The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Daisy_A's picture


Since I started reading about artisan breads I've been really attracted to the idea of making barm bread and I've come across some lovely examples of Dan Lepard's barm bread made by both home and commercial bakers. You may have seen the stellar example on Shiao-Ping's blog. I also love the way the Loaf, Crich bakes this bread for regular sale and for celebrations, baking it with 9 different beers for a local festival.

I'm attracted to barm bread because I remember phrases like 'barm cake' and 'barm pot' from my childhood. Also, for me, the evocation of 'barm', when it refers to raising bread with the still yeasted froth left over from beer making, is one place where traces of traditional British baking practices still linger. It feels good to see these being revived and adapted. When barm breads are baked again they cease to be a sort of ghostly 'leftover' of what was once a rich tradition.
I set off to make Dan's barm bread armed with some lovely Dove's Farm white and rye flours, a bottle of cask-conditioned Nutty Black, my rye and wheat starters and an oat soaker. The mix of grains I used, in proportions based on Dan's formula, is included at the end of this post. I have to say at this point that I had not made any other sourdough with my wheat starter. The barm bread was my second only bread using sourdough in any form. Looking back it would have been better to have baked with the wheat starter before adding barm to my repertoire, but I was so keen to bake this bread I pressed on.

There has been some debate on blogs and bread boards about how long fermentation of the barm can take in this recipe. The initial aim is to ferment the barm overnight. However in some conditions and with particular beers the fermentation can take as long as 30 hours. I have to admit that my barm did not ferment overnight. Also I was still trying to work out how to fit bread baking into an uncertain schedule where most baking had to be done in the evenings and where I could be unexpectedly away from the dough for up to 16 hours, something I was faced with at that point. Again I should have thought this through but the desire to make the bread prevailed!

I thought about leaving the barm until I could return to it but became prone to fears of over fermentation. This was for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a basic newbie fear that I was culturing something not quite right in my untested white starter. My main fear was that if there was something malign lurking in my starter then in the absence of alcohol (which had been burned off the beer), and the presence of sugar, it could multiply at a rate of knots. I have since realized that this fear of producing a mutant starter is a widespread one. Bread sites ring with new sourdough bakers asking questions such as 'does my taster smell right?', 'does it taste right?','will I poison my family and friends with it?'

I know now that my starters are fine but they are feisty. Once my rye starter (Rosie) gets going she can quadruple dough during refrigeration. So, the fear that if left for 16 hours Rosie and Sydney (the wheat starter), might have got bored of sitting bubbling in the barm and redistributed it around the breakfast room was a more realistic one. However I also fear over-fermentation for more personal reasons....

Does anyone remember when instead of worrying in general about people being overweight, the main worry was about people being too skinny? If my mother or any of her neighbours in the predominantly rural county in which I grew up saw someone thin, they didn't think them an ideal size 8 (4) or a supermodel in the making. They simply thought  - there is someone who needs feeding up. (I wonder if this is a general thing in farming communities or just Cumbria?)

This feeding up was great when it came in the form of baked goods. As a teenager I once lost weight so quickly due to a viral infection that I was hospitalized. When I was discharged, the farming community's Auntie Annie invited my mother and me to a 'farmhouse tea'.  By farmhouse tea I don't mean a couple of dry scones and a wan piece of malt loaf.  There were beautiful scones, lemon curd tarts, fruitcake and other delicious cakes, malted loaves, muffins, breads and homemade jams. If you had leant on a chair with your eyes at the level of the table, there would have been baked goods as far as the eye could see. No sentimentalities were exchanged, but it was an act of care and concern, spelt out with cakes and breads.

Feeding up with fresh food was great, then; raw food less so. Another ruse used by Cumbrian mothers on people they thought were not feeding themselves enough was to give them raw food to take away. My friend's mother did this to one of my friend's skinny boyfriends. She gave him a whole raw fish to take home on the bus with him.  Embarrassed, he hid it under his jacket. As more passengers got on and the bus heated up, he started to emit warm, fishy smells...

My mother did a similar number on me with stewing steak. She gave it to me In a plastic bag to take on a 4 hour train journey. It would never have been safe to eat after that. On the good side I didn't eat it; on the bad side, young, foolish and in a jelly-brained state of mental exhaustion in my first year of teaching, I absentmindedly filed the bag with the books on educational theory I had been reading. I then forgot about it for a while. I will say no more about it but it was a quick and ugly introduction to the dangers of over-fermentation.

In the end I decided not to risk losing the barm through over-fermentation and didn't leave it any longer. To compensate for the fact that there would be less fermentation in the beer mixture I did what I have read other bakers do when the barm fermentation time is limited, which was to cut the initial mix with more starter and mix up the whole dough. My apologies are due to Dan for diverging from the recipe at this point because of my newbie fears. I do very much hope to make the bread again according to the original instructions.

I mixed the dough for around 8 minutes using continuous S&F on the board and popped it in the refrigerator. At that point I wasn't familiar with how my starter acts during retardation and I thought naively that the dough would go into a sort of cryogenic suspension of activity. However the 16 hour overnight retardation (which I have since learned is roughly equivalent to 2 hours on the bench), acted as the first proof. In fact when warming up time was allowed for there was a risk of the dough getting close to over proof. This time, however, I was better prepared than when I baked my first sourdough and I got the oven ready quickly. Some of my aims for this loaf were to improve my shaping, scoring and peeling. The dough hydration was 69%. It was a beautiful consistency and took the shaping and scoring well. I also managed to peel and add steam quickly during transfer to the oven.

There is an entry on Madrid tiene miga in which artisan baker QJones talks about watching the oven door sometimes being better than watching the television screen. The light on our oven is broken so I find it hard to see the loaves in process. I had no real idea how this loaf was baking until I cracked the door open after about 10 minutes to let out the steam. When I saw the loaf's small, domed  head quivering in the steam and got some measure of how it had risen, I was so elated I actually started trembling a little. Please forgive me; this was only my second sourdough, although I hope you experienced bakers out there still get some similar moments!

The bread came out beautifully. The crust was golden and crisp, the scored and split top opening over gently rounded sides marked by banneton rings. The inside was moist and tangy, redolent of rye and hops and with a decent crumb for a bread with around 30% rye. The bread ate well and kept well. I attribute these qualities to Dan's formula as the Loaf bakers also get these great characteristics when they bake this bread. However it was also a happy occasion on which things came together well in my own kitchen, even the shaping, which is still often a struggle.

This loaf has been much photographed, like a prize pet as my husband noted!

One of my aims for this loaf was to improve scoring. As it was when taking photographs, I got so taken with the aesthetics of the ripped side I took hardly any photos of the neater slash. Here it is for the record!


I am sending details of this post to
Susan at Yeastspotting
while the going good, in case never manage to make quite such a lovely looking loaf again.


This is a beautiful bread and Dan offers lots of ways to be creative with it, from using white flour or mixed grains, choosing different beers to adding soakers. I'm including a chart of my flour mix and final dough plus notes on beer and flours for reference but think it preferable to use Dan's method, as elaborated in The Handmade Loaf. Please note that the amounts of water and flour in the final dough are adjusted to maintain a hydration of 69% in the total formula after the addition of the oat soaker and extra starter. Without these additions the amounts are 250g water and 500g flour with 150g barm in the final dough. Salt remains the same.

Adaption of Dan Lepard Barm Bread (With Oat Soaker and Additional Starter)

Total Formula                                        


Bakers %

White organic bread flour


Rye organic flour






Beer (inc. 10g from soaker)



10 grams


920 g





Bakers %

Oats (soaked in beer overnight, drained)


Beer (absorbed by oats)








Bakers %

Starter 1: rye


Starter2: whole wheat


Beer: Nutty Black






Additional Starter                                


Bakers %

Rye organic flour








Final Dough                                           


Bakers %

White organic bread flour


Rye organic flour


Oat soaker


Additional rye starter







10 grams


920 g


69% Hydration dough with 100% Hydration Rye and White Wheat Starters

Flours: Dove’s Farm white organic bread flour and rye flour.
Cask conditioned beer: Nutty Black



Avie93309's picture

Been looking forward to make this bread. Finally got my Durum Flour in the mail (not available at local stores). Followed the recipe from Rose Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. Flour (bread:67%, durum 33%), Water 80.4%, Yeast .79%, Salt 2.2%.

Biga: 75 g Flour, Instant Yeast 1/16 tsp, water 59 g, optional: Malt Powder 1/2 tsp.

Worried that I totally ruined the dough. I allowed the biga to ferment in a cool area for 24 hrs (recommended @ 55-65 F). I thought my storage room is that cool. When I checked the room temp it was 72%.

Baked on stone: 5 mins @ 500 F; 20 mins @ 450, turned half way thru. Internal Temp. Target: 205 F, Actual 200 F.

whosinthekitchen's picture



The German brotchen is a hot milk bread that kneads together yielding a smoothly elastic dough. This makes great rolls and buns. The best is to eat it warm with your favorite cheese or jam. I have searched online for other brotchen recipes. An internet search did not turn up a brotchen recipe for awhile but now several are available. However, none are identical to the one I got on that wonderful trip to Germany in the 80’s from a nice German lady.  The US Army officer husband helped convert metric measures to English.  This has to be the best travel souvenir I have ever returned home with!
Here I share my recipe for you to enjoy: 

Mix first three ingredients. 
1/2 c. warm water
1 1/2 cup warm milk
1 Tbsp yeast
Add: 3/4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
When well blended
Add 1 cup flour 
Beat this with a wooden spoon until bubbles appear in the pancake like batter.
Add more flour a cup at a time to make a dough you can no longer stir.
(This recipe uses about 4 cups of flour total; today I used 34 ounces weighed on a scale because I live in South Florida where the air is HEAVY and measuring by volume doesn't work.)
Knead for 10 minutes adding as little flour as possible until the dough is satiny and not sticky. The dough should be firm, and give to the touch. Place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise for 45 minutes (depending on the temp and humidity.  I lived in Wichita and found it a dryer climate yielding shorter proofing times for my breads.) The dough should more than double in size. Degas and remove the dough from bowl onto a floured surface. Knead 4 or 5 times and divide into 10 pieces for large burger size buns or 16 for buns. Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal generously and evenly space rolls. Allow to rise again (about 30 minutes) covered with plastic wrap you have brushed lightly with oil. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. When the oven is to temperature place rolls into bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until lightly golden. (I do not score the buns because the ones I had in Germany had a smooth top)  I do splash 1/8 cup water into my gas convection oven three times in 20 second intervals to create my crust at the beginning of the bake time.  Remove to cooling rack.


I was unsuccessful in getting rid of the blank box. 



breadbakingbassplayer's picture

Hey All,

I am on baking hiatus until Fall, or at least until it gets cooler here in NYC...

Until then, happy baking!


turosdolci's picture


I wanted to share these pictures of the bread being sold in a stand in Dolceaqua, Italy.  It was a small festival displaying the products of Dolceaqua. The size of the bread was amazing. Imagine the size of the ovens. 



Jw's picture

Actually just a yeasted multigrain. Pretty much according to the recipe (Reinhart, Crust & Crumb), apart from: two-day old biga instead of one, milk instead of buttermilk, white rice instead of brown rice, added more salt.

Here's the funny part: the oven rise lifted up one bread, but 'pushed-down' the other. Why is that? Temp should not have caused this. I did score them, but a bit too late. Structure and taste are really great. The tie is from few years ago, wanted to make sure my kids remember what day it is...

Happy baking.

Jw. (aka 'father's day in Dutch: vaderdag)

jennyloh's picture

Without going through the practice of making bread and everything,  I wouldn't have attempted this. As this delicacy requires techniques as complex as making a baguette,  and patience that is required in making sourdoughs.

This is to share with you here a different type of food we make in Asia.  The Nonya Rice Dumpling.  To share with you on how it looks as some of you may have read my blog mentioned under Vermont Sourdough.  It is not baked but boiled for 2.5 hours submerged in water. 


txfarmer's picture

Thank goodness for TFL, and good thing I did a search here before making this formula (I always do that with this book, just too many errors). The starter amount is wrong in the book, should be 75g rather than 300g. With that corrected, the process was pretty painless.


I was careful not to overproof since the dough has quite a bit of gluten-less buckwheat flour in it, and it's hot hot hot here in Dallas. Nice open scoring marks with good volume.


Crumb is more open than I expected, especially with all that kneading. I love the nutty taste of buckwheat, crumb is chewy, crust is crisp, very fragrant.


It's a bread I will definitely make this bread again.


I finally bought a hand cranked old fashion pasta roller, made buckwheat noodles! Told ya I love buckwheat.


Took a few tries to get it right, but it worked once I figured out the appropriate recipe. It's from my Cooks Illustrated Pasta and Noodle book, but here's an online version that's similar:


A nice light dinner.


Sedlmaierin's picture

So, life has taken me on a charming and busy ride-no blogging time and I am therefore way behind on posting about my recent bakes. Not that there is anything to be missed since some of them did no turn out(and it seems I might not even have taken a picture of one of the breads,oh well).


Irish Soda Bread

This bread was delicious! And I can barely remember what I did......I could not find white pastry flour for some reason, so I believe I substituted it with AP flour...also couldn't find wheat flakes, used oat flakes instead and 365 whole wheat pastry flour.Made my own buttermilk.The bread is a scandalous yellow color......I assume that is the whole wheat pastry flour. The color itself was stunning.


Then there are the two breads,that were disasters-or almost disasters, depending on your taste/texture preference. I am not even sure I took a picture of both and I couldn't possibly tell you what the pictures are that I do have.Helpful,isn't it?

Anyways, I think the reason my attempt at Whole Wheat Levain and Pain au Levain with Whole wheat were such bears, was that I used KA Organic Bread Flour and both breads ended up being very chewy....Bagel like in consitency.Why did I use KA Bread flour? Because I am constantly searching for a good organic flour and I hadn't tried that one yet.....well, I might just go back permanently to regular KA AP-for some reason my WHoel Foods does not carry the organic variety.

Anyways, here are pictures-I think the first one is the WHole Wheat Levain and the second two are the Pain au Levain....but I honestly have no clue!As far as I know they might all be the same bread..

Lastly there is the 70% Rye with Rye Soaker and Whole Wheat

That loaf turned out great-love the nutty flavor,the slight chewiness the rye chops give..yummy all around! I baked it in a cast iron casserole-I think I should have just used a smaller casserole so that the bread would have had a thicker profile.Well, next time...............

That's all-hopefully in the future I can be a bit more on top of this posting thing!

Happy weekend and a happy father's day to the papas out there!


Nickisafoodie's picture

As my baking evolves I am drawn more towards hearty rye sourdough breads in the northern European style.  I also like big and bold flavors that complement the rye and sour nuances of the bread. 

Thus my spur of the moment decision to also add the following to my 2.5lb loaf:

1 tbs fresh ground black pepper

2 tbs red pepper flakes (pizzeria type)

1 tbs fresh diced rosemary

1 tbs Greek Oregano

2 tbs sesame seeds

1 tbs nigella seeds (black caraway used in Russian Rye breads)

2 tbs flax seeds

1 tbs poppy seeds

The bread itself is 25% whole rye and 40% whole wheat (both fresh ground), bread flour for remainder.  My rye starter (100% hydration) was in full force by 5pm.  I added rye and whole wheat to make my basic sour which was approx 50% of the recipe plus all of the seeds. 

After 5 hours of fermenting I added the herbs and remaining ingredients targeting 68% hydration.  30 minute autolyse then mixed until gluten was developed.  There was only one stretch and fold given the high percentage of rye and my preference for developing the gluten early via the mixer in this style of bread. 

After kneading there was a 10 minute rest followed by pre-shaping and another 10 minute rest.  Shape into boule’, place in linen lined basket, cover top and place into a plastic bag.  Let rest overnight in refrigerator for an 8 hour fermentation.  The next morning I removed from refridgerator for the hour it takes to preheat oven and stone.  Baked at 470 degrees for 10 minutes with steam, then reduce oven to 430 degrees for another 50 minutes until internal temperature of 198 degrees. 

Note: Bread rose nicely in refrigerator.  However I didn’t flour my peel properly resulting in some deflation in getting the bread off of the peel.  And I butchered the slashing.  The crumb developed nicely and you can see the red pepper flakes and seeds if looking closely.

The bread is very complex due to the herbs, rye, seeds and sour, and additionally has a nice kick given the red pepper!  Simple can be best, but in this case the herbs and seeds compliment it well. The sour element was pleasantly noticeable and not lost.  Deep rich rye flavor which would go well sliced thin with cream cheese on smoked salmon.  Or with your favorite omelet... 



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