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.

Barm Bread Baking Instructions:

Package contents makes 2 loaves about 1lb each.

Day 1, Evening: Barm

Mix ingredients together. If using sourdough starter leave out overnight, covered. If using baker’s yeast, let proof until bubbly, about 2 hours, then refrigerate overnight, covered.

Day 2, Morning: Dough

  • Barm (all)
  • Water (1 1/2 cups or ~380 g)
  • Beer Bread Mix (remainder)
  • Salt (2 tsp or ~12g)

Mix: Combine the above ingredients with the barm from Day 1. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover and rest for 10 minutes, then roughly knead using what is often called the “slap and fold” method (check out The Perfect Loaf’s tutorial) using wet hands. Repeat until the consistency of the dough is even and it begins to pull away from the bowl and your hand(s) with minimal sticking. If using a mixer, combine using a dough hook on low speed just until it forms a smooth ball.

Cover and proof for 30 minutes, then gently pull the dough from one side to stretch and fold 2/3 of the way over the dough package and repeat from each side. Repeat after 30 and again after 60 additional minutes. If baking that day, proceed to pre-shape. If baking next day, refrigerate overnight.

Pre-shape: Divide the dough in half and turn upside-down onto a lightly floured surface. Gently tuck the four corners of the dough into the top-center, then pick up the dough, flip over, and push the seam you’ve just made up and into the ball to create minimal tension. Place back down, seam side-down, onto your work surface. Cover and rest 30 min.

Shape: Line 2 bowls or baskets with flour- or bran-dusted cloths. Flip your doughs over and repeat the pre-shape method. This time, with the seam side-down, cup the base of each dough ball with your hands and gently pull it towards you. Rotate and repeat 1-2 more times to create dough tension. Place in bowls  or baskets seam side-up. Proof for 30-60 min, depending on the room temperature and dough activity. The dough is ready to bake when you press a wet finger into it and it takes several seconds to spring back.

Bake: Preheat oven to 500F. Load 2 cast-iron pans or dutch ovens into the oven. When the oven is hot, pull the pans out, dust with bran or flour, and carefully flip the doughs out from the bowls and into the pans. With a sharp knife, score an X across the top of the dough about 1/4″ deep and 4″ wide. Cover with lids or similar-sized pans and and load back into the oven. Reduce oven to 450F and bake the bread for about 25 minutes lid-on, then 15-20 minutes lid-off. When the crust is deep golden brown and/or the loaves reach an internal temperature of 200F, remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack. Wait at least 2 hours before slicing.

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 Baking Instructions:

Package contents make 2 loaves about 1lb each. Takes about 1.5 hours.

  • Beer Bread Mix (all)
  • Baking soda (.75 tsp or ~10 g)
  • 750mL Malthouse Ale (1/2 bottle or ~350 g)
  • Buttermilk or yogurt (1.5 cups or ~335 g)
  • Optional: Sugar (1.5 tbsp or ~15 g)

Preheat oven to 500F. Mix ingredients together, rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in half, roll into balls and place on a floured tray or directly into greased loaf pans or cast iron pans. Rest for 20 more minutes. Lightly dust with flour and score an X across the top of the dough about 1/4″ deep and 4″ wide. Load into hot oven, reduce heat to 450 F and bake for about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 F and continue baking about 10-15 minutes. When the crust is deep golden brown and/or it reaches an internal temperature of 200F, remove from the oven, and transfer the loaves to a rack. Wait at least 1 hour before slicing.

See product nutrition label for ingredients.