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First Prize for my Sourdough at Snape


This summer I decided to get ready for two bread competitions coming up in England in September; The World Bread Awards (not quite sure how on earth anyone from outside the UK could have entered given you had to get your 2 loaves of bread to a church in central London by 11am) and Marriage’s Bread Competition, at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, a far more local affair. So I needed some inspiration – where better to get it than Northern California- home of San Francisco Sourdough, the fabulous Tartine bakery in San Francisco and the wonderful Gayle’s bakery in Capitola, and we happened to be going there on holiday!

We did a house-swap and stayed  near the Mission district of San Francisco- just 6 blocks away from the Tartine Bakery- heaven for just nipping out to get something fabulous for breakfast,lunch and dinner. Here is some sourdough bread I bought there : white-wheat blend and  baguette. All I can say is it’s hard to describe in words just how good they were. I know that getting a baguette to look that good is really hard- so I decided to try to perfect the white-wheat blend.


We picked our son up from the airport shortly after buying the bread, he was dreadfully jet lagged- but still able to appreciate dinner



We then spent some time with my husband’s family in Santa Cruz, down the coast.  Every time we visit them we always make time to go to Gayle’s Bakery- and this trip was no exception:


Their fabulous ‘Schneken’ – a type of ultra decadent cinnamon roll, inspired my earlier blog on this most delicious treat.

When I came back I practiced making Sourdough bread using the Tartine method, repeatedly. Sometimes it came out slightly too flat, (I think the problem here  might have been that I let the first stage called autolyse, where you mix the sourdough with the water and flour, go on too long and the yeast became inhibited by the amount of acid being built up, so it didn’t hold its shape) On another occasion it rose beautifully but was not sour enough, and I realised I really need it to be in the fridge overnight to develop the sour flavour. I also started experimenting with refreshing my sourdough starter much more  carefully for the final dough (which is called the leaven)  For the World Bread awards, I made a spelt rye and white sourdough, based roughly on Chad Robertson’s ‘Wheat-Rye 10%’ from his Tartine book no. 3. ( I didn’t make it to the final- but am waiting to hear if I got gold silver or bronze. However I did win best Sourdough at Aldeburgh, with my white-wheat blend. It turned out well, with a nice rise, a good chewy crumb full of holes, and very sour.




250g strong white bread flour

250g white flour

425g water

1 dessertspoon of leaven

12g salt


1. Refresh your starter at 12 hour intervals a couple of times, the day before you are going to mix your final dough. Then take a dessertspoon of the starter and mix it with 100g flour and 100g cold water and leave over night to make the leaven

2. Mix together a dessertspoon of the leaven with the water and then add the flours and stir well

3. Leave at room temperature for between 4- 8 hours, covered with a shower cap ( I left mine for 8, slightly more by necessity than choice)

4. Then add half the salt, scattering it fairly evenly over the surface, and stretch and fold twice, scooping it up from the bottom with a spoon, and folding it over, as I have explained in my blog on making sourdough bread using Tartine method. Add the rest of the salt and fold again a couple of times. Leave for half an hour

5. Stretch and fold every half an hour for the next 2 1/2 hours until it is billowy and well aerated. (This may take slightly longer)

6. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round by drawing your hand round the edge to make a kind of oversize walnut whip shape

7. Leave for 10 minutes or so

8. For the final shaping, lightly flour the top and flip it over. Pull the side closest to you towards you and fold it over the dough. Then pull to the left  and fold over and do the same to the right. Finally pull the side furthest from you and fold over so you have a dough envelope (see my blog on making sourdough using Tartine method for more detail). Then lightly flour on the top and flip it over and make it into a round shape creating a bit of surface tension over the top. Then flour the top so that it won’t stick to the basket.

9. Flour your banneton basket, or  put a towel in a medium sized bowl and flour it generously, and gently plop the dough in smooth side down.

10. Either let the dough rise for another two hours and then put it in the fridge, or put it in the fridge straight away for its overnight stay. ( I had no choice in the matter because at this point we were driving to Suffolk and I held my dear dough on my lap, worrying it would over rise)

11. In the morning, take it out of the fridge 2 – 2 1/2 hours before you want to bake it. (For both competitions, I am such a devotee that I got out of bed around 5.30 to get it out of the fridge and then went back to sleep)


12. Half an hour before baking the bread you need to pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees c with a Le Creuset or in my case a ‘La Cloche’ from Bakerybits, which is easier (

13. Flour the surface of the dough and put it in the La Cloche and slash quickly with a sharp knife or ‘lame’ with a square shape over the top and bake for half an hour

14. Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for another 10 mins with the lid off, and then bake for a further 10 mins at 200 degrees. That way you’ll get a really rich dark crust

15. Turn the oven off and let it sit there with the door ajar for a further 8 mins, so that the crust remains hard.  Then take out and put on a cooling wrack

Voila- you are done!

Your prize winning loaf awaits you- have a go and let me know how you get on.

Happy to answer any questions you may have

Here are my prizes, very generously given to me by Marriage’s flour ( :



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My Prize Winning Sourdough Bread

Brown Sourdough Prize Winner

Brown Sourdough Prize Winner

Just out of the oven
Just out of the oven

Bread with my prize- Paul Hollywood's 'How to Bake' Bread with my prize- Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’

For the last two weeks I have been practicing making the best Sourdough bread I could bake, preparing for the Marriage’s Flour,Bread Baking Competition (, at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival; and dear followers I won first prize!

What I was trying to create was a loaf that looked beautiful, had a strong great sour taste, a soft, light and slightly chewy crumb and  a good crunchy crust.  I really enjoyed experimenting over the last couple of weeks.  I drew inspiration from my old trusty ‘Bread Baker’s Apprentice’, by Peter Reinhart (  and from a recipe I learned when I did the E5 Bakehouse baking course last year. Their bakery and coffee shop is a must if you are ever in London, their bread is tremendous and it’s in a very cool part of East London (see their beautiful website: I knew that in order to get a good strong sour taste I was going to have to build up the dough in stages and retard (slow down) the fermentation by putting it in the fridge.

I had a lovely time at the Food and Drink Festival- they even had a ‘Bread Zone’ and I went to hear a presentation from the Real Bread Campaign ( I  visited the very stylish Bread Van from the Pump Street Bakery, based in Orford. In quiet moments I sometimes have fantasies of owning my own bakery- and if I did, my bakery would be just like this one. Excellent bread, beautifully set out, in a lovely location, with a community spirit (

Pump Street Bakery Bread Van

Pump Street Bakery Bread Van

Delicious Bread on the Van

Delicious Bread on the Van

Festival SceneFestival Scene

View of the festival from the river

View of the festival from the river

So below is my recipe- do have a go and let me know how you get on. If you have any problems,  send me a comment and I’ll try and help.

A few days before you are going to bake, refresh your sourdough. If you’ve left it all folorn in the fridge for a couple of weeks, then you’ll need to refresh it 3 or 4  times (see previous blog on refreshing you starter), until it is lively and bubbly. Each time you refresh it you want it to be the consistency of a wet but fairly solid dough, as opposed to a liquid starter with the consistency of porridge. This way you are encouraging the development of the type of bacteria that create the sour flavour.

Creating your active leaven

  •  First thing in the morning mix together:

1 tablespoon of active starter

3/4 cup water (tap water will do, unless your water is very chlorinated)

1 cup brown bread flour

1 cup white bread flour

  • Leave it all day, covered, at room temperature (very convenient if you have to go to work)

Making your dough

  • Mix together:

all the leaven from the above step with 1/2 cup of water

then add I cup white flour with 1 1/4 tsp salt mixed in

  • Leave covered for 1/2 hour
  • Pull up from the bottom with a spoon and fold over 3 times (see previous blog for description of how to fold)
  • Fold every half hour for the next 2 1/2 hours

Shaping your dough (this is just the same as you would do it for the Tartine method in previous blog,  but without the bench rest)

  • Turn it out on to a floured surface and stretch the dough to the right and then fold it back over itself and then do the same to the left and then from the upper edge and the lower edge, until you have an envelope shaped parcel of dough
  • Flip it over  so that the smooth side is on the top and the folded seams are on the bottom.
  • Move your hands slowly pulling the dough gently downwards to create some tension over the top surface of the dough, whilst you are shaping it into a round ball. Pinch it at the bottom along the newly created seam so that during baking it won’t pull apart. Make sure it’s well floured.
  •  Get your banneton basket  and flour it inside and then put the dough in seam side up and smooth side down (if you don’t have a banneton yet then use a floured tea towel as in my previous recipes)
  • Now cover it and put it in the fridge over night

Getting your dough ready to bake 

  • Next morning, take the basket with the dough in it out of the fridge and leave it for  1 1/2 hours to come to room temperature
  • Put the oven on to 450 degrees C. with a Le Crueset or other covered casserole dish inside
  • Carefully transfer the  dough from the basket to the hot casserole (it may stick a little to the basket, but persevere and it will come out)  and slash with a lame or sharp knife
  • Bake for half an
  • Take the lid off and bake for another 15 minutes- and viola, the most fabulous sourdough loaf will be ready to cool on wire wrack, while you fend off the hungry hoards who don’t want to wait another second to try some!
Try dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Try dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar             

This post has been submitted to the Yeast Spotting Site here:





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