Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Barley Bread (bbd # 13)

Posted by bakinghistory on August 28, 2008

A tasty bread made with barley flour and a touch of maple syrup


Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté is the host of bread baking day#13 (a monthly bread baking event initiated by Zorra) and proposed whole grains as a theme.  Among the many recipes I had bookmarked I finally chose this one because it is made with a good amount of stone ground barley flour.  Barley bread has a very long history—it is for instance often cited in the Bible. In the Book of Judges Gideon hears of a man’s dream in which a cake of barley bread went rolling down from the hill where Gideon’s army was stationed, and tumbling into the host of Midian.

Barley was grown and used for bread in many places and cultures since ancient times, including Greece and Rome, Egypt, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Mesopotamia, and East Asia. Bread made with it was usually coarse and dark and as a consequence not very appreciated,  although more affordable than bread made with wheat.

This recipe calls for 50% barley and whole-wheat, and it also contains mashed potatoes and a small amount of butter and maple syrup. The result is a hearty but very tender loaf, with a  thin, crispy crust and a moist crumb. The flavor of barley shines through and the subtle sweetness of maple can be detected as well.

It is perfect to accompany a thick vegetable soup, with sharp cheeses, or just simple and unadorned, to enjoy its hearty flavor.

This bread also goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting

From the original recipe by Amelia Doddridge

In: “Liberty Recipes”, 1918—USA


3/4 cup (160 g) mashed potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold)

1 tbsp (15 ml) pure maple syrup (Grade B)

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp (5 g) unsalted butter

1 cup (120 g) whole-grain, stone-ground barley flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

1-1/4 cup (150 g) white whole-wheat flour (King Arthur’s)

1 tsp (5 g)  fine sea salt

1-1/4 tsp (5 g) active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tbsp (30 ml) warm water

fine semolina for the pan

Peel the potatoes, rinse them well and dice them. Boil the potato pieces in the milk until tender, then drain them reserving the milk. Mash the potatoes through a  ricer than mix in the salt, maple syrup, and butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot reserved milk (add water to make up the measure if necessary) and set aside to cool.

Once the potato mixture is lukewarm add the yeast dissolved in 2 tbsp of warm water.

Let the mixture cool completely. Then add the flours (sifted together) and knead on low speed until the dough is well developed and just barely tacky. If the potatoes are kneaded with the flours while still warm they will turn gooey and require extra flour which will make the final result heavy.

Let the dough ferment in a covered and lightly greased bowl until doubled, then knead again briefly and let ferment again until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C)

Prepare an 8 x 4-inches bread pan or a small cast iron Dutch oven: lightly grease bottom and sides of the pan and sprinkle generously with fine semolina. Once the dough is ready knead it again then place it in the prepared pan or pot. Cover and let ferment until light then sprinkle with about 2 tbsp of water and score the surface.

Place it in the oven and bake, covered, for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F (180°C), uncover and finish baking until golden, about 25 minutes more.

Carefully lift the loaf out of the pan or pot with a thin metal spatula (if enough semolina was used this should be easy) and let it cool on a rack.

This is how the crumb should look:

15 Responses to “Barley Bread (bbd # 13)”

  1. Caitlin said

    This is too cool – I love how the crumb looks. Definitely one that I’ll have to try sometime.

  2. bakinghistory said

    @ Caitlin: Thanks! And thanks for visiting 🙂

  3. Jude said

    I have no idea what barley bread is going to taste like. Sounds like my kind of bread — coarse and dark (hence the theme :)). Love the biblical references, too.
    Thanks for sending this!

  4. Lewis said

    Wow, that looks pretty cool resting in a dutch oven. I haven’t really experimented with rustic loaves like this. I hope when I do I have this great of a success!

    Great job!

  5. bakinghistory said

    @ Jude: Barely flour gives a very pleasant flavor with a hint of sweetness. Thanks for hosting!

    @ Lewis: Thanks! a cast-iron Dutch oven is a great for baking bread, one of my favorite tools.

  6. What a beautiful bread! I love round loves. I’ve never tried barley flour, but that with the combination of maple syrup really intriques me. And, thanks for the tip on the Dutch oven. One more use for my favorite kitchen item!

  7. bakinghistory said

    @ T.W. : Thanks! Barley flour gives a very interesting flavor and rather tender texture. In my opinion, the taste of bar;ey is wonderful, one of my absolute favorites! As for the Dutch oven, I agree, one of the best item in a kitchen 🙂

  8. theinversecook said

    That’s awesome. Didn’t expect such a good aeration of the crumb. I’m a big fan of barley, but my breads tuend out very dense. Rgeards, Nils

  9. Aparna said

    This look nice, more like a cake than bread. Never had barley in bread. Have to look for the flour.
    I think Jude also used potatoes in bread. Guess they contribute to the softness.

  10. bakinghistory said

    @ Nils: Thanks! I made this bread a few times and consistently turns out well. I think that using the Dutch oven makes a great difference.

    @ Aparna: Yes, potatoes do contribute a lot to the tenderness of this bread, but also barley flour itself. Barley gives a peculiar texture to the crumb—very smooth and velvety. And the flavor, in my opinion, is wonderful. If you find barley flour, it is truly worth trying bread made with it.

  11. I just discovered your blog, and I am so excited that I did! I love historical recipes, and your blog is such a wealth of information and beautiful recipes! Your barley and bean breads look scrumptious and so healthful…

  12. zorra said

    Wow, the crumb looks awesome! Comes on my baking list as I like the taste of barley.

  13. bakinghistory said

    @ Astra Libris: Thank you! 🙂

    @ Zorra: Thanks! I think this is a great recipe—this is a bead I bake often 🙂

  14. What a gorgeous looking bread and what a lovely blog you’ve got 🙂 This challenge was so much fun wasn’t it.

  15. bakinghistory said

    @ Kitchen Goddess: Thank you, and thanks for visiting! I have visited your blog as well and liked it very much :-).

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