The Partisan Baker’s Sourdough Primer

My friend Mick Hartley bakes bread at home, but unlike me he works really hard at it and for several days and nights a week transforms his home into a microbakery, taking orders and selling wonderful loaves to his customers. Somewhere along the way he has found the time to work on his books and I’ve just bought a copy of the first of these, which is called Bethesdabasics.  Illustrated beautifully by Wendy Shea and written in a clear and succinct manner this book deals with the business of making sourdough in a way that strips away much of the anxiety and worries that the aspiring sourdough baker is prone to.

Cheers Mick!

Next time I offer to show a friend how to get started with the sourdough, this will be an excellent book to have on hand. I am well aware that there are many fine baking books around and more seem to come out all the time, but there is much to treasure in this book and I like the way Mick’s calm and unfussy approach comes through in the writing. You are in safe hands with the Partisan Baker.


When I first started baking Mick used to post on Dan Lepard’s forum and he gave me loads of advice which has stood me and many others in good stead. Most memorably when I was dithering around and getting obsessed with different types of flour and trying to make baguettes, he told me not to worry and just make the bread with what I had on the shelf. I think the hardest thing when you start out is figuring out what you need to worry about and what you don’t and I reckon if you follow along with Mick’s lessons here you will have just the right amount of information to get on track to great bread and you will get the recipe for some ‘totally awesome’ flatbreads amongst many others.

12 thoughts on “The Partisan Baker’s Sourdough Primer

  1. heidi

    Sounds like a good read- complete with good advice and the benefit of good bread. And that is ALL good!
    I agree with him in that it is best to get baking- using what you have and then finding out what is the best to continue on with. I use the right flours when I have them- and AP or plain flour when I don’t.
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. drfugawe

    OK, but only because you have such a persuasive way about you – actually, I’ve already ordered my copy, mostly because Mick is among the few of us who has actually given wings to his dreams and passion. So … why not?

  3. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Just had a look at his blog. The book sounds great. I take my hat off to anyone who has the passion to really get to know the beloved sourdough. Hopefully he will get a 3rd, 4th + reprint for his book.
    Thanks for the heads up Joanna.

  4. Jeannette

    I have just ordered the book, looking forward to receiving it very soon. I am hoping it will give me more confidence with my sourdough, it is always good but sometimes I wonder how it will turn out.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I hope so too! Gosh I didn’t realise I was so persuasive… but Mick is always happy to answer questions about baking if you leave a message on his blog. He’s put a new secction on called Ask yer uncle, so if there’s anything you don’t understand in his book, tell him about it!

      ..You know I always wonder how mine will turn out as well – I empathise with that feeling – I mixed a dough up late the other night, put it straight in the fridge and then spent the next day trying to persuade it to rise, it did sort of reluctantly, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be..I sort of made it up as I went along and that doesn’t always work…

  5. Pingback: Mick’s 5-Seed and Spelt Sourdough | Zeb Bakes

  6. azelias kitchen

    you’re flipping right about obsessing with sourdough…with me it was the “holes” til you made sense and pointed out the impracticalities of it…and it’s a fad.

    Just reading on someone’s blog yesterday about the different pre-ferments using unusual flours…there’s just too much information on the net to be honest and you can get yourself into a bother about it…especially reading some baker’s analysis in great detail of what chemically happens to your sourdough.

    baking a loaf is quite simple…says she who likes to know ‘why’ and gets a bee in her bonnet!

    as you know I’ve already bought Mick’s book.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I think starting out from scratch is a bit anxious making to say the least. Understandably most people want to make their very own sourdough from scratch and then get frustrated when it maybe takes a bit longer than they expect. I can understand that. I have sent starter (dried) to a couple of people and then they have made their own too , I think keeping mine as a sort of insurance policy which is great. It gives you a real sense of satisfaction if you manage to get your own up and running. I have used various people’s starters and I still come back to my own one as it is familiar.

      My own experience is that the starter gets more stable over time, in the first couple of months it is more likely to become unbalanced or taken over by some undesirable organism or other. I think they like to be fed the same food for stability. I have read about people making starters from all sorts of things and I am not sure what the active gas making components in those starters is, whether it is yeasts or lactobacteria… If it is just the lactobacteria it will be much more unstable, rice I’ve heard is not very stable as a starter medium. Deborah Wink is very good on the Fresh Loaf on the science/biology side of it, but quite heavy going to read if you are not a scientist. :D

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