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How can one batch of bread beget millions of loaves over a period of more than 150 years? The story begins back in the California Gold Rush, when a family of French bakers, the Boudins, combined the tangy “sour” dough favored by the miners with traditional old-world baking techniques, creating the original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread. Ever since then, San Franciscans have kept up a steady demand for Boudin's bread, insisting that its characteristics remain the same year after year – a dark-golden crunchy crust, a soft chewy center, and a distinctively tangy flavor.
To make sure each loaf of bread is consistent from batch to batch, our bakers have employed an ancient baking secret – the “mother dough” – a combination of wild yeast and lactobacillus, cultivated with a mixture of water and flour, which has been divided and replenished every day since the bakery’s Gold Rush beginnings. Taking the place of commercial yeast, a portion of the mother dough is used to leaven the bread each day, giving each batch of dough the same flavor profile as the last, dating all the way back to the very first loaves baked in 1849.
Boudin’s self-guided Museum & Bakery Tour tells the story of our bakery (and Boudin's famous bread) as it unfolds against the backdrop of the San Francisco's history and personalities, from the Gold Rush to modern times. See a display of miners' and bakers' tools dating back to the mid-1800’s, hundreds of historic images and artifacts, and a 100-foot timeline chronicling major events in the city and in the bakery.
Through exhibits in the interactive science section, you'll learn why sourdough is sour and how the "mother dough" has survived for more than 150 years. A video game tests your skills as a baker, and a quiz determines your bread-type personality (find out if you’re more like a loaf of walnut bread or a sweet baguette…). The bakery also gives a nod to other San Francisco originals – including the popsicle, chop suey, the martini, the mai tai, and Irish coffee.
Watch our bakers at work from a catwalk above the demonstration bakery itself. Signs along the way identify the bakery's different machines and describe their function in the baking process. You'll see flour pumped from the outside silo into the mixer, where it's blended into dough, tossed from the mezzanine level to the ground floor, then hand finished and baked into one of more than 12,000 loaves each day.
An observation window at street level provides a great view of Boudin's bakers sculpting bread into unique shapes such as turtles and crabs. End the tour at the tasting room, where you can sample different kinds of breads and dipping oils.
For more information, contact Terry Hamburg at 415.928.1849. Groups of 10 or more should call ahead. Special tours available for children. Disabled access.