Millet Sourdough

Millet is a golden yellow seed that takes on a light, fluffy texture when cooked. It can be used in a variety of ways (including being the main ingredient in most bird seed mixes…) but in bread it gives a warm colour and a deep, almost corn-like flavour to the finished loaf. Millet comes in a variety of forms; millet flour, hulled millet, millet flakes and whole millet. For this recipe, I have used hulled millet, soaked overnight then cooked and cooled slightly before using in the recipe. On one of the loaves, I also added a coating of millet flakes to give extra crunch to the crust.

Cooked millet
Cooked millet

Millet sourdough makes 2 loaves

  • 200g hulled millet, soaked overnight
  • 200g rye starter @ 100% hydration
  • 350g strong white flour
  • 400g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 450g water
  • 20g salt
  • millet flakes, to coat (optional)
  1. Drain and rinse the millet, then cook in double the volume of water for around 20 minutes until soft and fluffy. Drain, if necessary, and leave to cool for at least half an hour.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the millet, mixing thoroughly. Autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Incorporate the millet and knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer to an oiled bowl and bulk ferment for 4-5 hours, until doubled in size.
  5. Divide and shape the dough into two rounds. Rest for 5 minutes, then reshape into rounds and place into bannetons well floured with rice flour.
  6. Proof for 1 and a half hours.
  7. Preheat oven to maximum. If you have one, place a pizza stone or baking stone on the middle shelf. Place an empty baking dish on the bottom of the oven.
  8. Turn out the first loaf onto a well floured bread peel or the back of a baking sheet. Score, then slide into the oven (if you do not have a stone, bake directly on a floured baking sheet). Pour a cup of boiling water into the baking dish at the bottom of the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 240˚C and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate loaf, reduce heat to 210˚C and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  9. Cool on a wire rack, repeat with the remaining loaf.
Slashed loaf ready to bake
Slashed loaf ready to bake
Finished loaves, one without flake crust (left), one with
Finished loaves, one without flake crust (left), one with

Red quinoa sourdough

Cooked quinoa gives a slightly nutty taste and a chewy texture to this bread, and using red quinoa specifically gives the loaf a dramatic colour. I have used quinoa in sourdough breads before, but never in this quantity – the finished loaf is peppered with quinoa throughout the crust and crumb.

Mix thoroughly before autolysing
Mix thoroughly before autolysing

This is another high hydration loaf that benefits from the “stretch and fold” method of kneading. The quinoa adds a little water to the mix too, but shouldn’t be a problem as long as it is worked in with the rest of the ingredients.

Soaking the quinoa
Soaking the quinoa

Red Quinoa Sourdough makes 2 large loaves

  • 250g red quinoa, soaked overnight, cooked and cooled
  • 400g rye starter at 150% hydration
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 400g wholemeal flour
  • 20g salt
  • 650g lukewarm water
  1. Refresh the starter at least 8 hours prior to mixing, or overnight.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Autolyse for 20 minutes.
  3. Stretch/fold the dough 10 times. Rest in the bowl for 10 minutes, then repeat this process twice more.
  4. Stretch/fold every 30 minutes for the first three hours of the bulk ferment (6 times in total).
  5. Rest for a further one and a half hours.
  6. Divide the loaves and shape into rounds. Rest for 5 minutes, then shape and place into well floured bannetons. I flour my bannetons with rice flour. Flour the loaves well and place into plastic bags.
  7. Retard in the fridge overnight.
  8. The day of baking, preheat the oven to 235˚C with a ‘Dutch oven‘ (le creuset style pan with lid) on the middle shelf.
  9. Bake the first loaf straight from the fridge: turn the loaf out onto a well floured bread peel or the back of a baking tray. Remove the Dutch oven carefully, and take off the lid. Slide the loaf into the Dutch oven, replace the lid, and place back into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, and a further 15 minutes with the lid off.
  10. Repeat with the remaining loaf.
  11. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
The finished loaf
The finished loaf
Red quinoa studded crust
Red quinoa studded crust
The interior of the loaf is also filled with quinoa and tastes fantastic
The interior of the loaf is also filled with quinoa and tastes fantastic
And the best way to use the bread is...
And the best way to use the bread is…

 

Start early, finish delicious

With electric mixers, instant yeast, bread improvers and all the rest it is possible to rush through and get from dough to baked loaf in just a few hours. As I have mentioned before though, what you sacrifice in patience you also sacrifice in flavour. So how does someone baking at home, without the luxuries of expensive proofers and retarding fridges manage the slow process of making delicious bread without spending a whole weekend fussing over a loaf?

There are a few simple techniques which can be used to improve flavour and texture and, other than keeping an eye on the clock, only really add a few minutes to the overall time. To extend the bread making process does not require you to commit to slaving over a loaf. By planning ahead it is easy to use the following techniques at home.

Preferments

As dough ferments it improves. Simple. The longer you give the yeast to work on the starch in the flour, the more sugars are released and the more flavour imparted into the loaf. Increased fermentation time also leads to increased enzyme activity, which is especially important in sourdough loaves. One way of encouraging this extra long fermentation is by using a form of  preferment, such as one of the following:

Poolish

A French preferment made by mixing a portion of the flour with water and a small amount of yeast. A poolish will be wet and will bubble up over about 4 hours, at which point it can be refrigerated overnight to use the next day.

poolish

Biga

Similar to a poolish and used in Italian breads. Less water than a poolish, so it is firmer and gives a more distinct flavour to the finished loaf. Again the biga can be made the night before and refrigerated overnight. Both biga and poolish should be left at room temperature for a while so that they do not lower the temperature of the dough too much.

Pain de Campagne (Country Bread) made with an Italian style biga
Pain de Campagne (Country Bread) made with an Italian style biga

Old dough

For those who bake very regularly an old piece of dough can be cut from the main batch before it is baked, saved, and incorporated into the next batch. Has similar properties to a biga.

Levain (sourdough starter)

Technically a class all of its own, but I will class it as a preferment because essentially a sourdough starter will add a lot of flavour due to the extended fermentation time. A handful of starter can also be added to a yeasted loaf to improve flavour; just make sure to adjust the flour and water in the final recipe accordingly.

rye_starter
Rye flour sourdough starter, started in 2012

Time and temperature

The purpose of using a  preferment is to extend the period of time in which the yeast is active. It doesn’t take much effort- if I want to make a yeasted loaf I could simply mix the ingredients and dive straight in, or I could plan to bake later and spend a few minutes mixing a poolish 4 hours before. Other than a  preferment, the best way to manipulate time is to control temperature.

Checking the water temperature gives a more accurate final temperature in the dough
Checking the water temperature gives a more accurate final temperature in the dough

Water temperature

The temperature of the liquid used in the recipe will have one of the greatest impacts on the dough temperature. Yeast seems, in my experience, to work best at about 35-37°C – a bit above lukewarm – and mixing with water at this temperature delivers pretty consistent results. Start heading above the 40s, however, and the yeast will die. Cooler water temperatures mean that the dough will be cooler after mixing, and the yeast will be less active. This will give a slower fermentation, which means more flavour, but could shift your schedule from 2 hours to 4.

Room temperature

I have learned the hard way that it is best to just rely on the ambient temperature of your kitchen, and not try too hard to warm up the dough (balancing a bowl on top of a radiator on a tea towel was not my best idea). If you really want to speed the process, try a naturally warm space like near a sunny window.

Refrigeration (retarding)

The home baker’s best friend when it comes to flavour can be the fridge. Whilst it is possible to make a great tasting loaf in a single day, the added step of an overnight stint in the fridge is well worth it, and means that you can bake early the next morning and have fresh bread ready to go. Rather than treating it as an additional chore, look at it as a way to fit bread making into your own time. I find it much easier to make a dough on a Saturday then not have to be concerned about when on Saturday night I will be baking it- just whack it in the fridge for Sunday.

Other ways to extend fermentation

There are other ways to drag out the period of active time for the yeast. You can knock the dough back more than once (don’t try with sourdough unless you want to lose all of the air and flavour), and keep knocking it back until you are ready to bake. Be careful though; after a point the yeast will have consumed all of the really available starches and will stop reproducing. You can refrigerate or warm the flour and other ingredients prior to mixing to slow or speed up the rising time respectively. Finally, you can cut the account of yeast in a recipe- sometimes even a quarter of a teaspoon will be enough to leaven a loaf; it will just take longer.

In summary…

More time = more fermentation = more flavour Lower temperature = more time…Less yeast = more time…

So, start early, plan it out, and get on with your life in those 4 hour periods when you don’t even need to look at your dough: the yeast will be happily chewing through your dough whether you are staring at it or not.