Brown the apples in butter in a large sauté pan. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Set aside.
Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in large sauce pan. Add onion and garlic, sauté until tender.
Add barley, stir until coated with butter, about 1 minute.
Add broth a little at a time (about 1/4 cup is good); simmer, stirring often, until broth is absorbed.
Add remaining broth in the same manner, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until barley is tender, but still firm to bite, about 40 to 50 minutes.
Add apples and Parmesan cheese, then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.