Saturday, January 21, 2012

Barm Bread, part II

This bread making thing isn't as easy as I had originally thought. The barm starter took a full three days before it was ready and the bread dough took another day and a half to fully rise. Then there was all the time spent turning the dough over and kneading it, according to some crazy schedule that I won't be doing again. I had read that barm bread is the most difficult of the sourdough type breads to make "well" and I can see why. Just like in brewing, beer yeast can be temperamental stuff! Regardless, after a full week of tending to my barm and the dough, I finally got around to baking the bread yesterday morning.

The recipe for the dough was simple enough; 500g bread flour, 250g water, 10g salt, and 150g barm. However, the folding schedule was very intensive, turning the bread over at the 10min, 20min, 30min, 1hr, 2hr, 3hr, 5hr marks. After that, form the dough into loaves and let it rest for an additional 4-6 hours for the final rise. Bake the bread for 20 minutes at 425F with steam and then another 30 minutes without. Final internal temp of my bread was 210F.

And the result? Not bad! While there were definite mistakes on my part, the bread did bake up nicely and it is very flavorful. The crust in particular turned out well, as it is dark and chewy without being too heavy. The flavor of the bread is unlike any thing I have had before. The crumb has a wonderfully fragrant, sweet aroma and it reminds me of a dopplebock or something similar. The flavor of the bread is very nice too, as it has a sweet-malty beer flavor and finishes with the slightest bit of hop bitterness. At first the bitterness surprised me, but it adds some nice character to the bread. If there ever was a "beer bread" this is definitely it. If you can imagine a crusty, sweet roll with beer flavor, it would probably be similar. The bread tastes especially nice toasted with butter and I imagine it would pair very well with a sharp cheddar in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Overall, I am happy with my first attempt at barm bread (bread baking too), though there are definite things to improve upon. Next time, I'll start with a thinner and wetter yeast starter/dough and give it more time to rise. I over worked the dough during the course of the 'folding' steps and I would probably do better to just fold the dough three or four times instead of the seven the recipe had me do it. Also, I need to let the final dough rise for the full 5-6 hours, as I pretty much skipped this step and the bread turned out a bit too dense for what it should be. These breads are known to be extremely light and airy and mine is nothing like that. Lastly, while the texture of my bread didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, the flavor is very nice and I'll be sure to make this stuff again. I think a pumpernickel - stout barm bread would be really tasty.


  1. I've not tried a barm bread yet but I love to bake regular loaves mixing a fruit and herb into it, date and rosemary works really well, as does cranberry and thyme.

    1. Date and rosemary sounds wonderful. Got to try that sometime.

  2. If you go to you tube and look up Jas Townsend and son you will find some very fine 18th century bread recipes


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