Vanessa Kimbell is a baker, sourdough specialist, and the dough-covered hands behind The Sourdough School in Northamptonshire. Her fascination with fermented foods and naturally leavened bread first began 25 years ago, after she found herself unable to eat wheat, but surprisingly still able to digest sourdough.

Her extensive research and findings over the past thirty years have been pivotal in understanding the link between microbial health and bread fermentation.

As part of our Time to Make series, Vanessa guides us through her simple 5 day sourdough starter recipe. You just need two ingredients to get started: organic, stoneground wholegrain flour and tap water.


300-400g stoneground wholegrain flour

100g warm water


2 x 300ml jam jars with loose fitting lids (be sure they are clean)

A spoon

A measuring jug

A thermometer



To start, simply mix together 100g of organic, stoneground wholegrain flour with 100g of warm water (roughly 28C) in a large, clean jar.

Whisk the mixture well; this adds oxygen, which yeast likes. Cover with a loose lid. Allow this mixture to sit in a warm place (roughly 22C) for 1224 hours. Between the 12 and 24-hour mark you may see some bubbles.


At 8am, refresh your starter by discarding 100g of the mixture and replacing it with 50g stoneground wholegrain flour and 50g warm water at 28C. Stir vigorously, cover, and wait another 12 hours.

At 8pm, repeat this process.


From now on, you will need to repeat the refreshment twice a day.

DAY 4-5

By day 4 you should have a microbially active starter, and you will see activity quickly, probably after about 3 or 4 days. When ready, the sourdough starter should be beautifully bubbly and have enough yeasts and bacteria to be active enough to bake with.


The starter is ready when it doubles in size, about 5 hours after feeding. It is now time to stop the creation process and move on to maintaining your starter.


Once your starter is ready to bake with it is important that you can move your timings on to a maintenance schedule. This allows you to hold the starter in the fridge between bakes for a week or so at time, and then you can rebuild the microbial numbers before you are ready to bake. This system fits in to a domestic bakers way of baking and minimises the number of times you need to refresh your starter to bake. You can see my video for a detailed step by step refreshment process.


You can also use up the discard from the creation process in pancakes or waffles if you want, so having a spare jar is useful as you can store this discard for up to week in the fridge to use up!

Happy fermenting!

Vanessa uses the Leach Studio Mixing Bowls and a hand chiselled spoon by Takahashi McGil. She wears the Linen Tie Back Apron in Slate. For more information and advice from Vanessa on all things sourdough, you can visit The Sourdough School.

Vanessa's Sourdough Club are offering a discounted membership to those who truly need it right now, providing access to endless research, recipes and masterclasses in sourdough. If you are in the NHS or health sector, over 70, a full time student, working in hospitality or temporarily out of work, you can apply here.

We hope you enjoy this little guide on how to make a sourdough starter. If you do get one going, please share it on Instagram using the #TOASTtimetomake. We would love to see them.

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