barley loaves

After a few years of crumbly attempts at making "Bible-time" barley loaves for our annual [make-believe] pilgrimage to Bethlehem, I finally came up with what looks like a winner - purely by accident of course, in my trademark style.

First and foremost, they are beautiful.  You look at the loaves, and you're transported to a Galilean hillside full of miracles.  Second, thanks to what I thought were decorative slashes on the top, they break easily, as in: "gave thanks and broke the bread."  Third, they are not crumbly, and therefore are suitable for the frequent breaking and dipping which we indulge in during our "journey."  Last but not least, they are delicious.  Moist, lightly sweet, they taste good all by themselves.

Here ya go!  Have at it, and have fun with them:

Barley loaves

Grind enough barley to make 2 cups or so of flour.  Use a grain grinder if you have one, or a blender or food processor would probably work, too.  I needed to grind mine twice to get it fine enough.  Soak the ground barley in 3 cups of milk for a few hours in the fridge, if you have time, to soften it a bit.  (Or maybe you went out and bought your barley flour; then you can skip all this hullabaloo!)

In a large bowl, mix:

1 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 T yeast

Proof the yeast by letting it set five minutes to ensure that it's active [if it is, it should make a foam].  Add:

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (or whatever oil or fat you like, liquid)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs

Whisk well to combine.  Stir in:

milk-soaked barley flour
3-5 cups white whole wheat flour (all-purpose or whole wheat would probably work, too)

Knead with enough flour to make a more or less smooth dough.  My barley flour was still a bit on the chunky side, and my dough was a little sticky, but manageable.  [I have to confess that as I was making this bread, I was not measuring.  Sugar had ground the barley for me, and I wanted to use all of it, and it was more than was called for in the original recipe I had.  So I "adapted", and ended up using too much liquid (I had milk I wanted to use up); my flour amounts were more along the lines of "keep adding flour until it finally forms a dough!"  The 3-5 cups called for here is my best approximation of what I ended up using.]  

Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Divide dough into 10-12 parts and form into ovals; place on parchment paper to rise one hour.  You may cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap if you like.  I usually cover my breads while they rise, but didn't get around to covering this batch and they turned out just lovely.  I also cut the three slashes just after the loaves were formed, but I believe it's usually customary to do that just before placing in the oven.  Take your pick!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake the loaves on the parchment-covered sheets for 15-25 minutes, till they are well-browned and sound hollow when you knock on the bottom.

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