A new recipe inspired by Ruth
by Erin Patinkin


Ruby Namdar, one of our LABA teachers, asked me to respond to Chapter 2 of the Book of Ruth with something edible. “Maybe you could make up a recipe for a barley bread. You know, something easy.”

Easy. Right.

Barley plays a central role in Chapter 2, so I started exploring what to make with these Google searches: “ancient barley bread recipe,” “make bread biblical times,” and “carboholics 2000 BCE.” Not surprisingly, there were few results. Still, I persevered and ultimately came up with a few workable ideas.

I started with a recipe I found that called for barley flour. Turns out that it’s a specialty item and I didn’t have the time to order it online, so I bought the raw grains with the intention of grinding them into flour using the industrial food processor housed at Ovenly. After 15 minutes on high speed, the barley was almost entirely intact. After 20, there was only a tiny bit of flour and the motor was awfully hot. Barley bread wasn’t going to happen.

Back at the drawing board, I discovered that barley along with spelt were some of the first cultivated grains. I hauled out the spelt flour, experimented, and brought that first try to a LABA session. Made only of honey, water, and spelt, the bread was slightly tasteless and dry (Ruby liked it); though it was indeed most likely similar to something ancient, my modern palate wanted something more.

When the LABA festival came about, I decided to keep experimenting with that bread. Using the original recipe, I started throwing in other ingredients, and gave myself this rule: Whatever I came up with had to be made with ingredients that would have been found during the time of Ruth. The final product was moist and savory, a nice homage.


Makes 2 loaves


8 cups spelt flour

1/2 cup white sesame

1/4 cup black caraway (nigella)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup buttermilk

Oats for decoration


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, sesame seeds, black caraway, salt, and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, milk, and buttermilk.

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and stir with a spatula until thoroughly combined. The dough will be very wet. Top with raw oats.

Divide batter equally amongst pans. Bake for 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden.