I’m tired of winter now. More gales today flapping roof panels of our warehouse making quite a racket, although I did notice, one afternoon this week while chatting to a delivery driver, the hint of warmth from a fleeting burst of milky sunshine. Spring is coming – at least, I hope so. I can’t wait to see the earth coming back to life and getting outside again. My wife would tell me to put on more layers and go outside anyway, but it isn’t quite the same. Not when there is a warm kitchen inside.

Do you get those weeks when everything feels like it is on top of you, that you’re almost smothered with the pressure of things to do every way you look? This is one of those weeks for me. I’m just putting the last touches of my book about sourdough together. It has been a marathon and I feel that I have expended my full range of emotions on it.

The best time for solitude in my kitchen is during the very early hours. Luckily I don’t seem to disturb the family, but between my clattering, I love the stillness. I have time to reflect and gather my thoughts while almost meditatively getting my hands into the flour and water and the feeling of the dough coming together. I love how it responds.

Most instinctive bakers I know are very much in touch with their bread and bake using their senses. Hands to touch, eyes to look, mouth to taste. Being British we often shy away from overt displays of passion or emotion, but this quiet, sensuous approach of connecting yourself to your dough will not just give you time to reflect, but it will also make you a better baker.

…and when you’ve finished there is time to sit down, reflect and drink a cup of tea.

So this week I am really delighted to introduce you to rare tea lady, Henrietta of the Rare Tea Company, who knows a thing or two about thoughtfulness and how we can change the world by drinking tea. The profits from her exquisite teas go to charity. She has kindly offered one of our readers a beautiful teapot and some tea to enjoy.

To have a chance of winning, just tell us whom you think most deserves or needs a cup of tea. It can be anyone from you mum to your local artisan baker. We’ll send the winner the prize and hopefully you will get an invitation to enjoy a lovely cup of tea and toast with them!

Enter through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and use @Rareteacompany @Bakerybits.

The prize will be drawn on the 28th of March 2017 and the result posted to Facebook.

Recipe: Earl Grey Sourdough Tea Boule



(mix this up late about 10pm)
Leaven is made by taking 20g starter and adding 90g cold water and 90g strong white organic flour. Leave covered with a damp cloth on the counter for 6–8 hours; you will see that is it bubbly and it is ready to use.

Mix Early morning

In a large bowl, whisk your water and starter together then add the flour. Mix until all the flour has made contact with the water and there is no more dry flour. Do not knead.

1st Ferment:
Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and leave the dough to rest in a cool environment for 30 minutes. This is called Autolyse. Add the saline and the drained fruit. Don’t worry if it looks wet, the flour will absorb it as you stretch and fold.

Lift and fold your dough over on itself. Do a quarter turn of your bowl and repeat three more times. Over the next 3 hours, using wet hands, lift and fold your dough every 30 minutes. Become increasingly gentle with your folds. This is part of the process I treasure the most as there is a real connection with the dough. It’s the chance to feel its strength and get a sense of how it is behaving.

Place your dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half then fold each corner into the centre of the loaf. Flip the dough over 180 degrees so that the seams are underneath and gently but firmly roll it to create a boule. This is the time to create structure. Bench rest for 20 minutes then flip your loaf back over 180 degrees. Give it a final shape, and then place into a dusted banneton. Dust with flour and cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in the fridge until the following day.

See Adam Pagor at the Sourdough School for a guide to the final shaping.

Place your Cloche into your cold oven and preheat the oven to 220°C for at least 30 minutes. The dome must be very hot when you want to bake.

Take the Cloche from the oven and sprinkle a little polenta flour over the base. Gently tip your dough into it and slash the top of your bread using a grignette (or lame) then place the lid back on top and return to the oven as quickly as possible.

Bake for 45 minutes then reduce the heat to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Finally remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes. You can judge how dark you like your crust, but I suggest that you bake it until you have a mid brown crust for a really lovely loaf.

Sourdough is best left to cool completely on the rack before slicing and is even better if left for a day to let the full flavour develop. Once the bread is completely cool, store in a bread bag. If you don’t like a crunchy crust, then put you loaf into the bread bag while still warm.

Time to put the kettle on …


Large mixing bowl
Dough whisk
1kg round banneton
Lame (grignette)
La Cloche
Wire rack
Bread bag

Tea Mix

150g dried fruit, such as sultanas, currants or dried blueberries
250g hot Earl Grey tea
Soak the fruit in the tea overnight
Drain well

For the sourdough

650g Earl Grey tea at exactly 28°C
200g Leaven
800g Organic “00” white flour, plus extra for dusting
200g Rye flour

50g saline (20g fine salt mixed with 30g water)

organic polenta flour, for dusting

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


featured products

Handmade Black Walnut Lame (Right-Handed) | £24.00

Craftsman made, black walnut lame with brass fittings, these are baker's lames for those looking for beauty and functionality. Delivered in its own box with spare blades, this is the lame to show your friends.

Stoate's Organic Rye Flour | £2.20

Rye flour from the award-winning Stoates mill based in Dorset. Milled at Cann Mills in Dorset, this rye flour is excellent for rye bread, pumpernickel and sourdough. It is useful in white breads, at 5% of the total flour, to give a slightly nuttier taste.

La Cloche Baking Dome | £47.99

Make fantastic bread in your oven every time with a La Cloche. Ensure perfect golden, crackly crust and moist, evenly baked bread with this amazing product, based on 1000s of years of bread baking traditions.

Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

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