Pearl Barley & Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread made with Sourdough

There are certain times of the year when there are gluts of pumpkin supply and if you live in South Australia, like I do, they are in abundant supply virtually all year round!

Curiously, in terms of baking, pumpkin is more likely to be associated with quick breads, similar to banana bread, along with similar spices as well – such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. However, pumpkin bread recipes, as in with yeast do not appear to be that prominent. Thanks to the fact that I have pumpkins in such abundant supply I’ve been experimenting over the years a savoury bread version which has pretty much become one of my best sellers at my local Riverland Farmers’ Market. My initial inspiration came from Dan Lepard’s recipe published in The Guardian

I have since discovered that the trick with pumpkin is to treat it as a source hydration – pumpkin after all is roughly 90% water in its make up.

Pumpkin bread will also benefit with the addition of toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds haha) which will add a pleasant wholesome texture to the bread. – On occasion I do add these, should it pickle my fancy to do so – I’ve also discovered that cooked pearl barley will give the bread a delightful Moorish context to it. The pumpkin and the barley makes a beautifully moist bread. It is said that in the olden days pumpkin was used as a sweetener, meaning that the bread is also pleasantly sweet and there is absolutely no need for any added sugar.

As a rule of thumb, I like to use approximately 20% barley flour and the remainder stoneground wheat flour. Lately I have been using spelt for the latter with excellent results. Then 20% cooked pearl barley. The hydration side consists of 60% pumpkin puree and 20% reserved barley water or whey, sometimes even buttermilk, again depending on what I have on hand and what pickles my fancy! Overall, the expected hydration would be 80% to the total of flour at 100%. Here below, my recipe for pumpkin bread shaped into a boule and baked under a cloche (or in a damper oven, like I like to do it!) The bread turns out a beautiful golden colour and it is aromatic in its own right. It keeps pretty well and is lovely toasted.

By the way, I like to bake my pumpkin slowly in the oven, cut into quarters skin sides down, drizzled with some olive oil. Once baked, I scrape the flesh off the skin and use a stick blender to puree it (I used to use mouli, a food processor will also do the job).

10 STEP PEARL BARLEY & PUMPKIN BREAD  (weights)

1.  Cook pearl barley until just tender and weigh 80g and reserve equal amount of its water for the hydration.

2.  Combine pumpkin puree and barley water (desired temperature around 26-28˚C ) with the mature sourdough starter.

3.  Blend flours, salt and active yeast together.

4.  Mix the puree/water with the flour until well amalgamated – no lumps please!

5.  Leave to autolyse rest for at least 15 mins before folding (allow for 2-3 folds)

6.  Spread the pearl barley on the dough and keep folding this into to the dough (don’t knead it in, as this will break your gluten network)

7.  Drizzle the olive oil on the dough for bassinage purposes, which gets folded into the dough along the way.

8.  Bulk fermentation should be at least 4 hours, or overnight retarded fermentation in the fridge.

9.  Turn the dough out and gently degas and shape it into a boule and place into a proving basket for final proof, approx. 30-45 mins.

10. Bake in a preheated oven of 250˚C  under a cloche for 20 mins then another 20 mins without cloche at 200˚C

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