Barm bread is an ancient Gaelic technique relying on beer barm–or the yeast sediment floating on the surface of fermenting beer–as a starter. Here we borrow from that technique, incorporating the last bit of your favorite 750mL farmhouse saison (sediment included!) to boost dough vitality and enhance flavor. Use this mix for whichever style of bread suits your resources and schedule: yeasted or naturally leavened, or a spin on a classic Soda Bread.
Either recipe yields 2 loaves about 1# ea
The following instructions are guidelines. Bread dough’s activity is dependent on several variables: Room temperature & humidity, water mineral content, time, and your schedule. If your space is cold, add more proofing time, for example. Then, learn from your successes and near-successes to make adjustments for the next batch.
Barm Bread Instructions
Takes about 24 hours.
Day 1, Evening – Combine the following ingredients together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. If using sourdough starter leave out overnight, covered. If using bakers yeast, let proof until bubbly, then refrigerate overnight, covered.
- 750mL Malthouse Ale (last 1/6 bottle or ~125 g)
- Beer Bread Mix (3/4 cup or ~60 g)
- Sourdough Starter (3 tbsp or ~50 g) or Bakers Yeast (1/2 tsp or ~2 g)
Day 2, Morning – Form one large dough by combining the following ingredients and barm from Day 1. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes, then use wet hands or a rubber scraper to fold the dough over itself a few times until it smooths out. Cover and proof for 30 minutes, then gently stretch and fold the dough over itself once from each side. Repeat after 30 and 60 minutes. Cover and continue proofing until dough has doubled its original size, for a total of 2-3 hours of proofing. Refrigerate overnight.
- Barm (all but 3 tbsp or ~175 g)
- Water (1 1/2 cups or ~380 g)
- Beer Bread Mix (4 1/2 c or ~585 g)
- Salt (2 tsp or ~12g)
- Optional: cooked pale rye malt or pale spelt malt (3/4 cup or ~125 g)
Divide dough from Day 2 Morning in half, gently form into balls and place in proofing baskets or bowls lined with flour-dusted cloth towels, seam side-up, or greased loaf pans seam side-down. Proof for 1-2hrs. Preheat oven to 500F. If using cast-iron skillets to bake, load skillets into the oven at this time. When the oven is hot, carefully turn dough out from bowl or basket into the hot skillet and cover with a lid, or load loaf pans directly into the oven. Optional: With a sharp knife, quickly score the length of the dough before loading. Reduce oven to 450F and bake the bread for about 30 minutes lid-on, 15-20 minutes lid-off. For pan loaves, start at 450 and reduce heat as needed to bake through without over-browning the crust. When the crust is golden brown test the centers with a sharp knife, or use a thermometer to check that it’s reached 200F. Remove from oven, and enjoy!
Quick bread method: If you don’t have a starter or yeast, or you just can’t wait, make the following adjustments to yield a classic Soda Bread, adapted from British culinary royalty Fergus Henderson’s own recipe:
Soda Bread Instructions
Takes about 1 hr 30 min.
- Beer Bread Mix (1 bag or ~675 g)
- Baking soda (10 g)
- 750mL Malthouse Ale (1/2 bottle or ~350 g)
- Buttermilk or yogurt (335 g)
- Optional: Sugar (1.5 tbsp or ~15 g)
Preheat oven to 400F. Mix all ingredients together, rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in half, roll into balls and place on a floured tray or directly to a loaf pan or cast iron skillet. Rest for 10 more minutes. Lightly dust with flour and cut a cross in the top about 4cm long and 1cm deep. Transfer to loaf pan or skillet (if using tray or proofing basket), then load into hot oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown. Test center with a sharp knife, or use a thermometer to check that it’s reached 200F. Remove from oven, and enjoy!