The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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tsjohnson85's picture

While combing through odds and ends in my grain cupboard—and whilst keeping in mind my dark rye starter was getting low and I was out of said dark rye flour—I thought it might be nice to use a barley soaker. 

The formula is nothing special, except for a very small amount of rye starter for the levain and my thought that it might be interesting to use the remaining water left over from the soaker in the final build.  I think I may have under estimated how much kick my rye starter actually has, given the big oven spring the loaf had—even with 24 hours of proofing (the last 4 atop a warm oven).


120 g whole wheat flour

90 g tepid water

10 g rye starter @ 100% hydration



50 g pearl barley

1 cup boiling water (approx. 240 g)

Preferment and soaker were both left out at room temperature (roughly 65 F / 18.3 C) for 12 hours. 

Final Dough

All of the preferment

300 g water (tap and water not absorbed by barley soaker)

15 g molasses

100 g whole wheat flour

300 g bread flour

11 g salt

Water and molasses were mixed with the preferment and then added to the remaining flours.  The dough was then left to rest for 30 minutes.  After resting it was kneaded for 5 or so minutes and then the salt and barley were added.  I have no good method for adding in whole grains—or nuts or raisins for that matter.  I spread out the dough as if I were to give it a good stretch and fold and then spread the barley across the top.  Then, I rolled the dough up and kneaded it: if my hands have different speed settings, this would have to be considered a low setting.  And each time a grain of barley popped out of the dough, I diligently—if not altogether Quixotically—poked it back into place.  Once the barley appeared to be integrated into the dough I formed it into a boule and placed it into a lightly oiled bowl. 

Stretch and folds were done to the dough at 30 and 60 minutes.  The total bulk fermentation time was 2 hours 30 minutes.

At the end of fermentation I turned the dough out, pre-shaped it for my oval banneton and let it rest for 20 minutes.  After the rest, the loaf was shaped, dusted with flour and parked in the banneton.  The banneton then went into the fridge for a nice and long 20 hours. 

After 20 hours the bread was removed from the fridge and placed atop a warm oven for 4 hours to finish proofing and come to room temperature (on low while breakfast was being prepared, then the oven was cranked up to prepare for the bake).  

The bread baked at 500 F with steam for 15 minutes and then another 25 minutes without steam at 450 F.

The bread has a good wheaty taste with a slight sweet-pungency added by the molasses.  The smell is definitely molasses as well, but not quite to the level of sticking your nose in the molasses jar.  I cannot say I can taste the barley, but the grains do give it a nice textural surprise. 


tsjohnson85's picture

This is my first TFL write up.

While I have only made some comments on posts within the last couple of months, I have been stalking the wonderful forums and submissions on this site since I started baking bread regularly, about four years ago.  I think a big thank you to the collective of the website is in order, if not something more.

This particular bread was born out of frustration: I tried a 100% whole wheat miche about a week ago (all whole wheat, except for a rye starter) and it failed pretty miserably.  I know why it failed.  My apartment is cold (around 62 F), especially since it is a NYC basement apartment, and I wanted things to go much more quickly than they needed to.  So, the loaf was under proofed and also, as I found out when I cut into it the next day, under baked.  Out of shame, there are no pictures. 

So, the next day I tried to redeem myself but ended up repeating many of the same mistakes.  I again tried to rush things and was again disappointed.  For this loaf, however, I made two modifications: 15g of toasted wheat germ in the final dough, and instead of going for 100% whole wheat (again, aside from the rye starter) I added 100g white bread flour.  This made the final dough a little more forgiving, and this loaf I was willing to eat.  However, with the high hydration of the dough (around 82%) and an under-floured banneton, the dough stuck when I unmolded it and this shows on the final loaf.  So again, no photos.

The following was my attempt to redeem myself.  I had just gotten back from a research trip in France and since I could still taste the bread the sting of frustration was all the more harsh.


Total Dough

200 g whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

100 g white bread flour (Pillsbury—it’s what I had on hand)

15 g toasted wheat germ (Bob’s Red Mill)

100g rye starter at 100% (using NYC tap water and Arrowhead Mills organic rye)

7 g kosher salt

265 g water

Hydration: 86.3%


100 g rye starter

200 g whole wheat flour

15 g toasted wheat germ

215 g water

            Preferment temp was 23C / 73F

Covered and left alone at room temp for 24 hours.  This day the kitchen temp hovered around a whopping 15C / 59F.

The Rest

100 g white bread flour

50 g water

7 g kosher salt

After mixing in the remaining flour and water—water into preferment, then flour—I let it rest for 30 minutes. Before kneading.  I’m a fan of slap and fold and did that for two minutes before adding in the salt.  Then, I kneaded for another 8 minutes before forming a boule and putting in an oiled bowl.  Dough temp: 16.6C / 61.5F

The bulk ferment lasted 5 hours with three-part folds at 1.5 and 3 hours. 

After 5 hours, I turned the dough out and pre-shaped the dough for a boule and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  I then shaped the boule, plopped it into a banneton—well-floured this time, mind you—and parked it in the fridge for 16 hours. 

The next day I took it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (again, around 15C) for two hours on top of the oven, which was heating breakfast and then preheating for the bake.

I baked the loaf in my preheated cast iron skillet at 500F with steam for the first 20 minutes and then at 450F with no steam for another 25 minutes.  At the end of the bake the loaf’s internal temperature reached 214F.  I then left the bread in the oven for 1 hour after I killed the gas. 

Oven spring was good, though not as even as I would have liked: again, a part of the dough stuck in the banneton.  This banneton is newer, so this tendency to stick might decrease with use.  I also might just outfit it with a linen liner.

 I wish I had baked the loaf at 500F for the whole time, since I like an aggressively scorched crust and this loaf had only gotten chestnut brown.  I also might need to do a check on the accuracy of my oven temps… 


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