Very nice it was too.
To make the barm, you need 250g of bottle-conditioned ale. In this case, I used the delicious Admiral’s Ale, produced by the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall (or the “Snozzle brewery”…). Heat it to 70C, then remove from the heat and whisk in 50g strong white flour. Transfer it to a bowl, then allow to cool. When it’s 20c, stir in 4 tsp of white leaven and leave overnight.
Well, I did that and it wasn’t very active the next day, so I bunged in a few more teaspoons of leaven, and left it another 24 hours. By that stage, well, to quote Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein: “Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving! It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive!”
Dan L’s bread recipe calls for 150g of barm, but as I had around 300g, I just used the whole lot. My barm mix had quite a lot of liquid under the bubbling foam on top, so the dough came out very wet when combined with 500g of water and 1kg of flour. I used mostly strong white, but finished a pack of wholemeal and even bunged in some millet flour; I also add a few tablespoons of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
As the dough was very wet, I differed a little from Dan’s recipe, where he uses the 10 second knead every 10 minutes for half an hour; then a 10 second knead after half an hour; then two more 10 second kneads over the next two hours. Instead, I just did the Bertinet method (strick your fingers into the messy mass, lift, flip it away from you; repeat for several minutes) for around 5-10 mins, then added enough flour to make a maneagable ball (an extra 150g ish), then did a few more short kneads and a few turns.
We went out for about two hours, then I formed two balls and left them in bowls lined with tea towels rubbed with flour. I left them for around 3 hours till doubled in size, then baked them at 220C on my baking stone, for around 45-50 mins each.
The result was a lovely moist loaf, with reasonable air-holes and a slight flavour coming through from the other flours and nuts I added. Perfect for this week’s sarnies (cheddar, alfalfa sprout, coarse mustard and mayo)!