Inspired by Tess Lister’s formula for a white sourdough loaf in “A Handful of Flour – Recipes from Shipton Mill” [ISBN 978-1-4722-3337-0] and, especially the way it popped so well with Shipton flours, I did what seems to be part of me and played with the formula ever so little. I tried adding 10% dark Rye and it produces a wonderful pain de campagne. Then I spotted a 1 kilo bag of Shipton Mill Barley flour and remembered that it pairs well with rye flour. Quest on! Barley is not commonly used in baking as it has a very low gluten content. The flour is made from pearl barley and has a mild earthy taste when baked. Convention suggests white flour needs to be combined in at least a ratio of 3:1. As Buckwheat is bitter and earthy so Barley is sweet and earthy. Barley bread formulas from all round the Black Sea blend barley with wholemeal to produce dense and heavy loaves. Finnish barley bread and Welsh barley bread are both rolled out flat before baking. [Finnish formula: 225g barley flour – 10g baking powder – 25g butter – 120g single cream – 60g milk. Mix, shape, score, bake for 15-18 minutes until pale golden.] However I wanted that sweet earthy taste in a loaf that popped. I paired just a little barley with rye and it produced a very satisfactory loaf. One in particular got good reviews from friendly tasters. It had a 50:50 mix of dark rye and barley flour in a predominantly white loaf. Earthy enough to be both rustic and modern. Further tests with more barley and less rye drew reminiscent comments from tasters about how nice the earlier loaf was. My dad came to London and stayed overnight and as he slept I pondered the feedback and started to write down this formula. It is a formula that requires 3 pre-ferments (starters) but is otherwise quite simple to produce. The base is strong white flour with the addition of small amounts of dark rye, barley flour and buckwheat flour to honour a 6,000-year-old tradition with a renewed spirit of creativity and innovation or two. Balancing sweetness and sourness without enhancing the dough was paramount. The quest not yet over but a mid-term result suggesting it is well on track. Some 12 hours before you want to mix the final dough (in the evening before you go to bed) mix the three pre-ferments as follows: (1) 75g balm + 75g dark rye flour, (2) 60g white starter + 60g water + 60g white flour (Shipton Mill #112), (3) 30g wholewheat starter + 60g dark rye + 60g water. Final dough: All the pre-ferment – 450g + 665g water (@26 C) + 40g barley flour + 10g buckwheat flour + 45g dark rye + 915g strong white bread flour + 8g ground roasted caraway seed + 20g sea salt. Like a touch of pepper works on a great steak, just a touch of barley and buckwheat works in this very chewy bread. The tastes merge to demand contemplation. The result is great on its own, with butter and just about anything. Method: Mix all the ingredients in a mixer bowl and knead on the slowest speed with a dough hook for 20 minutes. Pour the dough out onto a work surface and hand knead until the windowpane test is passed (about 5 minutes). Rest for 10 minutes and then do a stretch and fold [use whatever version you prefer or are familiar with – just stretch those stands of gluten!]. Let prove for 2 hours in a covered bowl before doing a second stretch and fold sequence. Again rest for one more hour then divide into 2 parts, pre-shape, shape into boules and place onto cloche or into cloth covered bannetons. Place the shaped loaves into a refrigerator at 6 C for between 18 and 48 hours. Bake directly from the refrigerator at 240 C with moisture for the first 10 minutes.