100% Barley Sourdough Bread

Barley Sourdough Bread

Chewy, dense, full of sourdough flavor.  A pure Barley Bread that is naturally risen?  Impossible, you might say, especially since Barley Flour has virtually no gluten, the main element of flour that helps the bread rise.  Well, I’ve found a method that involves using pure Barley Flour that is fermented in order to bring out a delicious sourdough flavor and give the bread a little bit of rise (you essentially end up with a flattened bread).  The Barley Flour is not so overwhelming that you lose the sourdough taste, and it is low glycemic, which means that it will not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels like most white or whole wheat flours may do.

If you don’t have experience in bread baking, I find this to be relatively simple.  The first step is making your sourdough starter.  Once you have an active starter going, it’s time to convert it over to a Barley Flour starter.  

I tried various methods in converting my white flour starter to a whole grain one, and found the Detmolder Process gave the best results.  The process is for Rye Flour, yet Barley Flour may be easily substituted.  You need to make sure that you have an open schedule during the Detmolder Process, since there are specific times in which you add more flour and water to the starter.  You do not need to be precise on your ferment stages, but do not wait longer than one hour before adding the flour and water, or you will start to get a rancid starter.

I got a lot of help with my Sourdough bread making strategy from Sourdough Home, including the ratios of Starter/Flour/Water used in this recipe.  This is an amazing web site, so if you have a particular interest in Sourdough bread making, I highly recommend you spend your time browsing this very informative website.

*This recipe will make 4 small loaves of Barley Sourdough bread.  They may be frozen for up to three months.*

Day One

6:00 am-“Freshening”

Stage 1: Freshening
Stage 1: Freshening

I recommend you start as early as possible.  Even starting at 6:00 am, the bread usually isn’t done until around 9:00 or 10:00 the next evening.



1/2 tsp. Starter

1 Tb. Water

4 tsp. Barley Flour

Set in a warm place and let ferment for 6 hours.

12:00 pm- “Basic Sour”

Stage Two: Basic Sour
Stage Two: Basic Sour

To the previous mixture, add:

1/2 c. + 1 Tb. Water

1 c. + 1 Tb. Barley Flour

Mix well, and return to the warm place for 24 hours.

Day Two

12:00 pm-“Full Sour”

Stage Three: Full Sour
Stage Three: Full Sour

To the previous mixture, add:

1 1/3 c. Water

2 1/2 c. + 1 Tb. Barley Flour

Mix well, and return to the warm place to ferment for 5 hours.

You now have your fermented Barley Flour Starter that is ready to use.  Do not refrigerate the starter, or ferment longer than mentioned, or it will become rancid and not have any active yeast.  

The Barley Bread Sourdough Recipe:


All of the active Barley Flour Starter from above

1 3/4 c. Water

3 Tb. Butter, softened and broken into small pieces

5 c. Barley Flour

2 3/4 tsp. Salt

4 Tb. Honey


It is strongly suggested to use a stand mixer for this bread (i.e. KitchenAid), since this is a very sticky dough.  If you do not have access to one, you may attempt to use a sturdy bowl and a wooden spoon.

In a mixer:

Add all ingredients to the mixer bowl.  Knead for 5 minutes.

Turn off and let rest for 5 minutes.  This will allow the liquid to be fully absorbed into the flour.

Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Knead for 5 minutes more.

Scrape the dough into a large oiled glass bowl for rising.

Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes (you will not see much rise since Barley Flour has such a small amount of gluten).

Using wet hands (this is the best way to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers), remove 1/4 of the dough from the bowl.

On a greased and floured cookie sheet, loosely shape into a loaf.

Formed Loaves
Formed Loaves

Repeat with the remaining 3/4 of the dough until you have 4 small loaves.  Lightly dust the loaves with flour and cover loosely.

Let the dough rest for approximately 1 1/2 hours.  Again, there will be little rise.  You will, however, notice that the dough has a “cracked” appearance.  This means it is ready for baking.


Place an empty pan on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

When preheated, place the bread in the oven and pour 1 c. water into the empty pan to achieve a “steamy” environment.

Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes longer.

Let cool, then tear off a hunk and dip in your favorite dipping oil!


A Basic Sourdough Starter

About a year and a half ago, I became interested in bread making. My first attempt was a basic bread recipe, using packets of yeast. All I noticed was the taste of the yeast, and I was a bit put off by it. I began to look into sourdough bread making, which involves using a starter instead of packets of yeast. I had always enjoyed sourdough flavor, but was fascinated when I began to read about the process of creating a sourdough starter.  I found that it was a lot easier than I thought to create my own starter, and I was able to begin baking bread that I could be proud of.

So delicious...

The original recipe for the basic sourdough starter can be found here.  I found a few modifications needed to be made to make it a “true” sourdough starter.  Below is my method for creating a basic sourdough starter.


Organic, Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Filtered/Mineral/Spring Water

Glass container with non-reactive lid


Day One

Combine 1/2 c. Flour with 1/2 c. Warm Water until well mixed.  Scrape the sides of the container and cover.  I recommend covering with plastic wrap and poking a few small holes in the top to allow gas to escape, and to allow any natural yeast in the environment to be incorporated.  You may also loosely cover it with a towel.  Place in a warm place (the top of the refrigerator, in the oven with the oven light on…I kept mine in the laundry room, as it was always warm in there).  Let sit for 24 hours.

Day Two

You may start to see small bubbles on the surface of the starter.  This means things are moving along!  Add another 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water and mix well.  Scrape the sides, cover, and let sit for another 24 hours.

Day Three

Now you should be seeing more bubbles, and the starter will begin to rise.  It’s okay to get excited…I was amazed that the starter was rising without any help from commercial yeast!  Add 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water and mix well.  Cover and let sit for another 24 hours.

Day Four

Same as Day Three.

Days Five through Seven

Between days five and seven, you will notice your starter is beginning to look like a risen, wet dough.  You will see a matrix of bubbles throughout, and will start to notice that wonderful sourdough smell (I would describe it as a sweet, “beery” smell).  It is now ready and “active” to be used in any sourdough bread recipe.

Never use all of the starter in a recipe.  Make sure you save a small amount, and replenish it with 1 c. Flour and 1 c. Warm Water.  If you are not ready to use it yet, you can loosely cover your container with the lid and keep it refrigerated.  To feed it, discard 1 c. of the starter, add back 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water, and mix well.  It is recommended to feed your starter every one to two weeks, but I must admit I am a forgetful person.  I usually feed it every two to four weeks, and it is still going strong!  You can keep your starter refrigerated indefinitely as long as you feed it well (mine is going on two years)!

Note:  As the starter sits, you will notice a clear to gray colored liquid on the top.  This is perfectly normal.  It will have a lovely “beery” smell to it.  I usually mix it back in, and add a little less water when feeding it so that my starter isn’t too “soupy.”  

If you start to notice a “cheesy” smell, or a pinkish hue to the starter, that means that bacteria have taken over (the yeast have lost the battle).  You will need to throw it out and start over.

I did not include a recipe for sourdough bread since I use my starter to feed other whole grain starters that I make.  I am not a big white bread eater, so prefer to use whole grain flours in cooking.  I plan to post recipes for these whole grain sourdoughs at a future date, but it is not too late to go ahead and get started, er, with your starter (hardy har har)!