Sourdough Workshop Retreat application
“It is beyond bread’
This workshop is centred around the core of Vanessa’s PhD research. It is using the most up to date understanding of how food and nutrition can affect mental health.
There are times when every bite counts. Our focus this week is on creating a bread that is as nutritious as possible.
Your gut and your brain are in constant communication. They are connected by an information superhighway highway known as the vagus nerve. Our body relies on our brains for all the operating instructions.
This information travels both ways. Our gut microbiome is known as ‘the second brain,’ and the number of nerves in our gut even outnumbers those found in the spinal cord. Our guts actually act semi-independently of the brain through a variety of reflex circuits that govern its movement, secretions and the vessel dilation required for the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.
The Feel-Good Hormone
You can think of the nerve cells in the gut and neurons as the hardware, and the neurotransmitters as the software of this supercomputer. There is increasing evidence that what we eat and the levels of fibre in our diet influence levels of what are termed as psychobiotics. These bacteria are the positive microbes that are involved with the production of the chemicals that may help to regulate mood. Different neurotransmitters have different effects on downstream neurons; one example of this is the most well-known of all neurotransmitters is called serotonin. There are several studies that suggest our gut bacteria can both, directly and indirectly, influence serotonin levels.
What is Serotonin?
Often called the ‘feel- good hormone,’ serotonin acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter in our body. Low mood, depression, anxiety, and even autism are associated with altered serotonin levels. Serotonin is thought to govern our feelings of wellbeing, contentment, satiety, anxiety, and fear throughout the nervous system and Serotonin, is produced by the enterochromaffin (EC) cells lining the digestive tract.
Given that our gut is the primary site of 95% of serotonin production, the ability of gut-derived serotonin to impact mental wellbeing is a very relevant; as is the role that gut bacteria play in regulating production. In laboratory studies, certain gut bacteria have been shown to produce their own serotonin. In this workshop we are exploring to increase the prebiotic fibre that feeds the positive bacteria and using studies on increased bioavailability of fibre through fermentation. We are also exploring the routine of baking as a therapeutic tool, and how we eat bread to improve mood.
This workshop will suit people who are working in the mental health sector such as psychiatrists, occupational health practitioners, mental health nurses, social workers, psychologists, councillors and community support workers. If you are wondering if this is a relevant course for you, please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss this further.
What to expect
You will be working to a timetable, using research from our extensive database to create and developing recipes alongside our founder Vanessa Kimbell and her team for the week.
Over the week we will develop:
- A sourdough bread loaf formula
- A probiotic accompaniment such as cultured butter
- A symbiotic recipe such as a soup or houmous to be eating with the bread
- A non-bread bake, such as scones, a pie, a cake or pudding.
- Vegetable or fruit probiotic pickles such as Kimchi or sauerkraut
- A fruit compote
Each development week has a specific focus and you will:
- Work closely with Vanessa over the week, gaining a deep insight into her passion for sourdough and absorbing her extensive bread and guts knowledge.
- Develop two new Sourdough bread recipes (formulas).
- Create a blend of grains to mill fresh flour as the base for each recipe.
- Learn from Vanessa how to optimise gut health by creating live foods – such as pickles, compotes, and cultured butter; so you will be fermenting a live (probiotic) accompaniment using seasonal produce, fresh from our organic gardens or from the farmers market.
- Visit a market and/or gardens.
- Have full access to our extensive collection of the most up-to-date research on the gut microbiome.
- Use any of the 400+ books the sourdough library.
- Browse over 1000 items from our bread history book collection (dating as far back the 16th century).
- Enjoy being part of the collaborations with the scientists and food producers that work alongside the school.
- Photograph and document each recipe and summarise the research papers, which are selected the base of the recipe.
- Share the recipes, inspiration and photography with the other Sourdough Club
- Take one of Vanessa’s renowned sourdough starters from the collection.
- Have the chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside each morning and enjoy some fresh air each day.
- Embark on a unique and innovative voyage into the world of bread and guts, learning how to make changes to your own diet and lifestyle for the better.
- Make some strong bread-loving friendships that will last you a lifetime.
- You will be given a 12-month GOLD access pass to the sourdough club ( RRP £199)
What is a workshop retreat?
The workshops are a unique opportunity to join Vanessa and a small tutorial group where you will research, create and develop a sourdough bread. You’ll have access to all of Vanessa’s years of research and her extensive bread library. Unlike the diploma’s this is a collaborative approach and requires you to have a basic understanding of sourdough. We are developing formulas together, to share.
We’ll be creating a blend of grains, working with wholegrain heritage grains, and sprouted grain flours, and milling these grains to make fresh flour with lower gluten and optimally fermenting them to reduce gluten load and increase the nutrients. We’ll use grains such as barley or rye and poppy seeds, sunflower seeds. pumpkins, or beetroot. We’ll be creating the symbiotic accompaniments to eat with the bread such as pickles, ferments, cultured butter or cheese. It is about slowing down and applying the knowledge from the studies. It is time to completely immerse yourself in a world of sourdough, fermentation and the gut microbiome. During this week you’ll learn that the way we grow grain, fermentation, what we eat with our bread and how we eat our bread, impacts on both our physical and mental health. You’ll become connected to the incredible microbial world we live in.
Become Part of The School
It’s about making a difference. Being part of the School is about becoming part of a movement. At our core, we believe that translating research and applying the knowledge to recipes means that people can bake and eat together. This is at the heart of what Vanessa calls a “beautiful disruption, that encourages people all around the world to connect to the soil, the farmer and the miller, and to bake bread that nourishes.” It is the best way to change the paradigm of bread.
Limited spaces – Please read carefully
Whilst we endeavour to accommodate everyone who applies for a place on a workshop, spaces are limited and there are instances when we feel that a particular workshop is not suitable for you. Each application is reviewed on booking and we will be in touch within a few days to let you know if your application has been successful. Please read our terms and conditions before booking.
Getting the most out of your week
- You will need to bring a laptop or tablet you can work on and you will need to be able to use Microsoft Word to access templates to write up our findings and recipes.
- All attendees are given membership to the Sourdough Club prior to attending the school. This gives you access to extensive online video tutorials. The workshops are collaborative and focused on research and development, therefore 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. (The beginners’ loaf is also the classic 20% retarded loaf on page 114 of the sourdough school book.) This means you are familiar with the basics, including sourdough starter refreshment, baking terms, and basic techniques. You are asked to email us a photo of this sourdough bread, or equivalent at least 6 weeks before the workshop starts.
- We highly recommend that students take a gut microbial test before attending a course as this will give you a unique insight into your own microbiome, and will make the week more relevant to you personally.
- Please take time to look at the local area. The School is a situated an hour north of London in Vanessa’s home, a Victorian coach house, set in 2/3 of an acre of organic gardens. There are some lovely places to visit including Princess Diana’s ancestral home. You can book transport and accommodation as soon as you place in confirmed and browse local accommodation and transportation information here.