This is my second submission to Yeastspotting

The recipe for this traditional wheat bread from England comes from Dan Lepard’s book  “The Handmade Loaf”, that I mentioned before. I’ve made quite a few  breads  from it, and at first this one seemed a little too involved,  because it required not only a levain (sourdough starter), but also a barm .  But, I was inspired to try it after reading a wonderful post about it.

Lepard  came up with a nice strategy to duplicate the barm at home by taking  a bottle-conditioned beer, and adding to it a small amount of your own  levain.  It’s a simple bread once  the barm is ready and bubbly…

To make the barm….

125g Chimay beer (or other beer containing live yeast)
25g bread flour
2 tsp white levain (commercial or made from scratch)

Heat the beer to 160F, remove from the heat and quickly add the flour. Transfer to a bowl and allow it to cool to 68F, then add your white levain. Leave it at room temperature overnight or until it is very bubbly (my barm fermented for 30 hours).

Waiting for it to cool to 68F….

To make the bread dough…


75g barm
125g water at room temperature
250g bread flour
3/4 tsp fine sea salt

Mix the barm in a large bowl with the water to completely dissolve it, then add the flour and salt. Mix it all with your hands;  it will be pretty shaggy and you will doubt that it will ever become smooth…. don’t worry, just let the dough sit there for 10 minutes, covered.

Now follow this timeline, kneading for 10 to 15 seconds (yes, seconds) at each timepoint:

10 minutes / 20 minutes / 30 minutes / 1 hour / 2 hours /3 hours / 5 hours

at the 30 minute timepoint the dough will already be quite smooth…

After 5 hours, knead it briefly again, allow the dough to relax for 10-20 minutes, and  shape it into a  “boule” (see one method here).  Gently transfer it to your vessel of choice for the final rise (about 4 hours) before baking. I used a banetton lined with a fine cloth, sprinkled with cornmeal.

The bread will rise to 1.5X  its initial volume; when you press it gently with a finger, it should feel airy and light. I baked mine in a clay pot at 430F for 30 minutes covered, and for 15 additional minutes with the lid off.


This bread is a winner in every way:  flavor, crust and crumb texture, and looks. The beer gives it a subtle sourness completely different from a regular sourdough, made with levain only. It is a perfect match for a ham sandwich, or to go along a hearty soup or salad.  I kept thinking about split pea soup while munching on the bread. I’ll definitely make it again, with different beers and flour mixtures, as advised in Lepard’s book.

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