Treat your bread like wine
Treat your bread like wine

Treat your bread like wine

If you were buying a bottle of wine, you’d look at the label, wouldn’t you? You look at where the grapes came from. You may read a little bit about the grower. So treat your bread like red wine, you know?…

Never pick up bread without looking at the label and turning it over. Look at the list of ingredients. Now, the second you see an extremely long list of things you cannot pronounce, or do not recognise, put it down. It doesn’t matter what the label says on the front. Put it back. Be prepared to put that right back on the shelf and say, no, I’m not accepting this bread today. I want something that is going to nourish me.

Vanessa Kimbell

Inclusive of my “nutrition, wellness and habits” outlook are the “3 Es.” Almost all the nutrition journeys combine some form of exploration, education and then experimentation, and combinations of two Es, not always in the combination order, and often all three Es simultaneously.

Exploring and Educating

Exploring” fermented foods brought me to the benefits (almost virtues) of home-baked bread, and fermented bread – sourdough. To be clear I didn’t know at this point, what fermented starters or fermented bread was at this point. A little more exploring and education, led to the Kimbell and Spector Zoe podcast and the “transformation of flour and water into food that nourishes us and impacts both our gut microbiome and our mental health.” Make no mistake about it, there is more to fermented sourdough than just the sourdough. Vanessa Kimbell’s “about” page gives you an excellent pen portrait of her forty year expertise.

More “educating” (Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast and a little research, followed by Micheal Pollan’s “Cooked: Air” – the episode is both informative and uplifting. Next Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread brought me closer to the artisan aspects of sourdough and gave me greater insight into the sourdough community, and then an early experiment with rye flour (a reminder to reign in the experimental enthusiasm). Which was rather fortunate, as I would later read that rye flour was recommended for sourdough starters.

11.08.23 booked in with Noa Lachman in October, sourdough enthusiast, workshop lead and soprano.

14.10.23 Attended and thoroughly enjoyed Noa’s sourdough workshop with eight others including my mum, sister and son, and Allison (my sisters friend), and a second party of four who we met for the first time on the day, Helen, Freya (25th birthday), Jasmine and Rhiannon. Noa was such a generous and welcoming host. Freya’s birthday party of four, were such lovely people to share the workshop with. A happy accident or great hosting?

The workshop was astutely conceived. Space was of a premium in Noa’s kitchen, where everything had it’s space and every space had it’s thing. There was plenty of sourdough recipes to taste, Harry particularly enjoyed the sourdough squash cake and we all enjoyed the sourdough discard crackers and no cheese, cheesey sourdough discard scones. (Discard is the ‘discarded’ over-ripened starter that is not used for baking sourdough starter and discarded).

16.08.23 Triple win-win-win. Collected Vanessa Kimbell’s book “The Sourdough School,” from the library, bumped into Tamas from BEK’s bakery, a local family-owned artisan vegan sourdough bakery and I found our first small, cast iron dutch oven from the charity shop.

Tartine Bread was a significant step up technically, conceptually and visually, conveying Robertson’s commitment to artisan bakery, again with strong notes to wellness, community – and introducing me to the word “savor.”

The substantial gains in savor, keeping qualities, and versatile uses with the natural leaven justify the time it takes to build and care for one.

Tartine Bread p10


Home-baked bread boules with Brian Lagerstrom tutorial 2.0 were the springboard to home-baked bread. Or rather the relative successes we achieved following Brian’s tutoring was the spring board. Success breeds motivation. That and taking on Brian’s advice to use a “dutch over”, a £4 charity shop casserole dish or “dutch oven,” to help create a reliable micro climate when baking our boules. The success and sense of joy of eating our freshly baked bread at the table, drawing in all of our children to eat and converse. Of note, the shape of our casserole dish and my impatience did make getting the boules out of the dish difficult. The base needs to be narrower than the mouth of the dish or just be patient as the bread shrinks as it cools and is much easier to get out and handle. Lessons learnt.

Connecting nutrition and gut health with my growing interest in fermented foods and home-baked bread meant that all signs pointed to a more lofty goal of home-baked sourdough. Move over “foam bread.” That is, common store-bought, highly processed, with added sugar and salt, sliced bread, for home-baked bread(s) (boules, flat breads are super easy, fast and delicious, pizza bases, and hopefully, in time, home-baked sourdough.

…the plastic-wrapped loaves we find on shop shelves have an almost entirely different chemical composition to traditional loaves from a bakery or made at home. With low fibre, very little protein and made in a few hours in factories as an ultra-processed refined flour product that can last over a week, modern bread is very different to what previous generations ate.

Dr Tim Spector

This has significant nutritional consequence.

The impact a supermarket white sandwich loaf has on blood sugar levels is terrible, similar to eating refined white sugar. Traditionally made wholegrain sourdough or dark rye pumpernickel, on the other hand, are nutritious with plenty of fibre and less starchy carbs, plant protein and gut-healthy polyphenols.

Dr Tim Spector

Vanessa Kimbell is no less scathing. 

The processed bread on our supermarket shelves is completely dependent on petro-chemical-derived commerce, synthetically fertilised adulterated wheat, routinely treated using carcinogenic, chemically produced herbicides. The wheat used to make the bread is stripped of its nutritional properties, it is fast processed using a single monocultural yeast strain; the bread is packed with preservatives and emulsifiers and enzymes before being packaged in wasteful plastic bags and transported long distances. It is bread that is destroying our health and our planet

Vanessa Kimbell The Sourdough School p184

Why home-baked bread?

Why the investment? Why the effort? Why subject yourself to the highs and frustrations / disappointments of home-baked bread? Particularly sourdough bread. Where the complex-simplicity of three ingredients can be beguiling. Vanessa offers a convincing argument!.Those three words surface again, and again. Nutrition. Wellness. Habit.

Home-baked bread is very much a confluence of nutrition and wellness, though I recognise that I am pushing it a little to include habit. But it does require a certain level of commitment and as I would later learn, thoughtful scheduling. However, as I educate myself more, I can see that any successful home baker needs more than applied knowledge of Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast,” and the chemistry of fermentation in sourdough home-baking. Fermentation in sourdough home-baking also requires forethought around the use of time and scheduling of the baking tasks and forethought weaving these into our busy working lives – there are in fact different routines and decisions to be made based around the fermentation that add to the complexity. Successful home-bread baking benefits from developing habits – covered and generously explained by Phillip over at Culinary Exploration as well as in Vanessa’s and Chad’s books.

On nutrition: Home-baked bread uses the “whole” grain – I added a short summary of what I learnt at the bottom of the post. Lots of potential different grains too, all with different attributes, flavours and phytochemicals that feed the microbes in your gut – which in turn convert this fibre into other healthy chemicals promoting a good immune system and metabolism.

With regards to sourdough specifically, Vanessa Kimbell also highlights that the long, slow fermentation promotes the “bioavailability of the fibre” – that is, it is easier to digest, and the “phenolics,” the chemicals that scavenge the free radicals that might cause cancer are more available. This is very important to Vanessa and covered at length p186 onwards.

In contrast, very quickly after eating, many common store-bought “foam breads,” (white and brown), the starch is rapidly released as sugar (as well as all that added sugar of course) and as a result, these sugars appears in your blood in 30 minutes at very high levels. What is more, common store-bought bread is severely missing or lacking fibre. Rarely does store bought bread use the “whole of the grain” where most of the nutritional value can be found. You will however find plenty of emulsifiers.

Dr Tim Spector does not hold back “…words like granary mean nothing and the malted loaf is actually just adding probably more sugar to it,” and baked-on-premise bread fairs even worse “it’s all a giant con, but it does smell nice and makes you extra hungry as you’re going around the supermarket.”

In a second interview below, he discusses bread 08:11 and how his opinion has changed and why he is eating much less bread and much fussier about it.

On wellness – baking bread is a fascinating topic, with a huge community, especially the artisan and sourdough bread communities. It has its own language and tools. There is a real sense of open collaboration and sharing, of apprenticeship and learning. How you use time, temperature and ingredients, are all important considerations.

The baker’s skill in managing fermentation, not the type of oven used, is what makes good bread.

Tartine Bread p24

It goes without saying, that there is great value in home-baking a heart warming loaf, the visuals and the smells. I did not expect the sounds “crackles” and “pops,” as the bread cools and the crust contracts slightly. However, expect to bump into frustration, when the very process that worked last time, gets the better of you. Successful home bread baking is absolutely a complex chemistry puzzle – even if Chad tells us that “making natural leavened bread is forgiving and versatile.” The finale – at the table. Home baked bread offers a real centre piece. Presented at the table, there is a real sense of celebration and theatre, those sights, smells and sounds I mentioned.

In summary, bread can be a good source of fibre and proteins with Dr Tim Spector recommending you choose rye and whole grains and bread with mixed flours and added seeds. He also makes his own sourdough “packed with various grains.”

On habit – I know that if I am going to home-baked bread regularly, and bake sourdough in the future, then the process will need to align with a day-to-day working routine. It is not time intensive rather dispersed actions over time. We have quite often been rushed towards the later stages, the baking-then-cooling stage, too often rushed.

That said, with only Brian Lagerstrom tutorial 2.0, the ingredients (do not forget the semolina flour for baking in the dutch oven as we did) a set of digital scales, measuring jug, transparent plastic bowl (it helps to be able to see the dough) a charity shop ceramic “dutch oven” (casserole dish to you and me) and a pair of scissors (in place of a “bread lame” / razor), we have baked our first half dozen country boules using a pre-fermented “poolish” (most successfully) and we are just starting to explore rye flours and seed toppings.

We are keeping an eye out for flours and looking to upgrade to a 5 litre cast iron “dutch oven.” We know that the freshness of the flour has a significant impact on the flavour of the final loaf, so sourcing fresh flour may be an adventure.

Whole grains

Whole grains offer a “complete package” of health benefits, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process.

All whole grain kernels contain three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Each section houses health-promoting nutrients.

  • The bran is the fibre-rich outer layer (B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants and phytochemicals).
  • The germ is the core of the seed where growth occurs; it is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
  • The endosperm is the interior layer that holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.

These components have various effects on our bodies. Bran and fibre slow the breakdown of starch into glucose, the fibre helps lower cholesterol as well as move waste through the digestive tract and phytochemicals may protect against some cancers. A growing body of research shows that choosing whole grains and other less-processed, higher-quality sources of carbohydrates, and cutting back on refined grains, improves our health and longevity – but you knew that already.

Curated Resources


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