Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add barley to pan; cook 10 minutes or until evenly toasty-brown and fragrant, stirring frequently. Add water to cover by 3 inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until chewy-tender. Drain, or reserve liquid for Korean Roasted Barley Tea.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from pan. Add onion to drippings in pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add cumin, paprika, and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add molasses, salt, and tomato sauce; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; stir in barley.
Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with bacon. Garnish with thyme, if desired.
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