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
multigrain loaves

Multigrain sourdough

Whole, soaked grains add a fantastic flavour and extra nutrition to a loaf of bread. Over the weekend, since we were running low, I decided to make two large loaves of sourdough with a range of different grains and seeds thrown into the mix.

soaker
Spelt, wheat, polenta, quinoa and linseed ready for an overnight soak.

In order to get the best out of the grains, both in terms of flavour and digestibility, an overnight soaking is required. I timed this loaf to be baked on the same day of mixing – no overnight retardation. This meant that the starter needed refreshing a couple of days before, and on the night before at the same time as mixing the soaker. I also wanted to push the hydration of this loaf up to give it a lighter texture, so I increased the amount of water I normally use both in the starter and the loaf itself. In order to develop the gluten in the dough, I have used the “stretch/fold” method of kneading. Whilst the timings may seem a little over the top (a quick knead every ten minutes, then every half an hour) it is really very easy and does a fantastic job.

dough_in_bannetons
The (very wet) dough proofing in well-floured bannetons.

This loaf uses a combination of rye flour from the starter, and wholemeal spelt and white baker’s flour for the dough. The rye and spelt give an excellent flavour and colour, whilst the white flour lightens the texture further – something which can occasionally be an issue in wholemeal multigrain breads.

Soaker

  • 50g rolled spelt grains
  • 50g rolled wheat grains
  • 50g polenta
  • 25g red quinoa
  • 25g linseed
  • 200g water at room temperature

Dough

  • 400g rye starter at 150% hydration
  • 400g white baker’s flour
  • 400g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 650g water
  • 20g salt
  • all of the soaker
  1. Two nights before making the dough, refresh 50g of rye starter with 100g rye flour and 150g water.
  2. The night before making the bread, mix the soaker ingredients and cover. Refresh the starter with 100g rye flour and 150g water.
  3. The morning of making the bread, mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Autolyse for 20 minutes.
  4. Stretch/fold the dough 10 times, rotating the bowl. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat three times.
  5. Stretch/fold the dough 10 times every half an hour for three hours (six times). Cover and leave the dough for one more hour.
  6. Divide and shape the dough, and place into bannetons extremely well-floured with rice flour.
  7. Proof for two hours at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 240°C with a Dutch Oven (Le Creuset style cast iron pot with lid) on the middle shelf.
  8. Upturn the bread onto a well floured peel. Carefully remove the Dutch Oven, remove the lid, slide the loaf in, replace the lid and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 15 minutes with the lid off. Reduce temperature to 230°C if the loaf looks too dark.
  9. Repeat with the remaining loaf. Cool loaves on a wire rack before slicing.
multigrain loaves
The finished loaves. The contrast of the rye/spelt and the white rice flour gives the loaves a dramatic look. The cracking on the top is from the rising of the bread, not from scoring.
cracked_crust
There is enough leavening power in the starter to force these cracks.

 

Baking skills pt. 3: Bulk Ferment

Once the dough has been kneaded (or not, depending on which method of kneading you are using) it is time to let the ingredients do their own thing. This crucial stage of bread making is referred to add the bulk ferment – bulk because the dough is fermented as a whole mass, prior to dividing and shaping, and ferment because of the action of the yeast and enzymes in the dough.

During the bulk ferment a lot is going on inside the dough. The process that began when the ingredients were combined, whether in an autolyse or straight into a kneading, comes into its own now. Enzymes in the dough thrive in the warm, moist atmosphere as they go about converting the starch from the flour into sugar and the protein into sugar. In a yeasted dough or a dough with a natural levain, this sugar becomes food. The yeast cells, whether commercial (such as instant dried yeast or fresh baker’s yeast) or wild (from a ‘sourdough’ starter or barm) consume the sugar in the dough and release carbon dioxide as they reproduce and expire.

pita_dough
A white dough during the bulk fermentation stage

The release of carbon dioxide is what creates the rise in a leavened dough, and also some of the flavour. The gluten formed by the enzymes and helped along by the kneading allows the dough to stretch and trap pockets of air. In a very high hydration dough, this results in those large, irregular holes that are common to ciabatta and sourdough loaves.

During this stage it is possible to use the stretch and fold technique to add structure and encourage a well risen bread. As explained in the previous post on kneading, this means taking a portion of the dough, stretching it and folding it back on itself, and repeating a few times for the first few hours (if using a ‘wild yeast’ levain) or a couple of times during the start of the bulk ferment.

It is important to let the dough rise in its own time, preferably at room temperature or slightly above. A longer fermentation results in more flavour. This is less important in a sweet or savory flavoured loaf where other flavours may dominate anyway. Once the dough has risen (usually to double or at least one and a half times its size, depending on the recipe) it is time to divide and shape the loaf, being careful not to knock out too much of those flavour filled, well risen gases.