So we’ve added very detailed answers to the questions people most often ask us about attending a workshop at the School in the frequently asked questions below.
Simply click on the question to read the answer.
What is included in a Workshop?
Included in the Sourdough School Workshop and Online Certificate:
- Scheduled Activities: All activities in the teaching timetable, including swimming, yoga, sound baths, and guest tutor sessions.
- Meals and Refreshments: This includes tastings, lunch, unlimited tea, coffee, and breads to take home.
- Course Materials: Ingredients needed for the course, a portion of Sourdough School starter to take home, pre-course materials, worksheets, and access to relevant recipes.
- Additional Takeaways: Items created during the course, like pickles, soups, and sometimes butter, subject to availability.
- Certificates: Awarded upon appropriate completion of the course.
- On-Site Meals and Snacks: Food and snacks provided throughout the day.
- Scheduled Excursions: Travel to destinations such as flour mills or farm shops on retreats.
Students are Responsible for:
- Travel and Accommodation: Responsibility of the students.
- Travel Insurance: Essential for covering short notice cancellation of course fees.
- Evening Meals: Not included unless scheduled as part of the course.
- Travel Coordination Among Students: The school does not facilitate this due to health and safety reasons.
- External Expenses: Any expenses outside the school, such as travel and accommodation, are the student’s responsibility.
Where is The Sourdough School Based?
Vanessa’s Sourdough bread making classes are a world away from the hustle and bustle in a pretty village just 4 miles north of Northamptonshire – which is possibly one of the most easily accessible counties in England. We are within an hours reach of London, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Leicester and Birmingham, which is just 15 – 20 minutes form the M1, the M6 and the A14.
Driving distances to The Sourdough School
- London 75 miles via M1
- Cambridge 55 miles via A14
- Oxford 48 miles via A43
- Birmingham 53 miles via M6
- Manchester 135 miles via M6
The train station is also only a 15 minute taxi ride away, making it really easy to get to us from London on the train.
There are regular trains from London Euston and Birmingham to Northampton.
Central London – trains go directly from London Euston station to Northampton station and take about 55 minutes. A taxi to the school from Northampton station takes about 15 minutes.
If there is ever a problem with the Euston to Northampton line, trains also run from St Pancreas to Wellingborough and Market Harborough both of which are about a 20 minute taxi drive away.
Birmingham – trains go from Birmingham to Long Buckby station and take about 40 minutes. A taxi from Long Buckby station to the school is about 15-20 minutes. Long Buckby is a rural station so there are no black cabs here.
Check www.nationalrail.co.uk for train times. We are about 15 – 20 minutes away from the station by car, dependent on traffic.
Taxi service from the Train station. We have a super taxi service called KPD Taxis with a set fee of £13.50 (week days) or £15 (weekends) to bring students to the school. If there is more than one student traveling then they will bring you all at the same time, and will advise you regarding the lower fare. To use this taxi service call 01604 882798 or email [email protected]
Other Northampton taxi companies are:
Amber Cars – 01604 232666 https://www.ambercarsnorthampton.com/
Ace Cars – 01604 719697
Bounds – 01604 626262
Phoenix Class – 01604 222222
We would advise that you pre-book a taxi to take you from the train station to the school, and vice versa. Black cabs at the train station are more expensive.
The closest airports are –
Birmingham – there are regular trains direct from the airport to Long Buckby (about 40 minutes). Then take a taxi to the school (approximately 15 minutes). You will need to pre-book a taxi as this is a small rural train station and there is no taxi rank.
Luton – the quickest option is to take a taxi from the airport (approximately 50 minutes) – we have used Skyways Cars before. The most affordable option is the National Express bus service to Northampton town centre which takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Then take a taxi or the X7 bus from the bus station to the school. The bus stop at the top of Pitsford village is about a 10-15 minute walk to the school. You can book National Express bus journeys online.
East Midlands – a taxi from the airport will take a little under an hour. National Express runs two buses each weekday, the journey to Northampton town centre takes either 2 hours 15 minutes or 2 hours 50 minutes depending on which service you take. You will then need to take a taxi or an X7 bus from Northampton town centre to the school.
Stanstead – trains run every 20 minutes from Stansted to Tottenham Hale underground from where you can get an underground train to London Euston. Overland trains from Euston run hourly to Northampton. You can then take a taxi or the X7 bus from the bus station to the school. The train station is about a 15 minute walk to the bus station.
Heathrow – trains via Euston London take about an hour to Northampton railway station. To get to Euston from Heathrow follow signs for the London Underground, take the Piccadilly Line to Green Park, then the Victoria Line to Euston. Allow an hour to get from Heathrow to Euston.
Or you can just take the Piccadilly Line straight to Kings Cross St. Pancras and walk to Euston (about ten minutes). From Northampton train station to get to the school you will need to take a taxi (about 15-20 minutes). If you can pre-book a taxi it will be cheaper.
Alternatively you can take a bus to Watford Junction and then the train to Northampton (both run hourly) this takes 2¼ hours.
When you are booking flights around a course at The Sourdough School, please allow plenty of time for travel between the school and the airport.
There is a stagecoach service which will drop off at the main road on the A508 which is about a 10 – 15 minute walk into the village here – please contact me for more details of which stop is best to get off at. You will need the X7 bus.
Address for a detailed map and the address please email [email protected]
There is plenty of parking and you can expect a warm welcome.
Why we check your baking ability before you attend a Retreat
The Retreats are what we call a combined course, with a minimum of 6 months of online lessons on the Bake for Health online course before you attend in person
We want you to have an amazing week. So this is really important that you follow the course syllabus on the Bake for Health Online before you attend.When you are going to spend time with people who are have baked before and learn from Vanessa then being familiar with the recipes and structure of the recipes will make a huge difference to your enjoyment of the course, and to the other attendees.
This means you are familiar with the basics, including sourdough starter refreshment, baking terms, and basic techniques.
It is mastering this basic knowledge that make the course go smoothly. We know it is sometimes hard to find the time, but we find those students who have followed the online lessons benefit immensely. We also know that if if you have not followed the online course then you will find the retreat style frustrating because it builds on the foundational knowledge learned before attending.
To ensure you get the most out of your time at the school we ask that you practice our classic beginners sourdough formula before attending. This formula is also the classic 20% retarded loaf on page 114 of the sourdough school book.)
You are required to email us a photo of this sourdough bread, or equivalent at least 8 weeks before your in person course starts.
What happens if I need help with my baking when I get home?
Your learning journey doesn't stop when you leave the school – it truly has just begun. With your Sourdough Club membership, you're never alone in your sourdough baking journey.
The Sourdough Club membership provides comprehensive, top-level support to help you continue your sourdough journey with confidence. Remember, leaving the school doesn't mean the end of your learning journey - every bake is a new opportunity to learn and grow in your understanding of the sourdough process.
A key aspect of this membership is your access to Vanessa Kimbell, our founder and sourdough expert. There will inevitably be times when your sourdough baking may not go as planned, and you need help identifying the issue. Vanessa is often available to assist in these instances.
However, to enable her to provide you with the best possible advice, it's important that you provide a complete set of information regarding your baking process. This includes specifics about your ingredients, methods, timings, and any issues you're experiencing. This thorough understanding will help Vanessa guide you effectively through your sourdough challenges and ensure your continued growth as a baker.
We have weekly live Q&A sessions and a Club Forum to enable you to get the support and help you need.
How do I get my sourdough starter home?
Many of our students ask me about the practicalities of taking their sourdough starters home with them. They have travelled from around the world to visit the school, so it’s only natural that they have concerns about getting their starter back home. But in fact, it’s very straightforward. Sourdough starters, when they are refreshed correctly, can remain out of the fridge for between 24 and 36 hours as long as they are kept at a regular temperature. This means that most journeys can be accomplished between refreshments… if not, it’s very easy to maintain your starter while still on the road (or train or plane!)
When you leave the school, we supply you with a small pot which contains 80g of sourdough starter. We also give you a bag for the starter to travel in. We refresh the starter on the last day of the course before you leave, to ensure it’s at the optimum point and ready to travel home. We also supply small bags of flour, so if anybody needs to continue refreshing their sourdough starter for a few days before they go home or on the journey, then they are able to do so. Keeping your starter healthy is a very simple process and will be fully explained on the course. But essentially, to refresh your starter you take ¾ (60g) of the starter out of the 80g we give you. Then stir 35g of water and 25g of flour into the remaining ¼. All you'll need is a small spoon or, at a push, you can use your fingers for mixing. This ratio of flour and water keeps your starter slightly thicker than you would normally have it, which slows down the rate at which the bacteria consume their food source.
There are a couple of considerations to bear in mind when you are travelling – the main one to remember is that your sourdough starter is still fermenting and is going to be producing gas. It’s worth opening the lid every few hours to release these. If you forget, the worst that can happen is that the gases build up and pop the lid so that a little of it spills out into the plastic bag. This isn’t really a problem because you can wash the starter out of the plastic bag when you get home, although you will only need 20-25g of it to refresh anyway.
Taking your sourdough on an aeroplane.
I don’t recommend keeping the bags of flour in your hand luggage because, more than likely, you will be stopped and have it tested at the airport. But I do prefer to carry my starter in hand luggage. It can safely travel in the hold. It will get cold but certainly shouldn’t come to any harm. If you decide to take it in your hand luggage, remember that it will be subject to the restrictions on liquids and gels, so don’t try to carry too much. I also find it helps to clearly label the container or bag with the contents… if nothing else, it can lead to some interesting conversations at security!
It’s really not a problem to travel with your sourdough starter. I’ve taken mine all over the world. In fact, the sourdough starter you will be leaving The Sourdough School with is part of a starter that has already been all over Europe, as well as to India and the USA. So we’re sharing a very well-travelled starter with you!
What are the Course Start time & End Times?
The typical operating hours for our courses are from 10 AM to 6 PM. However, it's crucial to note that each course follows its unique schedule. We encourage you to refer to the step-by-step pre-course information, The link would have been automatically emailed to you at the email address that you provided as you registered, which details the specific start times for your individual course.
Do not turn up early.
We emphasise the importance of starting our courses on time. As such, we kindly request that you refrain from arriving earlier than the designated starting time, which is typically 10 AM. The time prior to the course commencement is dedicated to meticulous preparation, akin to the final moments before hosting a dinner party, where the atmosphere is abuzz with activity.
If, for unavoidable reasons, you find that you will arrive early, we kindly request that you notify us at least two days in advance.
Courses usually conclude at 6 PM and we suggest arranging for taxis at 6:15 PM for example, allowing a slight buffer should the session run a bit longer.
Please bear in mind that it typically takes around 20 minutes to reach the Northampton train station from our location.
Can I take photographs?
We have to have consent to take photos here at The Sourdough School. We respect that some people prefer to remain private, so please tell us if you wish to remain anonymous. Our policy about sourdough social media is to celebrate and share while respecting the preferences of all students and members of the team here at the school.
We are sensitive to both those who love social media and also those that don’t. You are welcome to take photos of the bread, lunch, the school and the garden and other bakes, but please avoid photographing people unless you have their consent.
Vanessa prefers not to be photographed except in some group shots. She is, however, happy to provide a range of photos which can be used within the WhatsApp group.
Photos in the classroom and garden are fine, but not our living space. No photos of Vanessa's children please (unless they expressly give their permission).
Do I really need a Sourdough School Book?
Absolutely, bringing a copy of "The Sourdough School" book with you on your retreat will significantly enhance your learning experience, as we use it as a primary reference throughout our courses.
Why don't we include the books in the course fee?
Arranging book distribution has proven complex, as many of our students already have a copy. Interestingly, the cost on Amazon is often lower than what we can obtain from the publisher. Therefore, we encourage students to bring their own copies or notify us if they wish to purchase one on-site.
Please note that becoming familiar with the stages of making sourdough, as detailed in the book, will allow you to gain much more from the course. If you prefer not to purchase a copy, you are welcome to borrow one from the school and use my online teaching notes when you get home.
Do we have copies of your other books?
We generally have copies of my book "Food for Thought" available for purchase, but "Prepped" is rarely in stock. You're welcome to bring your own copies if you'd like them signed. Again, it's usually more cost-effective to purchase these online, as we must pay wholesale prices for our stock.
In addition, we also offer "10 Minute Sourdough" and "Sweet Sourdough" as options to buy, but please be aware that we may not always have these in stock.
Is there any continued support when I get home?
Yes! We offer continued support and encourage students to share their experiences through the WhatsApp group.
In addition, once you sign up for a course you will be given 12 months membership of The Sourdough Club. This gives you access to Vanessa's notes and teaching. Sign up for the club using the code sent to you in your booking acknowledgement email.
We have several researchers that work for the School and the papers are available on request. All the studies though, are listed and reference and summarised on the sourdough club pages.
"What can you expect when you come to a course?
You can expect a warm welcome and to work hard and learn a lot. It's fun, and small groups make friends. However, it is a big commitment both financially and in terms of time, so it's important for you to research your week thoroughly. We are always happy to answer questions, but there are a few things we can share to fill in any gaps.
What do we expect from you?
We hope for lovely people who want to learn everything we can teach you about sourdough. We need you to be punctual, well prepared, with long hair tied back, short fingernails, wearing a full apron and raring to go.
We also expect our students to continue their baking when they get home, which is why we have The Sourdough Club and provide feedback and support long after the course has finished.
What should you expect from a course?
While the teaching will centre on every aspect of sourdough bread, there will still be time to savour your bread, relax, breathe deeply and just lose yourself in long, slow fermentation and in the beauty of winter in our rural Northamptonshire setting. We will try to incorporate a walk into each day's schedule, weather permitting.
You will have some free time in the evenings, and there is the opportunity to walk, cycle, visit the local pubs, or pop into the local cheese mongers and bakery, and we arrange a visit to the local vineyard. The course aims to give you the confidence and know-how to bake your own homemade, artisan, sourdough loaves. It will be a fun week full of information, demonstrations, and baking. All participants will receive a certificate of attendance. Once you have booked, a full schedule will be sent to you.
Will you make the perfect loaf?
Something to bear in mind: It took many years to master sourdough. It is an art, and sourdough is wild. Fermentation is unpredictable at times, and many students often arrive with very high expectations. Often, people show me loaves they want to make by bakers who have baked over 500,000 loaves. Yes, they are amazing. However, it takes years to really master sourdough. It is like learning to play a musical instrument, and although you will attend a course for a few days or even a week, it takes most bakers a three-year apprenticeship to learn to bake sourdough, and even now, 35 years on, I am still learning every time I bake.
Be ready to learn. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan... although mostly they do; it is somewhat ironic, but we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.
What you will learn here is not just to follow a recipe; you will learn core principles and to trust your senses, to have an understanding and a sense of rhythm, timing, and connection to the dough and the process of making bread. You will make great bread and learn everything you need to know to be in a position to practice with knowledge.
Then it is up to you to bake. Over and over again.
That is the joy - the journey
Does Vanessa teach abroad?
At the moment Vanessa teaches exclusively at The Sourdough School. There are many reasons for this. At the school we have everything set up to deliver the level and standard of courses that are expected. The classroom space we use has been specially designed to accommodate our students and allow Vanessa to teach in a comfortable and welcoming environment.
Having lived in the area for many years, Vanessa has long established connections with the local farmers and producers. This is reflected in the samples that she gives to students on the course, and the incredible lunches provided, which are made with locally sourced food (some of it from Vanessa’s own garden). The school is also certified organic. So everything that we use here has been selected very carefully to be a part of the teaching experience.
And, of course, Vanessa is a mother to three children and a wife. Teaching from her home give her the flexibility to fit the work she loves around her family life.
Vanessa does occasionally speak at international conferences on the subject of nutrition and digestibility. If you would like to discuss the possibility of Vanessa speaking at an event, please get in contact via the school's commercial director ([email protected]) to check availability and costs. It’s also important to remember that when asking Vanessa to attend you will need to be able to cover flights, accommodation, transport and a speaker’s fee.
Do you post your book internationally?
Yes, we can send The Sourdough School book to international students. Our online shop is managed by the lovely people at Bakery Bits who are all set up to send products around the world.
If you are ordering from overseas, please ensure you provide a contact telephone number because this is required by the delivery companies.
Can you recommend somewhere to eat in the evening?
You will be quite tired and sometimes quite full a the end of each day, and you are most welcome to take home some of the leftovers from lunch, however it is also lovely to go out in the evening, and there are lots of amazing places to eat. And because they are so good, we would always suggest that you book in advance to avoid disappointment.
These are some of our favourites –
The Althorp Coaching Inn, Great Brington
With oak beams, flagstone floors and a roaring log fire, The Althorp Coaching Inn is all you would expect from a traditional village pub. This 16th century coaching inn, just 7 miles from the school, is a listed stone and thatch building. It has a courtyard, an enclosed garden and a beautiful, vintage-style barn. The inn specialises in quality British food, real ales and fine wines. The menu ranges from bar meals to classic restaurant dishes, made from locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.
Phone: 01604 770651
The Griffin Inn, Pitsford
The Griffin Inn is a proper village pub, and at the centre of our village community. A selection of local ales are served along-side delicious home-cooked pub favorites – they have a steak menu, chef’s specials boards, light lunch options, and then there’s the chef’s legendary traditional Sunday roast.
Phone: 01604 880346
The White Horse at Old
Travel past Pitsford Water from the Sourdough School and you will arrive in Old, a small village with The White Horse at the centre. The seasonal menu offers a range of delicious dishes, with daily specials and plenty of choice for vegetarians. There are also artisan pizzas, baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven. Many of the dishes can be served in child sized portions for younger diners. The pub stocks a good range of craft beers and heritage ciders too. Check their website for details of the monthly quiz nights and live music.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01604 781297
The Red Lion, Main Street, East Haddon
A cosy thatched pub in a peaceful, idyllic village surrounded by picturesque Northamptonshire countryside. The Red Lion specialises in serving great British food, cooked using local seasonal produce. The pub has an intimate lounge, a large dining room and manicured gardens, and is just 6 miles from The Sourdough School.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01604 770223
The Artichoke, Church Street, Moulton
The Artichoke is one of the closest pubs to the school. It specialises in food cooked using quality, local ingredients. Their meat is sourced from the local butcher’s, sausages from Mike’s pigs of Moulton, and the vegetables are delivered daily. This Grade II listed building dates back to 1680 and the owners think it was originally a farmhouse and village inn. It has a lovey, private and dog-friendly garden with plenty of seating for guests. There is regular live entertainment, including quizzes, jazz nights and fold nights.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01604 643941
Can I be a case Study?
Next year ( 2024) I'll be beginning the 2nd phase of research and there is another exciting project here at The Sourdough School which I hope will result in more case studies.
I will be starting the second phase of my Masters in Research I hope to have finished my PhD in Nutrition & digestion of Bread. This is research, in the form of dietary intervention studies, will contribute significantly to the growing discussion about how the Protocol of Baking as Lifestyle Medicine has a significant effect on microbial population, diversity and supporting a healthy gut micobiome, as well as a positive impact on mental health.
How does it work?
It is two parts. You get a home study pack delivered directly to your door, with everything you need in the pack and you follow the step by step online tutorials online.
Each group be asked to bake a specific delicious and nutritious sourdough bread at home for an allocated length of time and you will be the first to find out the results of your gut microbial analysis, any changes and the implications.
Why do we have to pay to participate?
This is still part of the way I teach and is still a course, and delivered in the same way as the ones we teach normally. This is just a very special course, that becomes part of a research study. The tests themselves are very expensive, although they are totally FREE to the participants, we feel that a mutual commitment is needed, and this is quite a commitment, involving baking and bread over several months.
- What is in it for me?
- You will learn to make a specific bread that will have all the techniques needed to make amazing sourdough and learn to bake as Lifestyle medicine
- You will have the results and feedback of your gut microbial composition and find out how it is affected by eating sourdough.
- You will be participating in research that will change the way we understand bread and the way we eat it on our health. It's cutting edge research into one of our most important foods.
- We will share our knowledge in terms that can be understood by everyone.
Will I be named?
- Everyone's results will be confidential and you will be given a number, rather than be identified by name. However you can enjoy participating in the discussion of the study on social media. It is not a secret, but we are obliged to keep individuals makes and results anonymous. You of course can share your participation - that is up to you.
- There are a limited number of places to participate in The Masters in Research course, and anticipate initially that each group with have between 20 - 30 participants.
- Each student will need to agree to give basic health details (weight, blood pressure, etc.) about themselves and send in samples regularly for a gut microbe analysis . The fruit project will be looking at comparing the gut microbiome before and after baking and eating sourdough.
If you’re interested in joining this course, please sign up to our newsletter as we will be sending out the opportunity to participate in this research next term. ( Autumn Winder 2024)
Will there be any more Sourdough Sisters?
Our intention is to run Sourdough Sisters as an annual event. The applications for next year will open in early 2019, and the course will run in summer 2019. Unfortunately, we are not able to run these courses abroad. Vanessa teaches exclusively at The Sourdough School, because this is where all her resources are, and where her organic certification and insurance are valid.
Should you wish to apply for the next Sourdough Sisters please sign up for our newsletter and we will send more information as soon as it is available.
Do I have a gluten allergy?
I’m often contacted by people looking for advice about gluten allergies or intolerance.
My first response is always that if you suspect you may have a gluten allergy or may be coeliac, you must see a GP to get a diagnosis.
Although I have spent many years researching the digestibility of sourdough, I am not qualified to diagnose any of the medical conditions which can cause symptoms similar to gluten allergy.
There are numerous reasons why people have digestive malaise when eating bread, but we do know that many people find that they can eat sourdough without any issues.
Gluten intolerances and allergies are widely blamed for symptoms such as bloating, constipation and other digestive discomfort. In some cases rather than gluten, it is a range of naturally occurring sugars (known as FODMAPS) that are the root of the problem. There are also suggestions that the modern, industrial bread making process has led to the rise in people adopting a gluten free diet. Many people find sourdough easier to digest, and that they can eat it without experiencing any discomfort.
One of the most debilitating conditions associated with wheat is coeliac disease, an auto-immune condition triggered by gliadin, a component of gluten. Although there is some initial evidence suggesting that sourdough might be suitable for coeliacs to eat, this evidence was a small trial and gathered under medical supervision, which is very different from buying a lao from a bakery or baking your own. I do not recommend people with coeliac disease to eat sourdough, because it’s not possible to guarantee that the gluten is broken down sufficiently to that loaf is free from raw flour, which may be on the outside of the loaf and may trigger a reaction. There are gluten free sourdough's made with rice flour or potato flour, but this is not an area I work in at present. We do not teach anyone who is coeliac to make sourdough.
If you want to come to come on one of our courses, but think you may have a gluten allergy, please talk with your doctor first. You will get much more from the course if you have a diagnosis. Different conditions can be approached in different ways, and I can teach you the best fermentation technique and recommend the best flour choice for your specific condition.
The most important thing is to address the issue of a potential allergy or other medical condition before you book a course. Allergic reactions are very rare, but can be serious. If you have an immune response that comes to light during the course, we will ask you to seek advice from a doctor before you can continue.
You might find this podcast with Vanessa and Time Spector interesting.
Which flours do you recommend?
I have written an article which looks at the choice of flour for sourdough baking. In it I talk about how grain variety, grain quality, and milling all affect the properties of a flour.
We regularly use flour from Marriages, Doves Farm and Gilchesters Organics here at the school. Each of these mills offers a range of flours suitable for bread baking. You can buy them through Bakery Bits, and some of these flours are available in supermarkets and independent grocery stores. We also recommend using Farine de Gruau T45 from Foricher flour for refreshing a white sourdough starter… in fact, we provide a bag of this flour as part of our White Sourdough Starter Kit.
The important thing to remember in choosing a flour is to take time to become familiar with it. Bake regularly with the same flour and keep records of your bakes. This way you will soon learn how best to use each flour and which ones suit your baking style.
Do you offer work experience?
We often get asked if we are able to offer work experience here at The Sourdough School.
Unfortunately in the main we have to say no. We’re a small school, and because of fire regulations are only able to have a limited number of people in the kitchen at any one time. The classes we run are almost always fully booked which means, once you add in the tutors, we are at capacity. Of course, we very much welcome people coming here to learn to make sourdough, but I’m afraid we really do have to limit it to students who book on a course.
Saying that, we occasionally have students back who have previously been students, and I began my baking career volunteering in a small French bakery. So I would advise anyone looking for work experience that it’s definitely worth persevering. One of my recommendations for people who want work experience in baking sourdough is to ask at your local bakery – there’s often much more practice to be had in a bakery where they are making hundreds of loaves every day. Just keep asking… that’s how I got my first work experience. Having started my baking career with work experience, I would really encourage anyone to do this. But unfortunately we just cannot accommodate volunteers here.
How do I subscribe to The Sourdough School newsletter?
Our newsletter is a great way to find out about the latest happenings and offers at The Sourdough School, and is packed with recipes and baking tips. It’s also the best way to find out about new courses as soon as they are opened for booking.
You can add your email in the ‘Subscribe Here’ page. Simply enter your email address, click the button and you’re subscribed, and you will the first to know about what we are up to.
Do you offer online courses?
At The Sourdough School, both The Certificate and the Diploma are online courses. However, for domestic bakers, we suggest The Sourdough Club, which is designed to provide an ongoing learning experience and support for domestic bakers who want to master the art of sourdough baking at home. The Sourdough Club is a comprehensive resource that enables members to expand their skills and knowledge in the world of sourdough, and we teach all the BALM protocol here.
Some of the key benefits of joining the Sourdough Club for a home baker include:
- Continuous learning: As a member, you will have access to a wealth of information, including tutorials, articles, and research studies. This allows you to deepen your understanding of sourdough and its associated techniques.
- Access to recipes: The Sourdough Club offers an extensive collection of recipes for various types of bread, pastries, and other baked goods. Members can experiment with new recipes and learn to incorporate sourdough into their daily meals.
- Supportive community: The Sourdough Club connects you with a community of like-minded bakers and enthusiasts. Through forums and group discussions, you can share your experiences, ask questions, and learn from others.
- Expert guidance: Members have the opportunity to interact with Vanessa and other sourdough experts through scheduled live sessions. These sessions provide a platform for direct communication, addressing questions or concerns related to sourdough baking.
By joining the Sourdough Club, home bakers can transform their passion for baking into a lifelong pursuit, continually expanding their knowledge and skills in the fascinating world of sourdough.
Can I buy sourdough starter?
You can buy some of the sourdough starters we use here at the school through our online shop. We recommend the White Sourdough Starter Kit, which contains all the information you need to keep your new starter active and healthy.
The sourdough starter is carefully nurtured here at The Sourdough School, and we make sure it is sent out in peak condition. Starters are sent out twice a month and advised that they should be refreshed as soon as they arrive.
Where can I get your Sourdough School book?
You can order a signed copy of the Sourdough School book through our online shop.
Can you sign my book personally for me?
In person Yes, but online We are really sorry, but at this point in time, it just isn’t possible for Vanessa to write a personal dedication when you buy a copy of The Sourdough School book.
However, we are able to post you a signed bookplate, if you send us a self-addressed envelope, we will return a plate for you. Please contact us via the contact form.
Vanessa's work commitments simply don't give her the time to sign, wrap, and take individual books to the post office, but you can buy a signed copy through our online shop.
If you sign up to our mailing list we will let you know when Vanessa is doing a book signing, though.
We are looking into ways to include individual dedications, but for now, the only way Vanessa can sign your book in person is if you book a course.
Is The Sourdough School book available in any other languages?
Yes, the book has been published in German, Italian, Croatian and Spanish. There will be a US edition published in September 2018. For anyone who is struggling to get the book in their language, I’m sure there will be more editions coming out. But for now these are the languages it is available in, generally you will find this on the amazon listing in the country of publication, however you might need to search under the name Vanessa Kimbell as the title will have been translated.
Do I get a certificate when I attend a course?
Yes. Each in-person student receives a personalised, signed certificate to confirm they have attended an in-person course at The Sourdough School.
Should students wish, then they are added to our graduation board. We have trained many hundreds of people to bake. However, this is the first year of the board, and we are excited to see people graduating and putting their knowledge to use; please see the early days of our new Graduation Board Once students have demonstrated they understand all the principles that have been taught and are able to apply these in producing a sourdough loaf.
At the end of the in-person course, students complete a worksheet and undergo a practical assessment. This is definitely not an exam! But we do take the certification quite seriously so that each student can celebrate the fact that they have a diploma from The Sourdough School. We are here to guide you through the whole course and ensure that every student leaves the school confident and equipped to bake the most delicious sourdough bread.
At the end of the online courses students have to produce and edible exam. This is an example of a graduation recipe, which is then shared with all student in the school
Are the courses suitable for professional bakers?
We often get asked if our courses are suitable for professional bakers, or if they are designed solely for the home baker. The courses we offer teach the principles of everything you need to know about sourdough, whether you are a domestic or a professional baker. There are, of course, differences between the two - mainly in scheduling and quantities. But the principles and timings that underpin sourdough baking can be applied equally to a home kitchen or commercial bakery, and we find that Baking as Lifestyle e medicine is useful to all.
- For bakers wanting to teach Baking as Lifestyle Medicine we suggest you look at The Certificate here.
- For Healthcare professionals wishing to train in prescribing Baking as Lifestyle Medicine look here
- For Homes bakers who wish to learn how to bake for themselves and their families check out The Sourdough Club Membership here
- For anyone hating to totally emerse themselves in the experience of Baking as Lifestyle Medicine then you can learn more about attending a 7 day retreat + 1 year Certificate here
Vanessa trained and worked in bakeries
Vanessa trained and worked as a professional baker, so she is very conscious of scheduling and timings when working with large quantities. She is more than happy to discuss this as she is teaching. During the course we work with 1kg quantities. These can, of course, easily be scaled up in a professional bakery, because we are working with baker’s percentages and ratios.
So yes, absolutely, the principles we teach at The Sourdough School on Baking as Lifestyle =Medicine are very much applicable to professional bakeries. But please bear in mind that this is classroom-based teaching, and some specific tips and techniques that might be useful in a professional setting will not be demonstrated during the course.
Can you answer some questions I have about my sourdough baking?
Unfortunately Vanessa is not able to answer individual questions that are emailed.
We receive dozens of home bakers looking for advice. Some of these involve very detailed explanations of what they are doing with their starter and their dough. Whilst we appreciate that people want help with their sourdough, we are a small business and simply don’t have the capacity to answer individual questions… there just aren’t enough hours in the day. You can however join The Sourdough Club, where Vanessa teaches live most weeks.
Generally we offer the following advice to those contacting us -
Vanessa’s book, The Sourdough School, is a comprehensive guide to sourdough, based on her years of baking experience. Reading the step by step introduction to sourdough, and working through the recipes will give you lots of baking practice and should help answer many of the question you have.
Consider booking onto one of our 12 month online courses with tuition from Vanessa. There are three courses available, each one suitable for different levels of baking experience. The cost of the course includes a sourdough starter and a ceramic pot to keep it in, 12 months of guided tuition through a wealth of online material, and two skype calls with Vanessa to discuss your progress at key points during the course. These calls are a chance to learn, get lots of baking tips and ask any questions you might have regarding your own sourdough baking.
Do we have international students?
Over the years we have welcome students from all over the world to the school. Our diploma courses are especially popular with international students. In the past few years we have had students from Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, Asia, and Australasia. It makes for a wonderful mix of cultures and languages in the kitchen while we bake!
If you are travelling to the school from overseas, there is detailed information on how to get here.
What is the maximum number of students that attend a course?
At The Sourdough School, we believe that a small class size is essential for an effective learning experience. Our preferred maximum number of students for most courses is six, especially for Diploma courses. This size strikes the perfect balance between creating a lively atmosphere filled with questions and enthusiasm while ensuring that each student receives the individual attention they may need.
In certain situations, we have taught classes of up to 12 students. The class size depends on factors such as the length of the course, the techniques being taught, and the recipes being used. For more academic courses that focus on demonstration and discussion rather than hands-on learning, we might accommodate up to twelve students. However, even with 12 students, our class size remains small and intimate.
If a course appears as fully booked on our website, we may be able to accommodate an additional student in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, please reach out directly to Vanessa at [email protected], so she can assess whether it is feasible to offer you a place in the course. We prioritize maintaining an optimal learning environment for all our students and strive to accommodate individual needs as much as possible.
Is there a waiting list for the courses?
We limit the number of students on our in-person courses to between 4 and 6.
This is so we can ensure there is time for each student to get some individual attention, and we can tailor the tuition to the interests of a small group. But it does mean that some classes get booked up very quickly, and not everyone can get a place on the course they want. We do keep a waiting list for courses once they are fully booked but, to be honest, we find that students rarely drop out once they have booked.
If you have tried to book a particular course but have found that it is already full, there are a number of options you might like to consider…
Firstly, you can add your name to the waiting list by emailing [email protected], stating your name and the course you are interested in.
Alternatively, you might like to join The Sourdough Club. This gives you access to step-by-step lessons, including videos, and a lot of sourdough-related information. Membership of The Sourdough Club brings you into our international community of sourdough bakers, and allows you to learn in your own kitchen at a pace that suits you.
Question: How many students will attend a course?
My preferred number of attendees for workshops and retreats ranges between 4 and 6. This count strikes a balance between fostering a vibrant and engaging environment and ensuring personalized attention for each participant.
For one-day events, which are typically more academic, we can host up to 12 individuals. Please note that these sessions primarily involve demonstrations and discussions as opposed to hands-on baking due to the larger group size.
For larger events, we can accommodate up to 18, such as the Tuscan baking week.
In the case of a course appearing fully booked on our website, there may be circumstances under which we can accommodate an additional student. Should this be your situation, please reach out directly to Libiana@sourdough.co.uk. She will then determine if offering you a place on the course is feasible.
Refund policy and pausing your Online Course
Our Commitment to Educational Access: Explaining Our No Refund Policy
To enable this cycle of reinvestment, we have a no-refund policy for our courses. We want to ensure that all potential students are aware of this policy at the time of enrolment. This approach allows us to plan for and allocate scholarships and support our social prescription baking scheme effectively.
We understand that life can sometimes be unpredictable, and we want to accommodate our students' needs as much as possible. Therefore, if you need to take a break after starting a course, you can pause and resume at your convenience.
Before you enrol, please make sure to familiarize yourself with our policies and the unique social enterprise model of The Sourdough School. We are here to support your learning journey and empower you to become part of a movement for systems change in the world of baking, health, and social equality.
Terms and conditions We are passionate about providing education to as many people as possible, regardless of their financial circumstances. As both a small business and a social enterprise, we strive to use our resources effectively and inclusively.
Each year, we calculate our tuition fees and allocate our scholarships, bursaries, and awards accordingly. This calculation is based on the assumption that once a student accepts a course, they commit to completing it, and the tuition fees they pay are dedicated to implementing our systems change programme.
Our no refund policy, in the simplest terms, is integral to our ability to provide this opportunity to others. For every person who pays for a course, we can extend the training and education to two people who would not ordinarily have the opportunity. This approach aligns with our values of inclusivity and learning accessibility.
Refunding course fees would significantly impact our ability to run this programme. Therefore, instead of providing refunds, we offer the option to pause your course. We've found this to be a supportive and inclusive solution, allowing students to return when they are ready without financial loss.
For the 2022/23 Programme, we generated £50,000 in revenue and awarded £150,000 worth of scholarships and awards. To continue operating and providing these opportunities, we cannot offer refunds. This is why we have a strict application process and require all applicants to fully understand and agree to our no-refund policy.
If unforeseen circumstances arise and you are unable to continue with your course at this time, we can pause your course and re-enroll you the following year. We believe this approach respects both our commitment to providing educational opportunities and our students' varying life situations.
Thank you for understanding and supporting our mission to make sourdough education accessible for all.
To pause your course, please fill in this interruption of study below, and we will transfer you to next year's course.
Do you have office opening hours?
Office Admin Hours.
Truthfully we don’t really hang out in the office.
We find computers, flour and water don’t mix. Mostly we are in the school baking, teaching or filming, so we respond to emails and non-urgent queries on emails and Vanessa does a live session each week for any queries.
This session is ideal if you want to speak directly to me. I find this a much quicker way to answer peoples queries than long emails!
If you would like to ask a question we will review it and send you an invitation to attend. The sessions are NOT shown on the catch up, so you will need to attend live. You are muted and asked to be respectful of the other students in the meeting. It is an open session and I am happy to chat with people once I have answered any questions sent in, and I have enough time.
Sessions are 45 minutes long. I am very sorry but this is the time limit as I have to be in another tutorial at 5pm.
Topic: 4pm Open Session Vanessa Kimbell at The Sourdough School ( Terms time Only)
Meeting ID: 897 8151 8036
Session are every Thursday 4pm ( London Time ) starting this 29th September 2022 and run through out this term.
Can you please explain the Baking As Lifestyle Medicine (BALM) Protocol?
The BALM Protocol is integral to the course taught at The Sourdough School because it addresses the complex system of baking, eating, and sharing bread in a way that promotes health, well-being, and environmental sustainability. It simplifies this complex system by focusing on 7 core principles, which are grounded in evidence-based practices and the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine.
By teaching the BALM Protocol, The Sourdough School provides students with a gold standard framework for creating and consuming bread that nourishes both the body and the mind while also supporting the environment. This holistic approach to bread-making ensures that students learn how to create bread that can prevent, treat, or modify non-communicable chronic diseases while also empowering positive change at various levels within the food system.
The BALM Protocol can be applied by individuals through prescription courses, by healthcare professionals such as GP's, and by bakeries, as well as used to influence Population Health Management through industrial applications. By teaching the BALM Protocol, The Sourdough School enables students to understand the importance of each component, from using diverse Botanical Blend flours and fermentation techniques to promoting healthy eating habits and reducing the consumption of sugar and ultra-processed foods.
In summary, the BALM Protocol is an essential part of the course taught at The Sourdough School because it provides a comprehensive and evidence-based framework for baking, eating, and sharing bread that benefits physical and mental health and supports environmental sustainability. By learning and implementing the BALM Protocol, students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to create bread that nourishes and empowers positive change within the food system.
What do I need to do to graduate?
Rising to the Challenge - you will need to create a BALM recipe
Our graduation process is a radical departure from traditional learning and assessment methods, placing a strong emphasis on practical application, sharing, community, and continuous learning.
It has been designed to be a learning experience for individual students but also creates a ripple effect of knowledge and healthy practices within the wider community. We ask you to create and share a BALM recipe which on graduation is published on your graduation page.
. In most traditional educational settings, the knowledge acquired is tested via exams, after which the exam paper is essentially discarded. The student proves their understanding but doesn't contribute anything tangible or reusable to the learning community. By contrast, creating and sharing a recipe is a unique way of demonstrating one's learning while also contributing to the community.
What is important is that this recipe can be used, enjoyed, and learned from by others, fostering a more communal and contributory spirit of learning.
The recipe it requires real life application of the principles of BALM, and students must demonstrate they can take the principles they've learned and create something practical and useful. This encourages a deeper level of understanding and engagement with the material