I borrowed from our library a German cookbook titled NEW GERMAN COOKING by Jeremy and Jessica Nolen, published in January 2015. I was not planning to cook German food; I was just curious and because I love reading cookbooks. Two recipes caught my eye: Crispy Sauerkraut Fritters and Sourdough Barley Bread. My sauerkraut still needs a week to ferment, so bread it is. I'll make the fritters next week. The store-bought sauerkraut won't do.
It's been a looong time, probably a year, since I baked sourdough based bread. Although I feed my Sarah regularly, sometimes I forget and let her go dormant in the refrigerator for months and months. Fortunately, she is strong and once fed, starts showing activity immediately in less than 4 hours on the kitchen counter. I love her sweet beery aroma too.
The bread takes 2 days to make as the dough has to be refrigerated overnight. The crust is thick which I adore and the crumb is dense, moist, aromatic, nutty, a bit sweet, pleasantly sour, smoky, and chewy. I love it simply with salted butter. The recipe has a sage olive oil topping which I omitted. I might use it next time.
Note on the sourdough starter: The book didn't specify if it's the wet or the stiff kind. I keep mine somewhat wet and I adjusted by adding only half of the remaining water to the sourdough starter. I didn't use the rest of the water.
Sourdough Barley Bread
adapted from NEW GERMAN COOKING by Jeremy and Jessica Nolen
90 grams medium rye flour
15 grams instant yeast
1 gram kosher salt
120 grams 100°F water
200 grams pearl barley
655 grams water
225 grams sourdough starter
15 grams fresh yeast (I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast)
20 grams fine raw sugar
20 grams kosher salt
120 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- Make the sponge: Combine ingredients in a small bowl until all the flour is moistened. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the kitchen counter for 2 hours.
- While rye sponge is fermenting, prepare barley. Spread barley in a sheet pan and toast in a preheated 375° F oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Transfer into a medium saucepan, add 470 grams water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Pour the cooked barley on the sheet pan and let cool completely.
- Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, combine rye sponge, sourdough, cooked barley, yeast, sugar, salt, and the remaining water. Mix together using a wooden spoon until a soft ball of dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rest in a warm place for 1½ hours. Every 30 minutes, stretch the dough from all sides and fold towards the middle. Flip the dough and tuck in the folds and form into a ball each time. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a ball and place in a lightly greased half sheet pan 5 inches apart, or use 2 smaller sheet pans, Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove dough from refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 450° F.
- Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together ingredients until well combined; divide in half and spread evenly on top of each dough. Bake for 15 minutes then lower heat to 400° F and continue baking for another 10 minutes until loaves are dark golden brown. Transfer loaves on a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing. Wrap leftovers with plastic film and serve at room temperature. It will keep fresh on the kitchen counter up to 3 days.