Friday, 27 January 2012

Sourdough: Barm Bread

From the depths of despair came one of my better loaves of sourdough.

Air bubbles, we have air bubbles!

When my baking oracle Brydie posted about a bread recipe using beer I knew immediately that I wanted to give it a go. Bottle fermented beer contains natural yeasts, the perfect partner to a sourdough. My favourite Aussie beer - Coopers Pale Ale - was the obvious choice.

I didn't really concentrate on hydration percentages (you typically aim for 60 - 70% of water to flour) and just cracked on with the recipe which uses the sponge method. The dough was giving off fantastic beery smells while I was kneading it.

I made the beer based sponge (barm) and left it overnight. The next day I added the remaining flour, water, salt and gave it a knead in the machine for 5mins.

I turned the dough out onto the bench to shape it and realised that I had a huge gloopy mess on my hands. Stay calm and give it a knead. At Breasserie Bread I saw how a wet dough could be brought under control if you treat it well.

Five minutes of kneading and there wasn't a hope of me being able to shape the dough. I couldn't fight the urge any more so I added some more flour. Quite a lot of flour, perhaps 100g? It was still a wet dough, but I managed to fold it and get it into my bannetton.

The end result? One of my best loaves. A Phoenix from the flames.

Once baked the beery smell had totally gone and it didn't taste of beer either. The loaf is the lightest and airiest one I have baked. It has a soft and chewy texture. If I'm being picky I would have preferred a firmer crust.

I plan to try the recipe again to see if I messed up one of the quantities.

A hacked recipe, adapted from Brydie.

220ml room temperature, bottle fermented beer.
50g flour
2 tbsp starter

365g barm (my barm didn't add weigh 365g so I added additional water to bring it up to weight)
400g flour + ~100g flour added to get the dough under control
133ml water
2 tsp salt

1. Whisk together the barm ingredients and leave overnight.

2. The next morning combine the barm, 400g flour and water. Leave for half an hour.

3. Add the salt and knead for 5mins in the mixer with a dough hook.

4. Turn onto the bench, add the additional 100g of flour if needed. Fold the dough and leave for an hour.

5. Shape and place in the bannetton for 3hrs for the final prove.

6. Slash and bake with steam at 180 degrees for 40mins


  1. That looks better than some I've seen in bakeries. It's nice when a change made by gut feel works out so well :)

  2. Baking oracle?? That's hilarious :-) I'm still chuckling about that.
    I say fiddle with this and make it your own. The last loaf I did I really scrutinised. There was definitely still a slight beery smell to the cooked loaf, and you are right, it's soft and chewier than my regular loaves, (crank up the heat more for a crustier crust.)
    Popping a little more starter in rather than the extra water would help with a less wet dough too.... Or just thinking... mix it, let prove in the bowl, don't knead it at all, and then put in a tin? That way you are not handling it at all if you still like the wetter consistency.

  3. @ Brydie - you are an oracle as far as I'm concerned! And via your great blog I guess you might be to more people than just me!

    I'll definitely give this loaf another try sometime and let you know how I get on.

  4. I'm pondering a bread maker, do you know how I should go about choosing one?

    Requirements: nice bread and looks cool.

  5. I've done exaclty the same thing: follow a recipe and end up with a messy wet dough, salvaged with extra flour. Feels silly. I've made 'no kneed' bread where you just pour the sloppy mess out and bake it. But I prefer to get my hands in and work it and shape it.

    That said, I gave up on sourdough a few years ago because keeping the starter was too much work.