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.