For over ten years now, I have been teaching the same recipes to groups of ten students who want to learn the basics of sourdough. After a decade, technology has changed – and so have people’s expectations. With new COVID rules and a cultural shift towards learning online, it is certainly time for a change. The diploma is a combined course, with both an online programme and a week of lectures and demonstrations at the school here in Northamptonshire.
I have reworked the diploma to teach a different classic sourdough formula and cake to suit the season, reduced the class size to eight and introduced a pre-course syllabus to allow everyone to arrive at the course with a similar base level of knowledge.
All courses are centred around teaching according to our seven core principles to nourish the gut microbiome and the mind. All courses are taught in compliance with our COVID-19 Health & Safety Procedures policy.
Is the diploma suitable for beginners?
Although the diploma is suitable for beginners, you will get far more from it if you have some sourdough making experience before attending, which is why we send you a pre-course syllabus to complete before you start.
Why is each course slightly different?
Each diploma follows the same syllabus, but the class will focus on one of our classic sourdough breads and one cake formula from our bestselling books, and these will vary according to the season.
It is important to understand that our teaching style has also changed in order to comply with best working practices due to COVID and the need to socially distance. We will be demonstrating sourdough and working with one mixer. I will make larger batches of dough, rather than each of our students individually making bread. This enables us to limit standing next to each other, and means that we can use the space in the School in way that ensures students can stay socially distanced.
To be very clear, individuals will not be making their bread at the School. You do this at home as part of the online programme.
While the teaching will centre on every aspect of sourdough, there will still be time to savour your bread, to relax, to breathe deeply and just lose yourself in long, slow fermentation and the beauty of our rural Northamptonshire setting. We will try to incorporate a walk into each day’s schedule, weather permitting.
What can you expect to learn on the Sourdough School Diploma course?
This is about far more than learning to make sourdough; this is about you and your bread. You will learn to make beautiful sourdough, but you’ll also learn about yourself and the composition of your gut microbiome, and how your diet affects both your physical and mental wellbeing. It is not just a one-week course, but a full programme, and we support it on the Sourdough Club forum.
You will learn:
- about prebiotics, probiotics and fermentation techniques;
- why sourdough is particularly nutritious and digestible;
- how to bake a beautiful, open-crumb, nourishing sourdough loaf;
- how to refresh and maintain a starter;
- about the versatility and purpose of different leavens;
- how to mill and create your own Botanical Blends so you can make your own flour;
- all about mixing and kneading techniques;
- how to recognise the point at which the bread is proved; and
- how to find your own baking rhythm and plan your baking schedule.
You will be left with a full understanding of each step of the process, including:
- flavour – we demystify how to control the sourness of your sourdough;
- the role of salt and how this affects the rise;
- how water and various hydration levels affect your bread; and
- the impact your chosen flour has on the finished bread.
Please note that the teaching involves a combination of hands-on baking at home and demonstrations at the School, during which we will slow things down and will look at the details that really make the difference.
You will be tested in a written paper in ENGLISH at the end of the course. This is to ensure that you have understood all the principles of sourdough before the diploma is awarded. We will mark it together in a group exercise as a means of reinforcing the key principles of making great sourdough.
– PROGRAMME DETAILS –
- The Sourdough Diploma takes your knowledge and understanding of sourdough to another level.
- 3-month pre-diploma syllabus
- 1 week attending the School
- a 12-month Learning support programme with a 12-month Sourdough Club Membership (RRP £199)
- our starter in an exclusive ceramic jar and a set of sourdough record cards ( RRP £39.99)
- a personalised signed The Sourdough School book
- a personalised embossed certificate
The aim is to challenge you to think about bread differently. Sourdough is the oldest way of making bread and uses naturally occurring wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. The process of baking sourdough is sensuous and nurtures both mind and body. It requires a thoughtful and spiritual approach. Artistic and scientific, what Vanessa teaches is a combination of passion, patience, dedication and craftsmanship. It is about connection, using hands, touch, smell, taste, sight, heat and mind. It is about wellness, but it is also about making sourdough work for you in real life, so you continue to bake at home.
- There is the opportunity to walk, cycle, explore the local area, visit the local pubs, or pop to the local farmers’ market, cheesemongers and bakery.
- During the week, you will have the option to visit Vanessa’s family vineyard in your free time – just a five-minute drive from the school.
- The course’s aim is to give you the confidence and know-how to bake your own homemade, artisan, sourdough loaves.
- It will be a fun week, full of information, demonstrations and baking.
- All participants will receive a certificate of attendance.
- Before the course, a timetable will be sent to you.
- The syllabus is taught in conjunction with Vanessa’s book The Sourdough School.
What is not included:
Students are responsible for:
- your own travel arrangements, including transport to and from the classes;
- your own accommodation (there is local accommodation listed below that is one mile away); and
- your own breakfast and evening meals.
We recommend that you arrange travel insurance.
What do you need to bring?
- You will only need to bring a few essentials: your favourite apron; a large basket to take your bread home; 3 x 200g Tupperware containers/glass jars with lids to take jam, cultured butter and pickles home (please ensure they are sterile and odourless); and a small plastic bottle (an empty water bottle is good) to take any syrups or kefir home. International students, please allow space in your luggage to take these items back with you. You might like to bring indoor shoes for the School. Please also bring a pair of trainers or shoes to walk in, something warm to wear and a flask – we will fill it with hot tea. If you want to cycle, please bring something appropriate to wear – the route is partly tarmac and follows a well-used track, but it can be muddy in places.
- Can I do a gut microbiome test?
If you would like to test your own gut microbiome at any point before or after the course, you can do so here.
What happens next?
Once payment is made and you have applied to attend, the team will consider your application. When you have been accepted, an email will be sent to you confirming your place on the course and you will be sent the pre-course syllabus to complete. If Vanessa has any concerns, she will be in touch with you.
Details of local transport, accommodation, shopping, walks and all attendee information can be found here.
Any other questions? Just send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll get back to you.
- Students must be over 18 years old to attend.
We look forward to welcoming you to the course