Opulent Farmer's Bread Recipe

In the Old World, multi-grain, whole-grain breads like our farmer's bread were a dietary mainstay for thousands of years.
By William Rubel
December 2010/January 2011
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Farmer's bread, with its combination of whole wheat, rye, and barley flour, is hearty, flavorful, and firm.  

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I created this farmer’s bread recipe for a hearty, 3-pound loaf from a reference to “opulent farmers” I read in a 1795 British agricultural text. The farmers ate bread consisting of 1 part wheat flour, 1 part rye, and 1 part barley. This dense, whole-grain bread has sweet undertones from the rye, made more complex by the wheat and barley. It was one of the first breads I made with my flour mill. I was amazed! I hadn’t expected the difference between store-bought and freshly ground grain to be so great. This is a good bread no matter the origin of the flour you use, but it’s a memorable bread if made with freshly ground grains.

Like all whole-grain breads that are largely based on grains other than wheat, the Opulent Farmers’ Bread has a sticky crumb until the finished loaf has rested overnight.

This powerful bread goes well with strong flavors, such as a richly flavored stew or aged cheddar and chutney. Breads like this were staples in Europe for thousands of years. It is nutritionally rich, great-tasting, real food.

Ingredients and supplies: 

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups whole-rye flour
2 cups whole-barley flour
1 1⁄8 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp salt
2 3⁄4 cups water
Baking stone or cookie sheet
Pizza peel or heavy piece of cardboard
White flour for dusting formed loaf

Note: Sift out larger grains for a slightly lighter loaf. If rehydrating yeast with water, subtract the amount of water you added to the yeast from the 2 3/4 cups in the recipe.


Starting the night before baking, in a bowl mix the wheat, rye, and barley flour along with the yeast, salt, and enough water to form a supple yet firm dough. After mixing, work over the dough with wet fists for half a minute or so until it has a satiny feel. Cover and let rise at room temperature.

The bread will not double, but will get noticeably softer. In the morning, if you cut into it with a sharp knife, you’ll see small air holes. With wet hands, gently de-gas the dough, cover, and let rise again.

After a few hours, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently shape into an oval or circle. Dust with flour and set aside to rise. Gently lift the bread and place it on a well-floured pizza peel or a well-floured piece of heavy cardboard. Slide onto the baking stone or cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, and then lower the oven to 350 degrees. After an hour, lower it to further to 325 degrees. I do bake the bread for 2 1/2 hours. I like a very strong, crisp crust, and I have exceedingly sharp knives. Unless the bread is burnt on the outside or raw on the inside, there is really no right or wrong to baking times. Bake to your taste. If your intuition tells you that you 2 hours is enough, then take it out. Traditionally, if you thump on the bottom of the loaf and the sound is hollow, the bread is done.

When done, remove from the oven and let cool, bottom side up. Do not slice until the next day. You will find that the bread’s flavor improves for several days after baking. Store it wrapped in a towel.

(These baking instructions are a corrected version from those printed in the magazine. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

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