Farl - an ancient bread in many forms - Part 1 : Oven-bottom English Farl

Farl. The very word sounds as old as time itself. 

Farl, or Fardel, is a generic word for an traditional form of basic village oven-bottom bread. 

In Lowland Scotland, a fardel was a three-cornered oatcake, the word fardell meant 'fourth part or a quarter'. 

In Ulster, a farl is a fourth piece of a bannock, a large flat scone or oatcake. 

In Southern Ireland, a farl often refers to soda bread or a potato bread and they're distinctive in being made and sold in quarters. 

I remember, as a lad, buying potato cakes from the shop down the street. They were round and divided up into four parts. You cut them into quarters (as triangles) and toasted them. The butter never soaked in, but that was part of the pleasure.= and the taste. 

In England, farl  is slightly different. It's an ancient bread that was traditionally cooked on the floor of the great stone ovens that existed in every town and village, the length and breadth of the land. 

Instead of forming it into loaves, it is traditionally formed into a boule or ball, slashed and then cooked low down in the oven.

In future blogs, I'll walk you through Irish and Scots farl, as the recipes call for the use of buttermilk and / or potatoes and, therefore, the form and processes are quite different. 

This time, it's English farl. Straightforward and easy enough to do without having to have lots of ingredients in the larder. 

It uses white flour. This is deliberate. In olden times, the whiter the flour, the more an indication of your wealth and health. These days, we've almost gone into reverse. We talk about the benefits of wholemeal, granary, brown and stoneground. 

Of course, all flour was once stoneground and milled. But the finest flour was also the whitest. 


500 gms of strong white bread flour. 

10 gms of sea salt

60 gms of unsalted butter

300 mls of water

13 gms of instant yeast

You'll notice that there is a slightly more salt in this recipe.  Salt helps to preserve as well as being a taste enhancer. There's also more butter. Butter gives a better rise, a better crust and also provides a longer shelf-life. 13 gms of instant yeast is about double what I'd usually use...but, again, it's to give the bread rise...it's got a lot of work to do at the second proving stage. 


Machine mixing - place the water, butter and salt into the machine pan. Add the flour and then add the yeast. Run the mix on a Basic Dough programme (approximately 2 hrs 20 mins)

Hand mixing - place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix for 4 minutes. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough comes together and becomes smooth and pliable. Leave it in a tea-towel covered bowl in a warm place for one hour. 


Take the dough and knock it back onto a floured surface. 

Develop tension in your dough using the method which we've met before and is detailed in https://breadclub20.blogspot.com/2020/10/baking-bread-in-bannetons.html

Form into  boule

With one hand on the bottom of the dough, stretch out the top in front of you

Fold back the top into the middle, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the process for one minute. 

Once you've finished the stretching, folding and turning to help develop tension in your bread, form it into a ball or boule. 

(The mix will make a large loaf - if you'd prefer two smaller loaves, half the dough and work it into two separate boules).

Prepare a well floured baking tray (or use a silicone liner) 

Flatten the ball or boule into a circle about 2 inches thick. 

Place it on the baking tray and put it somewhere warm to rise for about 1 hour. 


Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. 

Dust the top of the dough with flour. You can use strong white, spelt or rye flour. 

Starting in the middle of the dough, make vertical slashes down the dough - all the way round. Turn the dough 180 degrees and take the slashes down the far side. 

Bake low down in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Cool on a wire rack. 

Happy baking....


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