Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bulgar millet loaf

Here's my latest attempt at a straightforward rustic loaf of bread. I say attempt both for my experimentation with technique and with my struggles against my impulse to over-complicate my recipes. This time I decided I wanted whole-grain crunchy/chewy bits in my bread which creates the difficulty of a half cup of things-that-aren't-flour to deal with. There are all sorts of seeds, nuts and grains to choose from for this sort of thing. I went with the bulgar wheat since it's been sitting around unappreciated since they underwhelmingly stuffed a pepper last spring. The millet I just bought. It's main purpose is to accompany African stews, but the bag said it's good in bread and I've come to trust Arrowhead Mills' word on such things. I also recently bought some gluten flour which is a good addition to recipes with whole grains and non-wheat flours to make sure the loaf can still rise properly.

I'm still working off the basic framework of the Old-fashioned Bread recipe from Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine. It's worked so far and I don't see a good reason change as long as I'm working within this particular genre of bread.

So, here's how it went:

1 1/4 cup bread flour
1/4 cup bulgar wheat
1/4 cup millet
2 teaspoons yeast
5 fluid oz water

mix, let sit overnight.

1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rye
1 Tablespoon gluten flour
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
scant 1/2 cup water + Tablespoons of water until the dough just comes together

mix, let sit 10 minutes. Judge hydration, maybe add a bit more water just to loosen it up a bit.

Knead in mixer. If you got it right, the dough will form a solid mass that not too solid and not too soft or sticky for the mixer to handle on speed 2. The dough hook should be visibly tossing and folding it. After a while, the dough will soften and gluten will form. Eventually--seven minutes for me this time--the dough will grab onto the dough hook. Give it another minute and then remove, form into a ball and put, seam side down, into an oiled bucket to rise for an hour. Punch it down and let it rise again.

I'm interested in getting a lighter loaf than I've had previously so I let it rise for over 90 minutes before putting it into the (preheated cast iron dutch) oven. The high rise was a bit delicate so there was some deflation when it hit the hot pot. I could have been a little more gentle, but I was trying to turn it out of the rising bowl and get it into the pot same side up which meant letting it drop a little ways as I tried to avoid burning myself too badly. That is one minus I've found from the switch in cooking vessels; 500 degree cast iron can burn from a distance.

The usual 30 minutes lid on, 25-30 lid off at 425 degrees and here's the result. This is the first loaf in a long while that I could hear crackling as it cooled, a sign I've got a particularly good crust.

Inside, you can see that I didn't get the really airy crumb I was looking for, but the bread's texture is quite light (so light I'm having structural integrity issues cutting across such a large loaf) with well distributed chewy/crunchy bits and a really fabulously rich and complex flavor. I keep trying to explain the flavor, but it jolts right to the back of the brain to that primal part that knows what fresh picked berries, meat cooked over a fire and whole grain bread is supposed to taste like and I have no words. I'm going to go have another slice now.

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