Battle of the Sourdough: Terra Breads vs Cobs Bread

Readers of this blog might probably have figured out by now that I have a fascination with bread. Bread to me is magical. Bread can be simple: Simple breads come from as few ingredients as yeast, flour, and salt. Which can yield a beautiful French baguette. Bread can be fancy: You can throw just about anything in it – from olives to Asiago, from pumpkin to saffron. Elaborate, and delicious.

A loaf of plain sourdough bread comes from few modest ingredients, and yet it is tremendously complex. It is easy to find very bad, mass-produced, supermarket so-called “sourdough” – way too sour, or not sour enough, or made with commercial yeast. Sourdough bread to me is one of those simple pleasures in life, yet a good tasting loaf, made authentically with a natural starter, is hard to make and find.

Everybody’s tastebuds are different… maybe my palatte has strange preferences for some people. But whatever. The following is a pretty damn close battle of sourdough breads from two Vancouver bakeries: Terra Breads and Cobs Bread. Both consider themselves “artisan” bakeries, both bake very fresh bread. Terra Breads use organic ingredients, hearth-baking, wild yeast, and no preservatives. Cobs also don’t use preservatives, and deliver a wide range of breads. Cobs is a chain under the Baker’s Delight franchise, and can be considered “the Starbucks of Bread.” Terra Breads is a local “chain” with 3 locations in Vancouver, but they also deliver to “organic” stores like Choice’s Markets.

Terra Bread’s “Organic Sourdough Baguette”:
Terra Breads Sourdough Baguette

It has a good, hard crust – crispy and chewy, but not too too thick. The crumb was also chewy, but not too dense. The sourness was evident, but not too strong. All in all a pretty good balance. I liked this better than La Baguette and L’Echalotte’s sourdough baguette. Terra Bread’s was so good that I wolfed down one demi baguette in one sitting, then went back and bought a whole one.
Sourdough Baguette

Cobs “San Francisco Sourdough”:

Cobs don’t make baguettes; their sourdough are either round boules or large batard-shaped. I was a bit intrigued that it is a “San Francisco Sourdough” – I wondered whether they used real wild Lacto bacillus San Francisco in the starter. (Unfortunately I never tried sourdough from San Francisco the last time I was there, so I cannot tell what the authetic San Franciscan taste is.) This crust is crispier than Terra Bread’s, and quite thin. The crumb is soft and a bit less chewy. (Attributes likely affected by the fact that it is not baguette-shaped?) Cobs sourdough is tangy, much more so than Terra Bread’s, but it doesn’t have an artificial or nose-hurting taste to it. This is a great sourdough, which, coming from a large chain bakery, was very surprising to me. Compared to another boule-shaped sourdough, it is better than the one at Pane e Formaggio on West 10th. I ate two-thirds of in one sitting.
Cobs San Francisco Sourdough

Close call! Both bakeries make great sourdough, and I like them both for quite different characteristics. I prefer the slightly more sour taste of Cobs’ – but that is a personal preference. Terra Bread’s sourdough baguette is so well made, and to me it is definitely one of the best out there. Tie!

Terra Breads – Kits, False Creek, and Granville Island
Cob’s Breads – wherever. (over 30 locations in Greater Vancouver)

Related posts:
La Baguette and L’Echalotte’s sourdough baguette.
Pane e Formaggio’s sourdough boule


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