Going Barmy

Elizabeth David in English Bread and Yeast Cookery mentions the idea of ‘Barm’ bread, which is basically bread that contains unfiltered ale and hence brewer’s yeast rather than baker’s yeast. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of detailed recipes for it, and it is precisely on the details of beer and yeast that it falls down.


Enter Dan Lepard. This guy is a genius. He writes in the Guardian, and he has a superb book on bread called The Handmade Loaf, and if you’re interested in bread you should get it. We haven’t bought bread in months. I make the sourdough all the time, and my sourdough turns out light with huge bubbles and a super crust, not like the sort of grey lead-bread it always was before.

Ever since I saw Babette’s Feast, I was taken with the idea of beer bread, or the ollebrod that the danish sisters get her to make at the start. I’ve baked with stout and ale before, but they’re usually just flavourings in a normal yeast bread. Lepard’s Barm bread is more authentic, since it adds the yeast from a bottle conditioned beer to the starter, which is partly made up of a normal sourdough leaven. The sourdough leaven draws its rising power not from bread yeast but from wild microbes and Lactobacillus delbrueckii, the same culture responsible for both lambic beer and yoghurt. Lepard’s leaven recipe involves yoghurt and raisins, another wild yeast carrier.


The barm involves mixing up a starter from the normal leaven that you use for sourdough, but adding bottle conditioned beer, mixed with flour. The beer is heated, and flour whisked in. I was worried at this point that the heating would kill off the yeast in the beer, so I decided to add some of the Krauesening yeast  (the stuff that foams at the top of beer fermentation) from a brew I happened to have in full swing to the mix also. the whole mixture is left overnight.

Barm and Sourdough Starter

The next day, you make a bread largely in the same way as a sourdough, kneading at gradually larger intervals until the loaf gets left in a proving basket for four hours before slashing and baking. Proving baskets are expensive, but I just bought a cheap wicker basket and lined it with unbleached artist’s linen that I got in Murphy Sheehy in Dublin, it’s around 20e a yard, but half a yard was more than enough, I still have buckets left.

Prove it.

The loaf was delicious, airy, and above all you could taste the beer and bitter hops.

Barm Bread



Filed under Beer, Food, Yeast

4 responses to “Going Barmy

  1. Dilly

    Yay! this is lovely to read! I am Dilly, a friend of Harriet, who’s girlfriend of Kevin O’Hare. I tried some of Kev’s stout at Christmas and was completely convinced that the world needs people like him and you. Delicious. My thing is breadmaking, so I liked this article – though Dan Lepard’s process is a bit confusing- he seems to kill any yeasts that might be in the beer by heating it, so it becomes just a flavour and conditioner for the gluten. but, not to complain a) I’m not sure if it’s really necessary to use the bear yeast as the leaven (you mix it with other leaven anyway, I remember), and b) it tastes amazing, and is really lovely and chewy.
    All the best, keep at it! d

    • stoutfellow

      yes I was confused by that also. yeast should be completely dead by 60c, and he says to heat to 70, so it’s not clear why we should use bottle conditioned beer. I just looked at the recipe again, maybe he’s just in it for the flavour of the bitter hops. I added yeast from a beer that was actively fermenting at the time just to be sure, but I’m sure it would have been fine anyway. thanks for your comments !

  2. Great to see you enthusing about one of Dan’s recipes, thought you might like to have a go at his Spiced Stout Buns http://www.danlepard.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2799 !

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