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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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How to make Ciabatta



Some  close friends are having a birthday party in a few weeks. They are great hosts, there will no doubt be good music and absolutely no doubt there will be good food. They have taken me up on my offer to make bread and they have requested Ciabatta- enough for 30!

So this weekend I thought I’d better practice.  I have tried a number of recipes over the years, and the one that I like the best is from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book called ‘Bread, a baker’s book of techniques and recipes’. Below is a my own adaptation of his recipe.

As I understand it Ciabatta is not a bread with an ancient history but was invented about 50 years ago in Italy and it’s name comes from the Italian word for slipper. What I want to see when I make Ciabatta is a soft and very holey inside and a beautiful golden crust – best eaten straight away, dipped in olive oil. To get really big holes the dough needs to have a higher percentage of water than usual and needs careful handling. Its a yeast dough and you make it in two stages- starting the night before with a Poolish. This is a mixture of roughly equal quantities of water and flour with a little bit of yeast, which ferments slowly for at least 12 hours. This mixture is then added to more flour water and yeast as well as salt to make up a loose mixture which will be your final dough.



1 cup white bread flour

1 cup water

1/8 tsp of instant dried yeast (from sachet)

Final Dough

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup water

1/2 tsp  instant dried yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt



1. Mix together the poolish ingredients in a bowl. Cover with shower cap or cling film and let it sit at room temperature for 12-16 hours. It will be dotted with bubbles by this stage


2.Mix all the other ingredients, except the salt, into the bowl, cover and let it sit for 1/2 hour.

3.  Add the salt, dispersing it evenly across the top of the dough and fold by scooping up dough from the bottom of the bowl with a large spoon and  folding it over the top. Do this 3 or 4 times and leave, covered for 1/2 hour

4. Fold again 3 or 4 times and let it sit for another hour then repeat the folding

5. Fold again in the same way and leave for another hour. It should then be very billowy and puffy- if not leave it for another hour


6.  Put the dough on to a floured surface and cut in half with a wet knife or dough scraper and then lightly flour each half.

7.  It will be quite sticky so you’ll need to keep your hands floured. Gently stretch the dough from the top and fold it back on itself. Then stretch and fold the dough from the bottom



8. Place each piece of folded dough onto a floured board and gently stretch it out a bit so it is roughly rectangle shaped


9. Cover each batch of dough with a cloth and leave to rise for about an hour.

10. After 1/2 hour pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees C

11. Now for the tricky part; you need to gently pick up each batch of dough and spread out your fingers underneath it as you do so and place on a floured baking tray.  You may find you need to unstick small sections from the floured board- this is fine. I find that if you dimple it a little by pressing down in a few places with your fingers you’ll get a better, flatter shape at the end, because you don’t want a domed shape loaf.

12. Place a small baking dish on the bottom of the oven with a cup of boiling water to create steam

12. Place the doughs into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until its golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it from the bottom



I have posted this on wild yeast

take a look at the blog

Pizza from Scratch, with delicious thin crispy dough

photo (31)


When it comes to pizza, I find that everyone has their own particular preference for what they like and what they definitely don’t like. My daughter is horrified by the idea of anyone having pineapple on pizza- and I must say I agree. I really don’t like thick doughy crusts and my husband doesn’t like capers. Some people have a preference for when and how they eat pizza- I think you have to eat it with your fingers- and my father in law thinks that pizza does not constitute  real dinner and should only be eaten as a snack.

Now I’ve gone through a litany of what people don’t like, I want to tell you what I think makes for a good pizza. You have to have a thin and crispy dough, with a generous amount of mozzarella, a great tomato sauce and grated parmesan and the moment it comes out of the oven you need to sprinkle it with rocket. There are other great pizza toppings like anchovies, olives, thinly sliced red onion, chorizo and when my husband’s not looking, capers. It needs to be baked in a blisteringly hot oven, with a little semolina to stop it from sticking and giving it an extra crunchy bottom.

The other important part of the pizza making experience is having a pizza stone that you pre-heat, a wooden pizza peel for transferring the pizza on to the piping hot pizza stone and a metal pizza peel for taking it out of the oven. You can get all these items from Bakery Bits on line, John Lewis or the beautiful kitchen shop Divertimenti.  However if you don’t have this equipment, don’t worry you can use a baking tray, on which you assemble the pizza and then put the whole thing into the pre-heated oven.

Ingredients for the dough

3 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
a little semolina

First thing this morning I made a no knead bread dough, by mixing the flour yeast and salt together and then stirring in the water and olive oil. I then covered it with a shower cap (see no knead bread recipe in previous blog if you want more detail). I left it on the counter all day and when I came back from work it had developed well.


I folded it several times to get most of the air out and then put it onto a floured counter and cut it in half with a dough scraper (mine comes from bakery bits)  and then I cut one of the halves into two pieces

photo (22)


I then rolled out these 2 quarters into circles, making sure I had plenty of flour on the work surface and it wasn’t sticking, and covered it with cling film.

(I put the rest of the dough in a bowl in the fridge and will make it into a small loaf of bread tomorrow)

photo (23)


I pre-heated the oven to 245 degrees F, with the pizza stone in the oven, for half an hour and then got the pizza toppings ready

Pizza topping ingredients

tomato sauce made with an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil
one 220g ball of mozzarella, per pizza, cut into small pieces
grated parmesan
half a red onion thinly sliced
sun dried tomatoes chopped
thinly sliced chorizo
and any thing else you like on pizza


Next I sprinkled a little semolina on to the wooden pizza peel

photo (25)

and I carefully placed the dough on the pizza peel, by rolling it round the rolling pin and unrolling it on to the peel

I then put the pizza ingredients on it – laying the mozzarella on to the tomato sauce, followed by the sundried tomatoes, parmesan and the red onion on the top

photo (26)



When the oven had pre-heated I transferred it to the pizza stone and baked it for 10 minutes

photo (27)

I took it out of the oven with my metal pizza peel and put it on to a big bread board

photo (28)

and covered it with rocket.

Within moments it all disappeared!

photo (29)



I then made a second pizza- two was just about enough for 3 people

Do try this recipe and let me know how you get on- it’s really is easy

I’m going to submit this blog to yeast spotting- take a look its a great website:

Making Sourdough with Stoneground wholemeal flour from Woodbridge Tidemill

imageI had heard that you can get stoneground flour milled at the Woodbridge Tidemill, so we went on an expedition to see if we could get hold of some.

It was a lovely bright day and when we got there we did a tour of the Mill.   I believe this is one of only two tidal mills left in the UK . The earliest record of a tidemill on this site was in 1170, and it has been operating for over 800 years. It has recently been fully restored  as a living museum and  they mill twice a day, producing  their 100 % traditional stone ground wholemeal flour. Check out their website (

stoneground mill flour

Below is a picture of the internal workings of the mill

workings of mill

I recommend going round the back of the mill and standing on the deck to look out on to the glorious Deben

deben back of millback of mill near waterwheel

As soon as  I  was home and I got going with a Sourdough loaf with my lovely stoneground flour. Whole grains need special handling to produce great flavour and texture, with a longer autolyse stage than ususal. (This is the stage when you mix the sourdough with the water and flour, before adding the salt)   This gives the  wholegrain flour a really good opportunity to start breaking down during the fermentation process, before adding the salt and the rest of the flour. The inspiration for this method comes from the wonderful Chad Robertson’s latest Tartine book  ‘Book No.3 Modern Ancient Classic Whole’


2 cups wholegrain flour
1 cup strong white bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tblspn refreshed starter ( I used white starter, see previous blogs for how to make this)
1 1/4 tsp salt


1. Mix together the starter with the water and make sure the starter is fairly evenly distributed

2. Add 2 cups of the wholegrain flour, cover with cling film or shower cap and leave overnight

dough fermented

It should look nice and bubbly by the morning

3. Stir the salt into the white flour and add to the sourdough mixture, mixing until all the flour is hydrated and cover again.

4. Leave it in a warm place – here’s mine on the mantelpiece above the fireplace.

dough rising above fireplace

5. With a spoon fold 3 times after half an hour. (see previous blogs for details) and repeat every half hour for 3 hours. If you need to go out and can’t do these extra folds, that’s ok- it’ll just take a bit longer

6. After about 3 or 4 hours it should have become spongey and billowy.

7. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and stretch and fold and shape it into a round loaf shape (see previous blogs for details)

8.Flour your dough and place it either in a floured banneton basket or wrap it in a tea towel

9.. Heat the oven to 240 degrees F. with a medium or large Le Creuset pot inside, for 1/2 hour

10. Gently put your dough into the preheated pot and slash with a sharp knife. ( I slashed with a square shape)

11. Bake for 1/2 hour with the lid on and then 15 mins at 200 degrees, with the lid off

sourdough bread

Makes great toast!

lovley toast

Tangy Kamut and Buckwheat Sourdough in Suffolk

pic by Faith Vincent

pic by Faith Vincent

photo (14)

Last weekend was very special. Our book group went to stay in the Suffolk countryside for a weekend of indulgence – great meals,  a visit to the stormy beach at Walberswick , country walks, wood stove fires, and  I knew I couldn’t let them down on the bread front.

I drew my inspiration from  Chad Robertson’s ‘Book No.3 Modern Ancient Classic Whole’, about baking fabulous bread using whole grains and heirloom flours. I think Chad is the master of creativity in bread making at the moment- and this book is a must.

pic by Faith Vincent

pic by Faith Vincent

I made two loaves- one was a malted flour seeded Sourdough  and the other was a Kamut and Buckwheat Sourdough. This  loaf was an experiment and I thought it might be a bit heavy, and that I would be left with most of it to take home at the end of the weekend. But not a bit of it- it was by far and away the favourite, so I thought I should share my recipe with you. I have to say, it was particularly good with strong cheese ( and we had plenty of that)

I mixed all the ingredients (bar the salt) on Thursday when I came back from work, and let it sit at room temperature until I was ready for bed. Then I added the salt and left it out over night. The next morning I shaped it and put it in  a loaf tin which I then refrigerated . When I came home that evening I took it out of the fridge and we set off for Suffolk in the car,  with the bread dough  on my friend’s lap, warming up during the journey.   I then baked it when we arrived.


1 tbl sourdough starter (see previous blogs on how to make your own sourdough starter, or order some on line)
2 cups water
2 cups Kamut flour
1 cup Buckwheat flour
2 tbl Wheatgerm
2 tbl diastatic malt flour- optional (order on line from Bakery bits)
1 1/4 tsp salt


1. Mix the starter with the water in a large bowl to break it up

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well mixed

3. Leave for 4 hours, then sprinkle on half the salt and fold several times, and sprinkle the rest of the salt and fold several times

4. Leave covered at room temperature overnight (or around 8 hours)

5. Its a fairly wet dough, so get it in to a loaf shape as best you can and sprinkle with Kamut flour

6. Put the dough in a buttered loaf pan, cover and refrigerate all day (or roughly 8 hours if you want a good sour tang- otherwise you can bake straight away)


7. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (at least 2 hours)

8. Preheat oven to 245 degrees C. for half an hour

9. Put a roasting pan with  a cup of boiling water in the bottom of the oven

10. Bake the bread at 245 for 15 minutes (it tends to get very dark quickly, so do remember to turn it down at this point)

11. Turn the oven down to 200 and bake for a further 20 mins

12. Bake at 180 for a further 10 minutes- take it out and let it cool on a wire wrack, unless everyone’s really hungry and they just can’t wait. In which case slice into it when its piping hot!


Just time for one more walk after lunch


And incase you were wondering- we read Diana Athill’s memoir called ‘Somewhere Towards the End’

Do visit Faith’s site :

This recipe has been sent to yeast spotting:

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!


Sourdough Bread Sticks


Its been a gloriously hot and sunny weekend here in London. I was in the mood for bread sticks that you can dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or eat with olives or drink with cool crisp white wine, or all of the above. I found a recipe in ‘How to make bread’ by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. This is a lovely book that makes great bed time reading because the pictures are so beautiful and the recipes always interesting. I have adapted his recipe to make it a bit simpler to follow. I also baked it using my bread stone. I really recommend you treat yourself to one if in any way you feel you are becoming a serious home baker. At some stage soon, I will show you how to make Pizza and a bread stone really makes a big difference. You can buy one on line from, if you live in the UK, or you can usually get one in good kitchen shops, or from, if you live in the USA. Incidentally looking at these web sites comes with a health warning- once you start looking at them, its going to be hard to stop and before you know it you will be dreaming about making bread and wanting to bake bread when you go camping (like the man on the breadtopia website, and I particularly recommend his camping trip film)

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, back to making lovely breadsticks that are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle with a mild sour taste. You can either bake these on the same day as you mix the dough, or you can put the dough in the fridge and bake when it suits you.


1 2/3 cups of strong white bread flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup white sourdough starter

1/2 cup + dessertspoon of water

1 tablespoon olive oil

semolina for sprinkling

2 baking sheets, lined with baking parchment

1. Refresh you sourdough starter 1 or 2 days before you want to bake. (see my blog on making sourdough bread with your own starter on how to refresh)

2. Mix together the refreshed sourdough starter with the water and olive oil and stir well, so that the starter becomes more evenly distributed in the water

3.Add the flour and salt and mix with a spoon and then by hand so that all the flour is hydrated. This dough is drier than my previous bread recipes

4. Leave for 1/2 hour, covered with cling film or a shower cap

5. Fold the dough by pulling to one side and then folding over and then pulling to the other side and folding over. Then repeat

IMG_0529 2IMG_0530

6.Cover and leave for 1/2 hour and then repeat the folding as in step 5

7. Cover and leave for 1/2 hour and fold again

8. At this stage you can cover it and put it in the fridge for up to a week and take it out when you want to bake the bread sticks. Remember to let it come to room temperature for at least an hour before you are ready to shape it. Or, if you want to bake it straight away,  leave it to rise at room temperature,  for about an hour and a half.

9. sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and then empty out the dough

10. Spread the dough out with your fingers until you have a rectangle about 5mm thick


11. Cover with cling film and let it rest for 15 minutes

12. Then use a sharp knife or a bread scraper to cut into roughly 1cm wide strips


13. sprinkle the work surface to the side of your dough with semolina. stretch each bread stick a little and then roll in the semolina


14. place on one of the prepared baking sheets lined with baking parchment, and sprinkle a little more semolina onto the baking sheets


15. cover loosely with clingfilm and let it rise for 1/2 hour

16. Heat the oven with your breadstone in it, to 245 degrees c. If you don’t have a breadstone then you can just put them in the oven on the baking sheet (with the baking parchment underneath)

17. Boil 2 cups of water and put it in the bottom of your oven in a roasting pan

18. After your oven has heated for about 1/2 hour, turn it down to 200 and bake the breadsticks on the bread stone (if you have one) for about 12 minutes until lightly browned


19. Cool on a wire wrack- but luckily you can eat them pretty much straight away!

2013-07-14 23.04.21

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