The Recipe: Barm Dumplings
|A New and Easy Method of Cookery by Elizabeth Clelland (Edinburgh, 1755)|
About the Recipe
As a food historian, I have known about barm for a long time. Barm is essentially the yeast that can be drawn off fermenting malt, usually ale malt. It appears to have been a common type of yeast available from local breweries. Ale barm produces a sweet not sour taste in the bread. The method for leavening dough with ale barm was actually developed by Gaelic people in Scotland, Ireland and England. Anecdotally, the term to describe flighty people,"barmy", refers back to the unpredictability of the ale barm.
So barm was essentially yeast. Confusion over this term emerged over time because the word "barm" could be sometime used to define sourdough or levain. It was the type of yeast used to create the Manchet loaf for British nobility. On the other hand, Maslin, the bread of the lower classes was raised with a sourdough starter. Continental Europeans also tended to use sourdough levain starters for their breads.
For this challenge, I needed to detect how to recreate barm in the 21st century. Needless to say, it would be very helpful to be good friends with a brewer. I am not. So, I had to keep digging to find a substitution for authentic ale barm. After several Google searches, I finally found a fellow blogger who offered up a method for making barm. Please go to the Bewitching Kitchen blog post for details on making Barm and Barm Bread (I will detail it below too but I want to give credit where it is due).
What I discovered is that I needed the following to make the barm:
- 125g Bottle Conditioned Ale
Here is a good ale to use:
- 25g Bread Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Levain (sourdough)
- Mix together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 Cup water in a clear container.
- Mark a line where the top of the mixture reaches. This way you can know exactly if the mixture starts fermenting and rising after 48 hours. Then cover it with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature for 48 hours.
- Check it regularly and stir to incorporate all of the liquid that pulls out of the mixture. Just stir it all together again.
- After 48 hours the mixture should be bubbly and smell a bit sour (I wanted it to be sour but not too sour so did not let it go longer than 48 hours, though you could).
|Sourdough Starter on Day 1: Mark the line when you start so |
you can determine how much it rises after 48 hours.
|Sourdough Bread - Delicious!|
- I followed the directions exactly which is really important because this is essentially chemistry which leaves no room for winging it.
- My first batch of barm was a total loss because I heated the ale above the directed 160º F. I made a big gloopy mess of paste. A big waste of time and supplies.
- The second batch was heated precisely to 160º F as directed and worked much better than the first batch. Here is how it should look:
- I allowed the barm to ferment longer than the 30 hours given in the directions. My went for about 60 hours, mainly because I couldn't get back to it sooner.
Making the Barm Dumplings:
- 1/2 Cup Barm (from above)
- 1 Large Egg
- 1/4 Cup Warm Water
- 2 1/2 Cups Bread Flour, plus a bit more for the board
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the barm, egg, and warm water.
- Using a spatula, add the flour and mix until all the flour is absorbed into the wet ingredients.
- Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead just until the dough forms a ball that is not too wet. Here is how it should look:
|Barm Dumpling Dough|
- Place dough ball in a medium size greased or floured bowl. Cover and set in a warm spot. Allow the dough to sit for at least 2 hours. It will not rise too much; instead it will just lighten a bit and become a bit spongy.
- Heat salted water in a large pot until it reaches the boiling point.
- While the water is heating, divide the dough into balls (you can decided the number and how large). Then, flatten the balls into disks.
- Place the dough disks into the boiling water and stir. Cook until the discs float to the top and are tender. Drain.
- Serve the dumplings with melted butter and salt.