A magical formula to take your sourdough to the next level!
Barm is usually found in the brewing terminology, used to identify the form or scum formed on the top of a fermenting liquid, like beer or wine. This barm has been used as the levain in the process of making bread from the ancient times.
As you can imagine, that would result in bread that has a complex flavor profile. If you have trained you sensors enough, you can identify all these subtle changes in bread. I personally love to dig my nostrils in the bread crumb and inhale before I toss a piece in my mouth. It is such a sensory experience.
As we don’t have access to barm in everyday life, bakers have come up with ways to recreate the same thing. Even though it is not quite the same, you can achieve similar results in terms of flavor.
Just like you make a poolish, you can combine flour, beer and starter (sourdough culture) to make your own barm. The flavor will differ depending on the beer you choose. Any beer is okay for the job and most of the alcohol will be cooked off in the process.
Use various beers to experiment and it can be quite fun as you can smell and taste the different notes of beers in the final product. Try pale ales, dark full bodied stouts, craft beers etc. and compare the results. I find this very interesting and fun and rewarding at the same time. I am a massive beer love as well, so this is right up my ally.
Making your own beer barm is easier than you think. All you have to do is mix flour and your choice of beer, cook it off on medium heat, let cool and mix with the sourdough starter. Then you let this sit overnight and do its thing. You will wake up to find the barm bubbling away. The barm will look exactly like the form you’d find afloat a beer barrel and will smell acidic.
All you need is beer:flour:starter in 5:1:2 ratios
Mix flour and beer and heat to 70 C string until thickens
let the mixture cool down and add your sourdough culture and mix well
let it ferment overnight
This barm is now ready to be used to make bread. Use it in any sourdough recipe and depending on the activity level, you can decide how much to use. All you have to adjust is the hydration as the barm is very runny.
I use this in baguettes, pizza bases, foccacia, and potato bread etc. When making pizza base, I use more of the same beer instead of water to heightened the flavor but it is completely optional.
I usually use 40% of flour to make the barm and use that as levain for my pizza and baguettes. You might need to bulk the dough for longer depending on the activity of the barm.
Think of this as a flavor booster with the added benefit of leavening. Use as little or as much as you like in the recipe and adjust water accordingly.
Here is the basic recipe that I use, feel free to experiment and let me know what you think.