Monday, February 14, 2011


Watching the light and bouncy sourdough be rolled out every morning at Books For Cooks wakes up the baker in me. In goes a spoonful of Eric's age-old starter, which has been nurtured everyday since the first mix was made almost thirty years ago. The starter is entirely unique, made only with the grape skins from the Savarine vineyard in the South West of France, organic flour and purified water, topped up with every use. The flavour is heady, strong and bitter and makes the most delicious focaccia.

But with every sourdough, whether fermented with grapes or not, comes an individuality. No batch is the same. The growth, pureness and flavour of the natural levain are dependent on the surrounding environment, feeding on yeast particles in the air.

In the months leading up to making my own sourdough starter, I've been offered samples to adopt...but with stories like the one above, I'd rather have my own to tell. It may not be clean French air here - in fact it's Shepherd's Bush - but it's damn exciting all the same.

Here's the start of my starter, and here's to a daily bread:


♥ Sterilize jar with boiling water for approx. 10 minutes. Pour water out. The container needs to be free from anything that will corrupt the natural yeast of the starter.

♥ Measure out equal parts of organic flour and warm distilled water - I used 25g Doves Organic wholegrain spelt flour and 75g Doves Organic strong wholemeal with 100g water.

♥ Beat water and flour together well to a porridge-like consistency. Hugh F-W likens it to 'thick paint'.

♥ Leave the mix in a warm (about 30°C), undraughty place, cover with clingfilm and leave to ferment.

♥ When bubbles appear - and it could be hours or days - it's feeding time...TBContinued.

Read food blogger and cookbook-writer Vanessa Kimbell's enchanting account of her love for sourdough.

I lived in the south of France every holiday since I was a very young girl. We always ate sourdough bread from the village bakery. As I got to about 12 years old, every morning I would get up and go to the bakery and help bake the bread. It was magic. The smell of the first batch would waft through the pigeon holes of my bedroom and I would charge down the alleyway in the dark to a floury warm bakery where I would eat hot croissant and drink sweet dark coffee. I worked in the bakery full time for a summer aged 17 and, a year later, went on to work in another bakery in the local town. As I got to about 19 years old I was busy at university and didn't go to France for several years...

Just 3 years ago I was back at the house in France. I woke to the smell of bread. It drew me like the pied piper's song to the bakery doors. It was irresistible and before I knew it I was in the bakery spreading butter over warm crusty sourdough and sinking my teeth in. Oh, familiar joy! The crunch of the crust and the yield of the soft bouncy inner. Exquisite. I didn't give a fig. There was me.. and the bread - and that was all there was to the world.

Join the sourdough community with recipes and tips on The Sourdough Companion.


  1. I started a sourdough back in September and its the best thing I ever did... my sour dough is perfect every time and it gets stronger and stronger with each feed... here's a link to how I started....

    good luck with yours x

  2. Super, I've been wanting to start one but haven't got around to it. I shall watch your escapades closely! xx

  3. I've been putting this off for far too long. Said it was going to be first thing I did when we moved into a new flat. A year later I still haven't done it. Until today! Thanks Rooosie x

  4. Wishing you and your starter a long and bready life together! Looking fwd to updates x