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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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The First Breadcompanion Bread Making Course


One of my favourite things to do is to share my enthusiasm for bread making- what better way to do this (other than writing this bread blog for you, dear followers) than spend a day with friends teaching them how to make Artisan Bread. I held it at my friend Rebecca Rauter’s house. She is a fabulous cook, and a brilliant food stylist, with a great eye. Her kitchen is very beautiful and has been featured in the Guardian ( and made a lovely setting for the course. Do have a look at this link for some of the stylish work she had done (

I started by giving everyone cinnamon rolls and coffee


and then we made rye crackers and rolled out no- knead bread dough, which I had prepared the evening before, for Pizza.

rolling out dough for rye crackers

rolling out dough for rye crackers

rolling out pizza dough

rolling out pizza dough

While we had been preparing the pizza and the rye crackers, I got everyone mixing up their no-knead bread dough and then we baked a no-knead bread, from dough I had prepared the night before.

No knead bread and crackers out of the oven and preparing pizza to go in

No knead bread and crackers out of the oven and preparing pizza to go in

In the afternoon we focussed on how to make Sourdough Bread and everyone mixed up all the ingredients to make their own sourdough dough and then we baked the dough I had prepared the night before


At the end of the course, everyone went away with no-knead bread dough and Sourdough dough which they baked this morning.


But the best part of the course for me has been all the photos that I have received today  of the bread that my friends  baked this morning- fabulous!

Here’s a selection


Borodinsky Rye Bread


I have long wanted to make Borodinsky Rye Bread, having read about it in Andrew Whitley’s excellent book ‘Bread Matters’. He, of all people is at the heart of the Real Bread Campaign, and if you’re not a member yet, do join. They are all about sharing the pleasures and benefits of locally-baked Real Bread.

I had a very enjoyable afternoon at the Real Bread Festival in Spitlafields a couple of weeks ago and bought a fair bit of bread (not something I usually do), but how could I resist when a number of my favourite bakeries had stalls. I came across a bakery I hadn’t heard of before called ‘Karaway Bakery’ and they had little samples of various loaves- all completely delicious. I decided that my favourite was Russian Borodinsky, so I bought a loaf and even though my family has said they don’t generally like rye bread everyone couldn’t get enough of this one.

So I thought it was time to have a go at making it myself. According to Andrew Whitley this bread gets its name from  the battle of Borodino when the Russian army  fought with Napoleon, just outside Moscow in 1812 and the wife of the Russian general decided to bake some bread with crushed coriander to encourage the troops.

I’ve basically used Andrew Whitley’s recipe, with a few minor changes. He makes it in two stages. The first is the development of the ‘production sourdough’ – which is a similar process to the first stage of making my prize winning sourdough (see my recent blog). It involves mixing your sourdough starter with equal quantities of rye flour and water.  The second stage involves  adding more rye flour, water, salt,  molasses and barley malt. The latter adds both a dark colour and a little sweetness.

I’d always thought this was a complicated loaf to make- but really it isn’t. You just have keep in mind that it takes a while. I started it by making the production sourdough on Friday night and then mixed the final dough on Saturday midmorning and put it in the oven by about 6 in the evening.

Making the Production Sourdough


1/4 cup of my white sourdough starter ( if you want to be purist then start refreshing your white sourdough start with rye flour until you have a rye starter)
1 1/4 cups dark rye flour
1 1/4 cups water at 40 degrees C


1.Mix everything together until you have a soupy dough
2.Cover and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours (I left mine in a warm kitchen)


Making the final dough


1 1/4 cups  Production sourdough
2 cups  Dark rye flour
1 tsp  salt
2 1/2 tsp  Coriander seeds
1 tblsp  Molasses
2 1/2 tsp  Barley malt extract (if you can’t get hold of this just omit)
1/3 cup +  1 tblsp water at 35 degrees c

One small bread pan greased with butter


1. Put 1 1/4 cups of the production sourdough into a medium sized mixing bowl and stir in the water
2. Add the molasses, barley malt extract and coriander seeds and stir in
3. Mix the salt with the rye flour and then stir that in too.

It will now be a lovely dark brown colour and very soft and wet


4. Sprinkle a few coriander seeds inside the buttered bread pan
5. Spoon the dough into the bread pan and gently smooth over the top with a wet dough scraper or knife. Mine comes about half way up the pan. Andrew Whitley says don’t be tempted to push it into the corners, it will find its own level
6. Leave it, covered,  for about 6 hours at room temperature, until it has risen nearly to the top of the pan and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C


7. Bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn oven down to 180 and bake for another 35 minutes
8. It can get quite dark, so keep an eye on it towards the end and cover with a large piece of baking parchment near the end
9. It should begin to shrink away from the sides at the end of baking
10. Take it out and put it on a wire wrack to cool
11. You are supposed to let it cool completely and then wrap in plastic or grease proof paper and not eat for 24 hours (I have only been able to make it to 12 hours, before we had to dive in)


I’ve just had it with strong French honey and lots of butter- yum!


I have just sent this recipe to Yeastspotting. It a great blog, do check it out

Norwegian Thyme and Hazelnut Sourdough


My best friend called me up last week with a very urgent message – had I watched the Hairy Bikers’ TV programme about baking in  Norway, which involves them observing fabulous Sourdough bread being made? ( For those of you who don’t know them here is their website address for their baking tour around Europe :

Needless to say I got on the computer and watched it straight away. I was completely bowled over, as  two masterful Norwegian bakers,  Manu Rang and Oyvind Lofthus from the Apent bakery,  made  soft billowy dough turn into the most gorgeous looking hole filled, light and crusty Sourdough.  Take a look at this youtube clip:‎.

Of course it instantly  made me want to have a go.

The recipe is on the Apent bakery website,  but they have missed out various steps and use rather technical language. So here’s my version. I have used cup measures, which I think  makes it easier. They use a bit of yeast, but the way I have done it works perfectly well with just sourdough.

Essentially I started it last night when I mixed my active sourdough starter with some more flour and water and then made an ‘autolyse’. This is just a mixture of flour and water which is then left to begin to break down.  In the morning I mixed these 2 doughs together and then folded it roughly every half hour for 3 hours, adding salt after the first half hour. Then I left it for 3 hours, folding it a couple more times, until it was ready to shape and add the thyme and hazelnuts.

So have a go and do let me know how you get on.


  • 1 tablespoon of  white fairly firm active sourdough starter
  • 4 1/4 cups white bread flour
  • water
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt + more sea salt for sprinkling at the end
  • dessertspoon of fresh thyme
  • dessertspoon of chopped roasted hazelnuts

Mixing  the Sourdough starter dough

  • mix together 1 tablespoon of active sourdough starter (see previous blog about how to refresh your starter and use to make dough) with 1/2 cup of water
  • add 3/4 cup of white bread flour and stir until it is all hydrated
  • cover with cling film or shower cap and leave over night

Mixing the Autolyse

  • mix together 2 cups of flour with 3/4 cup of water, cover with a shower cap or cling film and leave overnight

Making up the final dough

  • in the morning mix the 2 doughs together
  • add 1/2 cup of warm water (bit warmer than blood temperature) and stir
  • add 1 1/2 cups of white bread flour and stir well and cover

It should now look like this:


Folding the dough 

  • After 1/2 hour add 1/4 tsp salt and fold once by lifting up the side of the dough with a spoon and fold over (see previous blogs for details of folding method)
  • fold again, each time adding another 1/4 tsp salt, until you have added 1 1/4 tsp of salt, then cover


  • fold every 1/2 hour for the next 2 1/2 hours, covering once you have folded it
  • then fold every hour for 3 hours until it starts getting puffy and billowy like this:


Adding the hazelnuts and thyme and folding on the counter top

  • scrape dough out of bowl on to an un-floured (yes, I said un-floured) countertop, by this stage it shouldn’t be too sticky
  • stretch it out into rectangle shape like this:


and then sprinkle on the thyme and hazelnuts:


  • now stretch a little towards you from the bottom and fold so that the folded part covers about 2/3 of the dough
  • now stretch and fold from the top and then do the same from  the right and left sides:


  • then put the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave for 1/2 hour

Shaping the final dough

  • pour a little olive oil on your countertop and scrape the dough out on to it
  • cut the dough in half with a dough scraper or knife
  • pull each half of the dough into a rectangle about 1 1/2 cm thick with your fingers
  •  place on prepared cooky sheets lined with baking parchment with a thin covering of olive oil


  • drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt
  • leave for 20minutes, while you pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees C

Baking the dough

  • once the oven has preheated to 245, put a small baking dish with 2 cups of boiling water in the lower part of the oven
  • turn oven down to 210 degrees and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned on the top and crisp on the bottom ( I baked each loaf separately)
  • take out of the oven an cool on a wire wrack


then slice and enjoy!


Warm Roast Chicken and Sourdough Bread Salad


This is one of my all time favourite recipes and it works well when you are having a large group of friends and family over for dinner which we did last night.  I first saw this recipe earlier this year in the Saturday Guardian Newspaper, written by Yotam Ottolenghi. (If you haven’t discovered him yet, you’re in for a culinary treat- I have his book called ‘Ottolenghi- The Cookbook’) He said this recipe was his take on chicken and bread salad from Zuni’s restaurant in California- I am dying to go there, but haven’t yet, however I also would highly recommend their cookbook.  This is now my take on Ottolenghi’s recipe.

You bake the chicken slathered in a tasty herb butter and then in the last 20 minutes you add chunks of sourdough bread to the baking dish. The bread soaks up the chicken juices and herbs and then becomes crisp. You let it cool a little and then tear up the chicken in to chunks and add the pieces of tasty sourdough bread, various salad leaves and raisins infused with sweet vinegar.

Yesterday I made this white sourdough loaf IMG_0559

to use in this recipe.


50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp picked thyme leaves
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Salt and black pepper
1 free-range chicken (1.5kg)
150g  sourdough bread, torn roughly into 3cm pieces
50g raisins
5 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
rocket and spinach leaves to cover the base of a large serving dish
about  3 tbsp olive oil
30g toasted pine nuts


Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the butter, garlic, thyme and lemon zest in a small bowl with a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper, and mash together.

Put the chicken in a baking tray just large enough for it to fit with some room around the sides for the bread. Massage the butter all over the chicken and under the skin – use your hands for this – then roast for 10 minutes. Turn down the heat to 190C/375F/gas mark 5, and roast for 30 minutes, basting occasionally.

Add the sourdough to the tray and roast for a final 20 minutes, turning and basting the bread once, until the chicken is cooked and the bread has absorbed most of the roasting juices and fried in the heat.  Remove from the oven and put the chicken on a  carving board to cool down. If the bread isn’t quite crispy enough, put it back in the oven in its baking dish for another 5 minutes and take it out when you think its crisp enough for you.

Meanwhile, put the raisins, vinegar and sugar in a small frying pan over a medium flame for two to three minutes, until the sugar has dissolved, and set aside. When it’s cooled a little add some olive oil to make up a dressing

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, pull the flesh off the bone into bite-sized pieces. Put the leaves on a large platter and add the chicken, crunchy sourdough pieces and spoon over the pine nuts and raisin dressing.


Sourdough bread rolls – in a hurry


I love to have freshly baked bread for breakfast- but I don’t want to have to get up at the crack of dawn to shape and bake the bread for it to be ready for 8am.

These rolls are the answer.  I used my usual recipe for sourdough bread using your own starter (see previous blog) with 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and some malted wheat flakes thrown in to add a malty taste. I ordered them from a fantastic on line artisan bread baking equipment and supplies website. Do have a look. I also recommend you buy a ‘lame’ which is a special bladed knife for slashing bread so that you can control where it splits as it bakes.


I made the dough on Monday night and then wasn’t ready to bake the next morning, so I left it in the fridge for 3 days and took it out  at 7am and shaped and baked it, ready hot steaming and lovely by 8am.


1/4 cup of refreshed sourdough starter (see previous recipe for details of how to refresh your starter ready for baking)

2  3/4 cups strong white bread flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups water

2 handfuls malted wheat flakes


1.Put the starter in a mixing bowl and add the water and mix so that you break up the starter into smaller pieces

2. Add the bread flour, malted wheat flakes  and salt and mix so that all the flour is hydrated and leave for 1/2 hour

3.  Now fold  the dough three times using a large spoon, scooping the dough from the bottom and pulling it up and over itself (see my previous blog on making sourdough bread for more details)

4. Cover with cling film or a handy hotel shower cap and leave it out over night.

5. Next morning, put it in the fridge  and leave it there until you are  ready to bake your rolls (it can be left for up to a week)

6. Take half the dough out of the fridge and leave it in a bowl for half an hour to begin to come to room temperature (this is enough for 4 rolls which easily fit into a medium sized Le Creuset, but you can take all the dough out and make 8 rolls if you like)

7. Put a covered casserole dish (like a Le Crueset) in the oven and preheat to 245 degrees c.

8. Break the dough into 4 roll sized pieces and shape them into torpedo shapes and leave on a floured surface for half an hour covered with floured cling film

9. with a sharp knife or ‘lame’ slash the dough 3 times


10. then bring the heated covered pot out of the oven ( it will be really hot so take care) and put the rolls  in the pot one by one and cover and put back in the oven

11. bake for 15mins

12. lower the temperature to 200 degrees and take the lid off and bake for another 9 minutes

13. put on a wrack to cool


Then enjoy your breakfast!


Making Sourdough Bread with your own starter

I hope you had some success with making your Sourdough starter from scratch, because now I am going to show you how to use it to make a fantastic Sourdough loaf. There are a number of ways to do this- but this recipe is the most straightforward and seems to turn out a tasty and chewy loaf each time. There are a number of ways to increase the sour flavour which I will blog more about in the future.  One way is to put the dough in the fridge over night at the point at which its ready to be shaped just before baking, so you could try that if you are looking for that unmistakable strong flavour.


Getting your starter refreshed and ready

If you have neglected your starter for a while (over a week) then a couple of days before you want to bake, start refreshing it. This is just the same method as you used when you were making your starter.

1. In the evening,  throw ( or give) away all but around 1 tablespoon of starter. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Then leave at room temperature until the following evening.

2. Refresh again, just as you did last night, but this time just leave it until the morning.

3. Refresh again the next morning and by the evening you should have a lovely lively bubbly mass of starter ready to go. (If you don’t, just refresh it one more time)


Making the dough


1/2 cup starter

2  3/4 cups strong bread flour (can be white or a mixture of brown and white)

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups water



1. Put the starter in a mixing bowl and add the water and mix so that you break up the starter into smaller pieces

2. Add the bread flour  and salt and mix so that all the flour is hydrated and leave for 1/2 hour.

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3.  Now fold  the dough three times using a large spoon, scooping the dough from the bottom and pulling it up and over itself.

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4. Cover with cling film or a handy hotel shower cap

5. Leave it over night


Folding the dough the next morning

1. The next morning, you should be able to see that the dough has risen. Fold it again three times,  just like you did last night and leave it for an hour

2. Fold again and leave for another hour


Shaping the dough

1. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl on to the counter

2. Stretch the dough to the right

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and fold it back over itself

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3. Stretch to the left in the same way

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and fold over again

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4. Sprinkle the surface with flour and flip over so that the smooth side is on the top and the folded seams are on the bottom.

5. Move your hands slowly pulling the dough gently downwards to create some tension over the dough, whilst you are shaping it into a round ball

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6. Now make sure that all the dough has a good sprinkling of flour all over it and place it on a clean tea towel, seam side down and smooth side up

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7. Now fold the corners of the tea towel over the bread and leave for 1/2 hour

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Heating the oven and a heat proof covered baking casserole dish

1. Heat the oven to 240 degrees C with a baking casserole dish (Le Creuset works well) inside for 1/2 hour


Baking the dough

1. Move your dough near the oven and uncover and then sprinkle the dough with extra flour over the top

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2. Take the baking dish out of the oven (take care it will be very hot) and take the lid off

3. Pick up the dough still on the tea towel and gently place it in the hot baking dish so that the smooth side is now on the bottom and the seam side is up

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4. Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 1/2 hour

5. Take lid off and turn down the oven to 200 degrees – at this point it will look a little pale but should have risen nicely

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6. Bake for another 15-20 mins. until it is a richer brown colour and has a very hard crust all over

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7. Let it cool on a wire wrack for 1/2 hour and then slice and enjoy!

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