Dan Lepard’s Barm Bread


barm bread

barm bread first taken out of the oven, no crack on the crust

It hasn’t a flake of snow falling since I stepped foot on the mountain terrain almost 2 weeks ago.  I am still recuperating from the recent surgery (yes, it took place here in the mountains) and am getting better everyday.  Doc said my good health has greatly contributed to the incredibly fast healing even though my sleep has been sporadic, my motions have been tortoise-ly slow, my thinking has been cloudy at times, and my weight has kept falling no matter how much high-calorie foods I’ve voraciously consumed with deliberate intention.

I had to passed up invitations from friends to go up to ski resorts even if I really needed some cool air to cheer me up, really.  What good does it do to me to just sit around reading lounging mingling with ski peoples up in the mountains’ tops; it would also be torturous seeing them cheer up to an après-ski (a drink); besides, my eyes’ condition is nowhere desirable to bright light reflected from pure white snow anyway.

Then it has been so bloody warm a weather be at 4500 feet, 5000 feet, or 6900 feet.  Wait a minute, isn’t it a fact that the higher you go up the closer you are to the sun so it ain’t going to get any cooler at above 7000 feet;  do I know of what I am talking about?  I guess not.  But I do know that I have been dreaming of a cool & sweating beer.  Soon enough though, after tomorrow’s last dosage of antibiotics and steroid drugs, I’ll be allowed to taste some alcohol.  Think I’ll grab an amber poured into a well-chilled glass,  roll it over on my cheek then savory it slowly sip by sip.

Being so drugged up for the first time in my  life, I have been drifting in and out of surreal state and reality, of blissful confusion, dreaming about B.  That is for beer, bread, oh barm and no doubt  B, my friend who just had a major –I mean really really major– surgery at the beginning of last week –yikes, to get his spine remodeled!  –if I can say something like that–.

B is in intense therapy recuperating well as I finally heard from him and his jolly laughter which by the way love like.  Get well soon B and we’ll together create some bread up in the high mountains, that much I can promise.  In light of B thinking I am going to dedicate this post of barm bread, a recipe in The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard, that I created last October, to B.

Bear with me here as I am far away from home without my bread notes nor picture of a bubbly fermented glistening golden barm or the well-inflating risen loaf to show it to you so follow me closely (my memory has served me well so far.)

Synopsis: First I create a “barm”, then mix the dough by hand, followed by a very Lepard-style folding schedule, then the second rise, and finally a bake.  It could not be simpler and you’ll have fun making this bread.

For the barm:

I recommend measuring out everything before proceeding:

250 g Chimay ale (or other condition-bottled beer)

50 g strong bread flour (I used Giusto’s)

4 tsp active white sourdough starter at 80% (I used 5 tsp levain of 100% hydration)

I pour some Chimay into a glass for a drink and measure out what left at the bottle’s bottom where most of the “live” yeast got collected, to create the barm.

Heat the beer to 165° F then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to 68° F.   Add the flour, mix vigorously with a wire whisk.  The barm seems to be firm at first but will become quite liquid after being mixed well.  Add the levain and mix again.  Cover and let it ferment at room temperature until it is bubbly.  Do this overnight so you can see its activity the next day in the day time.  It might take anywhere from 12 hours to 30 hours.  Mine was quite ready after only 14 hours but I did not know what to expect of an active barm which is so different than a wheat levain,  so I let it go for another hour to make sure.

The active barm can be stored in the fridge and it’s good to bake bread within a week.  This barm formula is good for 2 bakes which I did to use up all the barm.  If you know me, I would not let any levain goes to waste, excess or not, let alone this is a barm created with a pricey Chimay ale.

Mixing the final dough takes some time of hand-on activity; schedule it so that you have the time to enjoy the demanding folding.

Final Dough:

150 g active barm

250 g water at room temperature (70° F – 72° F)

500 g strong bread flour

10 g salt

Mix everything together and do the folding each time at the following time points:

10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 5 hours.

After 5 hours, knead it briefly and let it rest for 15 – 20 minutes, then shape it into 2 small boules, proof the shaped dough in banneton or linen-lined basket and allow for the final rise that takes anywhere between 4 to 5 hours.

I fold the dough over itself inside the bowl, using a sturdy spatula while rotating the mixing bowl, a few times.  After 3-hour period the dough develops quite a structure so for the last 2 folds I manually fold it on a counter’s surface.   I shape it into one big boule, Fendu style and proof it in a linen-ed basket, at room temperature.  Mine took a little over 4 hours to be ready.

The bread expands incredibly about 1.5 to 2 times filled with bubbles so handle the final loaf very carefully to not deflate it as my first loaf.  You can also let it rise in the fridge overnight and bake it the next day.  I think that was what I did judging from the bubble-blistered grigne in the picture but I could not recall anything as it was quite a number of months ago and right now my mind is isn’t mine to put it lightly.

Bake the loaf on pre-heated baking tiles at 425° F with burst of steam the first 18-20 minutes, then another 30 minutes without steam.  Turn the oven off and leave the door crack open with the loaf still inside for another 5 minutes or so.  Take the loaf out of the oven and let it cool completely on a cooling rack.

barm bread

barm bread, some ten seconds out of the oven

The loaf got a good oven spring, took on a reddish color crust, looked well-expanded as if swollen, and started cracking within the first minute or so.   Enjoy “musique du pain” and marvel at your creation.

cracks on barm bread

cracks on barm bread

bubbly grigne

blistered grigne

The loaf is very light, the crackly crust shattered when cut into it and the slices taste slightly sour with a subtle hint of ale, more so than bread I created using beer as liquid.  Its airiness caught me by surprise for I’d never taste any bread of such texture before.  And if I remembered it correctly, its taste gets better with time.

barm bread crumb

barm bread crumb

Did not mention but I threw in a few table spoons of TJS’ ground flax-seed and dried blueberry.  Beer/barm, blueberry, bread, aye, go well together and look so pretty.  In fact I might call my loaf blueberry barm bread. ;0)  What do ya think?


blueberry barm bread crumb

I’ll get to go home soon to a real kitchen to actually making bread instead of just dreaming about it, of touching, handling, shaping, smelling, baking and tasting it in my head all day long.  It was all wonderful but I really need to get my hands into some dough, any bread would do even GF ones.  Wait a minutes, GF won’t work since they don’t need no stinking gluten so no dough handling is required.  Is it true?  I’ll have to find out soon.

Okay, I am sending this bread to join the party at  this week’s Yeast Spotting.  Join me there, will you.



12 Responses to “Dan Lepard’s Barm Bread”

  1. Mimi Says:

    Oh my! Mily when you left the comment on my blog I didn’t realize who you were and I thought you must be some extreme athlete person doing amazing bouts of fitness in the mountains and that’s why you were losing weight at a ridiculous rate! (I just got up and haven’t had my coffee yet so who knows what my mind will think up!)

    I’m so sorry you are still couped up recouperating. Please take care of yourself and yes, make lots of cheesy things when you feel better enough to start baking again!

    This bread looks great! Chimay is so tasty. It would have been hard for me to sacrifice it for bread! I tried making a beer bread last week and I miscalculated the baking time. It was raw in the middle! I am going to try it one more time but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll make your bread instead!!

    Take care!

    • Mimi,

      Try it with our local Sierra Nevada Pale Ale —it’s only $1.50 per 10/12 ounces– and stone-ground flour (fresh if you could find). If you really want to push it, find a bottle that’s within “its drinking window” by looking for “consume by” date, marked on the label or capsule… for a complex concoction of taste (& nutrition, if you are into that sort of thing.)

      You and your bf can drink 2/3 of a full-size bottle of Chimay, and feed the remaining 1/3 to the barm. Not all goes to waste though, think of Egyptian Bread (fresh stone-ground only) that is flavored by the noble yeasts of the Trappist Monk. Are you sold yet? ;o)
      That would be my next try on this bread.

      I really need to update the post to reflect my thoughts on bottle-conditioning beer in parallel with fresh stone-ground-grain flour. Come back for that and let me know what you think.

      Thanks, I can’t wait to get back to my normal self and start the bread creating department going. Need to since there is no bread in the freezer I last checked.

      Look at all the comments pouring in for your cheesy concoction [pun intended]; it’s pretty wild. Wow and Yummy (encore une fois.) Congrat!

  2. […] Dan Lepard’s Barm Bread […]

  3. Terrific looking bread! I am impressed!

  4. drfugawe Says:

    I’ve been playing with beer bread recently, and of course migrated to barm bread – I couldn’t find Dan Lepard’s old post on it (I think he took the recipe off his website), and I knew you had one on your blog – Soooo … But I’ve got a question re the initial barm – I used a Sierra Nevada ale -aren’t they nice to do a bottle conditioned ale and price it so reasonably?- and followed your instructions – it’s been 18 hours and the mixture is VERY liquid (which scared me a little since your instructions said it started out “firm” – ???) and separates quickly upon mixing – the brown ale part rises to the top and the flour part sinks to the bottom. Perhaps the best sign is that upon mixing, I notice lots of bubbles in the mixture, but after an hour or two, it really looks quite dead!

    Am I rushing it? Does this sound like yours? I’d love to hear your reaction, and advice if you have any.

    Thanks Mily – good baking.

    • Hi:

      How active was your starter?

      Remember, it’s only a few grams of starter which is the only yeast’s muscles that flexes this barm. The yeast in the beer died at some temperature above 40-45 degrees (C/F? – need to research for accuracy).
      I should have added my thoughts on this interesting note. Will do it soon. Thanks for pushing me on this.

      For now put it at a warm place i.e. in the oven with the appliance light turn on. Give it a little more time, wait to see if there is any activity. I read somewhere some barm took a/r 30 hours to be ready for some people.

      I would not mix bread with an inactive barm. I would restart another barm. Does it make sense?

      I trust you use your bread experience [and instinct] to make good judgment on the barm. Keep me posted.

      Sorry I did not read any comments earlier. I will check back often.

      You would not believe it but I was stranded in SF for 4 days as my original flights & new flights got canceled twice (15th & 19th Apr) due to the Iceland volcanic eruption.

      I edited the post on bialys @0400 (AM) on Fri 16th Apr using the public computer available at the hotel in downtown SF that gave me all kinds of troubles hence the pic links did not work properly. I should update this info in the post.

      I worked for many hours this morning trying to book another flight to Paris or to any other cities I can get into… to no avail. I finally gave up on the idea of trying to get out of US land by this weekend.
      I am exhausted.

      It’s a mess in Northern European airports, yikes!

      I’ll wait for my tentative flights out of SFO on Tue.
      I hope I can make this trips to see my niece and nephew who are on a 2-week Spring break.

      • drfugawe Says:

        Wow! Not sure I’d be willing to put myself through such grief – actually, some time ago, I/we determined we’d never fly again, and so far, that’s what we’ve done. Best wishes to you for trying!

        Now, the barm – I have a very active starter, but I used it at about hour 8 following a refresh – my assumption, perhaps faulty, was that it may simply take a bit of catchup time – and it may yet. I put it in the oven with the light on.

        I should have been more specific in my question, I was actually wondering if you had meant a larger amount of flour in the barm (your use of the term “firm” made me think this). But after some thought, I now assume you made no mistake, since barm is a very liquid thing.

        OK, I’ll give it more time, and if it shows nothing, I’ll not just pitch it (not with all that good ale in there!), I’ll give it another shot of active starter and flour – I know that’ll give the barm an unnatural thickness, but it should still work.

        I’ll let you know either way.

        Hope the flight schedules open up soon.

      • How do you travel across oceans? Cruise?
        I got an update on my flights: Delta put me on an earlier flights this Fri, tomorrow, 23 Apr SFO-ATL-CDG 24 Apr. Awesome, I say.

        Sure, by all mean use up the old barm as I have always treated my starter excess; nothing goes to waste ever.

        How did it turn out? Any update & pics? What did you learn in making this bread?
        Have fun for sure as I advertise. Hope I chimed in some useful help. Happy Baking

  5. drfugawe Says:

    Congrats on your flights!

    Hey, I’m going to do a post on my experience with this bread, but I need to talk to you about that – email me: drfugawe at gmail dot com.

    Thanks Mili – hope your schedule keeps getting better!

    • Hey John:

      I wasn’t surprise as flights continued to change –for the 5th time– at SFO when I showed up early morning on Friday 23 Apr –thanks to your wish– my schedule did get better for Delta put me yet on another flight this very last time with Air France directly fly from SFO to CDG/Paris instead of my previously flights SFO-ATL-CDG scheduled on the same day. I had a very good time on this flight, got to Paris, fetched by my family, had lunch, had a nap, did all the family things today, listened to my 2 precious young musicians playing piano, had dinner, just mixed batter for 2 Far Breton custard-ly cakes to bake tomorrow for another family gathering, write email to you and am ready for bed as we just reached the end of Saturday local time. What better could a gal ask for?

      I just scanned through your Barm bread post. Will comment on it soon. It looks wonderful, the first picture; have you Photoshop-ed it or it’s the light setting?

  6. […] let’s get to the baking itself – here’s Dan’s recipe – we must borrow from our bread blogging friend, Mili, for it, since at one time, Dan had it […]

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