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Vanessa’s story is classic, romantic and important. As a British kid, she vacationed in France and loved the bread, actually working in a French bakery at age 11. Back and forth across the channel, she baked on both sides, learned the intricacies of French bread, married a Frenchman, and over time worked the full range of baking avenues: bread, patisserie, … In the end, her love is sourdough. That grand sourdough you can only get in an upscale bakery. Sourdough like this:


The obvious texture, the big holes, everything about this loaf that screams Paris. Those are the things that make sourdough devotees, like Vanessa, cheer. And, in this book, Vanessa tells you something very important: you can make that bread yourself, in your kitchen.

Sourdough is universally found around the world. Different names — French levain or Polish zakwas or German sauerteig — but always glorious sourdough.

Vanessa begins by explaining exactly what “sourdough” is and means, how sourdough starters are created and must be maintained, what grains you can use, respect for gluten, and even the critical importance of the water you use.

There’s one entire chapter to the creation and feeding of your starter. They don’t call it “the mother” for nothing.

Once you have that starter, then there is a step-by-step guide to making a leaven then onto your dough. [Leaven? Yes, it’s not the same as the starter and Vanessa takes you through all the leaven steps. Did I mention that sourdough, great sourdough, is a demanding and ultimately rewarding labor of love.]

Once you have dough, you need to shape it, proof it [letting it rise], score it [making those cuts on the bread top], and finally bake. Ah, Vanessa explains why you must score it: to enable the bread to naturally expand in the oven without cracking.

The actual bread formulas include:

Classic White Sourdough Boules

50:50 Whole-Wheat/White Sourdough

Classic Whole-Wheat

Russian Rye

Seed Boules

Blackberry, Poppy Seed and Pa Flower Water Bread

Jalapeno and Cheese

Olive and Pickled Lemon Butter

Tomato and Herb

Scandinavian Buttermilk

Chocolate and Roast Hazelnut

Beet, Black Pepper and Feta Cheese

Miso and Sesame

So The Sourdough School is your all-in-one guide to excellence in bread. The science, the art, the techniques and a fleet of recipes are all here. You just need your oven, some flour, water, the natural yeast that abounds, and some time. Bread is the most universal food on our planet. Great bread is rare, but you’ll know it in a bite. And that bite is waiting for you once you’ve attended The Sourdough School.