A note about barley dough

I can’t remember if I had to do this with the first batch of this dough; I’m now on my third batch.

After the dough has been made I let it rest for several hours; at least 6 for the first batch and for this batch 8 or more. When I let the dough rest it’s tightly wrapped in cling plastic wrap (e.g., Saran Wrap), and then it’s put in a plastic bag and it sits on my counter. When I’m ready to bake it, in both cases the ball of dough has gotten slightly brown on the outside, and inside the dough is significantly dryer than before its rest; it’s almost on the border of being crumbly. With this batch I even oiled my hands and rolled the dough ball between them to get it lightly coated with oil; I wanted to see if I could avoid the browning.

So what I’ve done after the rest is get out the mixer, break up the dough into little pieces and put it in the mixer and add a few teaspoons of water. Not much water is needed; today it was only 2 teaspoons. I put in 3, but that looks like it was 1 teaspoon too many. It takes a long time to mix in this water; add 1 teaspoon at a time and let it mix for at least 3 or more minutes. Mix at as high a speed as you can without the dough flying out of the mixer’s bowl; the splash guard is definitely needed here. At first the water will just be a slight goo around the inside of the bowl but eventually it gets incorporated into the dough, but it takes a long time. It’s probably an advantage that I’m using only 1 cup of flour; it mixes more easily than a big ball of dough would.

The reason I’m letting the dough rest for so long, and it probably could rest for even longer, is that there are enzymes in the flour that break down some of the starches and turn them into sugar, “making all sorts of new flavors and functions possible.” That quote is from the book Whole grain breads by Peter Reinhart; starting on page 39 he has a good explanation of the role of enzymes in bread making. (The book is devoted to wheat flour, with a few rye recipes.)

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