Vanessa Kimbell, the lady-baker that unified science and sourdough

I would like to start by saying that the interview that I’m going to share with you today has made me change the way I look at sourdough very deeply. I knew it was a very good craft but what I’ve learnt through this chat with Vanessa is out of this world. I am so grateful I’ve been introduced to her… I hope you can make the best out of it, and learn more and more from her own content on her website.

The special guest of today is a passionate lady baker from England. To the people who follow the world of Sourdough, she is the Goddess, SHE IS A LEGACY. 

She is an award-winning author and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4 Food Programme.  She is known, especially for the enormous amount of research related to the connection between Sourdough fermentation and guts microbial health. A great inspiration to all of those who love baking.  Within the walls of her “Sourdough School” in Northampton, she taught thousands of students from all over the world how the Sourdough can be part of a healthy lifestyle and support our daily healthy habits.

Vanessa in my eyes is “The mother”, she is the person you want to have around to explain to you everything you need to know about the sourdough world. She is a storyteller and the way she shares with us her wisdom is so gracious and easy to grasp that is surprisingly warming. Her greatest gift, in my opinion, is her voice, it is soothing, melodic, and it feels like is cuddling you with every word.

The love and effort that she has put into the research of the “whys” sourdough is good for us, has been a long journey for her, and definitely helped the rest of the world understand more about the health benefits that this craft can bring into our households.

She has been able to make easy for the general audience to understand a language (the scientific language of gut microbiome research) hard to understand for most of us.

Here you can listen to the whole interview

Joe: How long have you been baking for?

 Vanessa: Since I can remember. But the very first time I baked sourdough I was 11 years old

Joe: How have you started baking? 

 Vanessa: I grew up in South West France, in a small village in the Dordogne. I fell in love with the bread, even before I knew its name.

Joe: Has anybody made sparkle this passion within you? 

 Vanessa: There are a few people that have inspired me. My mother, Richard Hart & Dan Lepard.

Joe: What’s the bread that you love baking the most? 

 Vanessa: My Diversity Breads

Joe: Why is this the best bread?

   Vanessa: It’s so good. In every way. The flavours are amazing, the texture is so good. Soft voluptuous, wheaten, perfumed and moist, with the most incredible dark sweet complex crust. It’s also good from a nutritional point of view. Made with our own botanical blends we mill the flour fresh, with our base meadow blends, which have been developed specifically to optimise the nutrients needed to nourish the gut microbiome, which is central to maintaining both physical and mental health. It is good in every way.

Joe: What’s the second-best good that you love the most?

   Vanessa: Sharing, bread & knowledge. I love the connections we make, the friendships and the way that baking linked us to the soil, the biosphere, to the farmers the millers, the people who we love to bake for and to the people who make the food and drink we enjoy with our bread.

Joe: What do you think you are the best at baking? 

 Vanessa: I don’t actually think anyone is best at baking. I believe that each person bakes the best loaf they can. I have goods days and bad days like anyone. Perhaps I am best at supporting, communicating and encouraging to others to bake. Maybe that is a better way to look at my work.

Joe: When do you usually bake? 

 Vanessa: Whenever I can. My favourite date is a Friday because if I overnight ferment the dough I bake first thing Saturday and the house is filled the smell of fresh bread on a Saturday morning. It is a wonderful start to the weekend.

Joe: If you have a busy lifestyle, like yours, how do you organize your schedule to bake?

   Vanessa: I use one of my schedules – It’s free to all and available on the website. Mostly I work backwards fr the time I want to finish baking.

Joe: How often do you usually bake? 

 Vanessa: 2-4 times a week.

Joe: if you’d have to give one tip to our audience, what would you share that would change their baking journey forever? 

 Vanessa: Stop trying to make “the perfect loaf.” There is no such thing. Celebrate each bake, learn from it, each time is a lesson and it is the process of learning that is the joy, beeches the end result is always going be better than anything you could buy wrapped in plastic.

Joe: What do you wish you knew before starting baking, that you had discovered only along the way?

 Vanessa: I don’t ever remember not baking. Perhaps I would have told myself earlier on to work harder at school in my science modules. It is useful to be able to understand the fermentation process itself because that is what you are doing. You are fermenting flour and water, and maybe looking at it from this perspective might have meant a little less frustration in the very early days when I started trying to make single loaves at home – and to buy a decent thermometer.

Joe: What’s the best book you’d suggest to our audience to read? 

 Vanessa: Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman and the Handmade loaf by Dan Lepard

Joe: Have you written any book so far?

 Vanessa: The Sourdough School is my 3rd book & I am currently writing the 4th book on Sourdough.

Joe: What’s the main reason you wrote a book?

 Vanessa: No one had the answers about why sourdough is more easily digestible. There were so many people who needed to understand, not just how to make the bread, but why to make it. I needed to share my knowledge.

Joe: If you have any additional material or resources that you have the rights to share please do so below.

 Vanessa: You can use my research database www.sourdough.co.uk/research this has over 300 studies in that I used as references to write both the last book and the one I am writing now

Joe: What’s the best address you would like the audience to contact you for business purposes? 

 Vanessa: www.sourdough.co.uk

Make sure you follow her on her social network. Instagram social network names @SourdoughClub & @SourdoughSchool & @Vanessakimbell

Thank you so much to Vanessa for her time dedicated to giving us this amazing work that she has been doing. With Love Giuseppe

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