Many Seed Millet Bread
A few weeks ago, I finally got a copy of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. While I've read the book (most of it several times), I hadn't actually tried any of his recipes until this weekend. Yesterday and today, I made the Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (his basic formula) for sandwiches next week and a modified version of his German-Style Transitional Many Seed Bread to have with dinner. Both came out great, but since the many seed bread was the more interesting to me, that's what I decided to write about.
In his book, Reinhart uses the term "transitional" to refer to breads that contain some white flour along with the whole wheat flour. All of his transitional recipes have a 100% whole wheat counterpart except for the many seed bread. As a general rule, I try to follow recipes as written once before I begin tweaking, but decided against that approach this time. Instead, I decided to replace the white flour in the biga with whole wheat flour and the whole wheat flour in the soaker with millet flour. Why?
- I'm not opposed to using white flour, but prefer the taste of whole wheat in most circumstances.
- I was craving a dense bread, and using a gluten-free flour is certainly one way to achieve that.
- I thought that the mild, nutty flavor of millet flour would complement the seeds nicely.
- I had a need to use up some millet flour (hey, at least I'm honest).
- My (admittedly weak) understanding is that the highest-gluten flour should be in the biga, so I put the millet flour in the soaker instead.
On Friday, I mixed the biga and soaker following the instructions in the book. The soaker ended up a bit wetter than I wanted (I didn't realize how little water the millet flour would absorb), but other than that, things went smoothly. On Saturday, I combined these items with the remaining ingredients. Below you can see a photo of the final dough ingredients before mixing. In addition to a small amount of flax seeds in the soaker, the final dough contains pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. Summed up, these are 33.3% of the weight of the flour -- definitely "many seed".
I followed Reinhart's instructions for mixing and kneading. Although the large amount of millet flour meant that the final dough did not pass the windowpane test, I was pleased that the normally coarse texture of the millet flour was greatly lessened as a result of the soaker. As instructed, I let the final dough rise for around 50 minutes, then formed a batard and allowed it to proof for around 50 minutes. The rises were somewhat lackluster, but much higher than I expected with such a high percentage of millet flour. I baked with steam (something I'm still fairly new at) using Reinhart's instructions, but had no oven spring to speak of (probably as a result of overproofing yet again). Since I set out to make a dense loaf however, this didn't bother me too much. Crust and crumb photos are below:
The bread was certainly packed with seeds, but I found it to be delicious and very satisfying. The millet flour contributed just the flavor I was hoping. I tried toasting a few pieces, and the bread was even better this way; the toasting really brought out the flavor of the seeds. However, one mistake became apparent with the first bite: it was probably a bad idea to use whole pumpkin seeds. I always eat them this way, so I tend to forget that there's an alternative, but the hulls definitely made thorough chewing important (and also a bit of a workout). Sure enough, in looking at the photos of this bread in the book, it's pretty clear that hulled pumpkin seeds were used.
Overall, I'm still happy with this bread, and will definitely make it again. This may also be the best use of millet flour I've found so far (though admittedly, those looking for a lighter loaf would probably want to use no more than 10%). The pumpkin seed oversight is a bit of a disappointment, but still far better than the time I accidentally used whole sunflower seeds in a bread!