectly with a California Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.

Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 round or oval loaf of sourdough bread
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons/125 g) butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon (3 mL) salt, omit if using salted butter
  • 3 cups (700 g) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley

Special equipment: serrated bread knife, pastry brush is helpful but not required, aluminum foil

 

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter with garlic and salt if using. Remove from heat. Alternatively, you can melt the butter and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave oven.
  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut the bread into 1-inch (2 cm) slices, without cutting all the way through the bottom. Turn the bread a ¼-turn and cut the bread at 1-inch (2 cm) intervals to create small diamonds or squares, again, without cutting all the way through the bottom of the loaf of bread.
  • Brush the inside cut surfaces of the bread with the melted garlic butter. If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can simply drizzle the melted garlic butter with a small spoon. Reserve about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) for the top.
  • Using your fingers, stuff shredded cheese into the cut surfaces of the bread. The cheese does not have to fit inside perfectly.
  • Brush the top of the stuffed bread loaf with the remaining garlic butter. Place the loaf on a baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until the cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake until the top of the bread gets toasted, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkled top of bread with chopped parsley. Serve immediately, with a lot of napkins.
  • Leftover Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread will keep tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or a zip-top bag in the refrigerator for three days.
  • Notes and Substitutions
  • Monterey Jack is our cheese of choice because—what else?—it originates from California! However, any meltable cheese like mozzarella or mild cheddar will work.
  • Make-ahead: You can make this Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread ahead by following the recipe through stuffing the cheese into the bread. Very tightly wrap the prepped Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread loaf and keep it in the refrigerator. When ready to make, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, and let come to room temperature while you preheat the oven, about 15 minutes. Proceed baking as directed in the recipe.
san francisco sourdough pairing

Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc?

Though their names sound similar, California Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are two separate varieties of grapes. Chardonnay is by far the most popular (and most planted) wine in California. Chardonnay can range from light citrus to tropical notes and can be light to full-bodied, depending on whether it was fermented in stainless steel or oak.

For this Cheesy Pull Apart Bread, we recommend a bright, clean Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape. Choose a dry rather than sweet bottle — its zippy acidity will cut through the buttery cheesy goodness in the bread.

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