Sourdough Wheat and Barley Rustic Loaf

I played around with barley bread recipes after visiting Orkney and Shetland (Scotland), where barley is a staple grain for eating and making Scotch (whiskey) and beer. Bere barley, an ancient barley variety, is not available outside of the UK. The dough made with bere barley is a bit "springier," off-white in color and a bit sweeter than when made with American barley. In any case, the resulting bread is very chewy, has a great crust and nice sweet yeasty smell. 
Barley, like wheat and rye contains gluten and is not safe for people who are gluten sensitive. The percentage of gluten in barley is much lower than wheat; therefore wheat flour is required in order to make a good textured bread (rather than a cracker). 
This is a slow rising bread, don't rush it, it affects the texture of the finished product. The process will take approximately 36 hours to complete once you have ripe sourdough starter. 
You can stretch it out for another 12 hours or thereabouts, modifying the process to work around your busy day. 
The ingredient list and steps look more complicated than it actually is. 
The secret is to take it slowly and build the dough. 
 I'm showing the bread baked as six smallish (~ 210g/ 7 oz.) baguettes, you can bake it as one large round sourdough loaf in a 3 qt. Lodge cast iron combo-cooker. 

  • Ripe sour dough starter (the starter should have been "fed" 8-10 hours prior to using it)
  • Mixing starter and initial amount of flour (with an 8hr- overnight proofing period)
  • Completing the wheat dough (another 3 hours, but can be "retarded" by allowing to proof in the fridge for up to 8-10 hours)
  • Adding barley flour, proofing for an hour or two
  • Adding salt and a bit of water. The salt will modify the yeast activity and the dough will become more elastic. Proof for another 30- 60 minutes or again, you can retard the dough's activity by chilling for up to 8-10 hours. 
  • Bench rest 30-60 minutes, Shaping and rest for 30-60 minutes
  • Bake 
  • Get ready for an exceptional bread eating experience !

  • scale
  • large mixing bowl
  • flexible bench scraper 
  • covered baguette baker (I use the Emile Henry 3 baguette baker)

Initial dough: 
  • 25 g ripe sourdough starter (mine is 1/2 wheat, 1/2 rye)
  • 25 g bread flour (I use King Arthur flour)
  • 25g room temperature water  
First build: 
  • 500 g water
  • 250g bread flour
  • 250 g all purpose flour
  • 30 g honey 
2nd build:
  • 135 g barley flour (different barley will give you different dough colors) 
Final build 
  • 10g kosher salt mixed with 30g water 
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the initial dough ingredients with a flexible spatula. Make sure to break up the globs of sour dough starter.  Cover with a very damp dish towel and let rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours. It will be puffy like melty-marshmallow when it's ready. 
  2. Add the ingredients for the first build. Again, vigorously stir with a flexible spatula. Cover a very damp towel, allow to rest at room temperature for 3-5 hours. It will begin to bubble. If it is not bubbling, place in a warmer spot (you can pre-warm the oven to 100 degrees and SHUT OFF the oven) and let it sit for an hour or so more.  Perform 2- 3 sets of stretch & folds over the 3-5 hours the dough is resting. Stretching and folding the dough in the bowl will improve the gluten structure and help the bread to bubble and rise. Your working hand must be very wet, this will keep the dough from sticking to your hand AND makes it easier to stretch and fold. The elasticity of the dough will remarkably improve after just one set of stretching and folding.
  3. Mix in the barley. This will be difficult, the barley does not hydrate easily. Start off with the spatula, but I find that mixing in by hand (with a stretch and fold motion) works well. Make sure your hand is very wet with warm water, another 1/2- 1 oz or so of water mixing in will not ruin the dough. You want to blend in all of the barley flour.  Let rest for 1-2 hours. 1-2 sets of stretch and folds during this time. You should see some largish bubbles right under the skin of the dough. 
  4.  Pour the salt water over the dough and stretch and fold, incorporating the water into the dough. Rest 30 -60 minutes OR place in fridge and retard the proofing over night.
5. The dough will be sticky, flour the work service and keep your hands wet. Stretch and fold the dough and portion out six balls, approximately 130 gms (~7 oz). Flatten out the balls into a disk that is about 3- 4 inches across, pulling the edges up toward the center of the disk. Turn so that the seam is on the work surface. Repeat for all six balls. Cover with plastic or a well floured flat weave dish towel. Let rest 30-60 minutes (this is a "bench rest")

6. Dust the wells of the baguette pan with corn meal or rice flour.

7. Shape each ball by flattening to a 6x4 rectangle. Fold long edge over to the center of the rectangle and flatten edge with finger tips. Repeat with the other long edge. Bring both edges together and pinch the seam. Roll lightly , while simultaneously stretching , forming a baguette that is approximately 16-17 inches long. Place in the pan wells. Sprinkle cornmeal or rice flour on the top of the loaves. 

There are 3 wells in the Emile Henry baguette pan. You can be extravagant and purchase 2 pans or bake the initial 3 loaves , cool the pan on the stove top for about 20 minutes and then carefully, without directly touching the hot clay pan, repeat with the remaining 3 baguettes. 

Alternately, you can use an aluminum baguette pan, although the crust will not be the same. 

Let the shaped baguettes rest for 30 minutes and then use a lame or sharp herb scissor to slash the baguette. Slashing will help the bread rise during baking and creates a beautiful design on the baked bread. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees at this time.

7. Cover and bake in your pre-heated oven.  25 minutes covered. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 7-10 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the pan. 


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