Saturday, 6 June 2015

An experiment with a heritage ingredient

Wikipedia says that finger millet, African millet or Ragi has been used in India for over 4000 years. Its longstanding popularity is not surprising, the flour of this grain has a dense malted taste that makes great tasting sweet and savoury food. 

I've used Ragi flour in yeasted pan breads and they've turned out great, but this is my first attempt with a slightly thicker bread. You can see from the picture that it was a hesitant attempt, didn't dare go thicker than focaccia, but the experiment turned out surprisingly tasty. 

Here's what I did.


Sourdough starter (200% hydration)  90 g
Flour 260 g
Wholewheat flour 180 g
Ragi or finger millet flour 45 g
Oats (quick cooking) 45 g
Water 516 ml (72% hydration) 
Coarse sea salt for the dough 16 g 
Coarse sea salt to sprinkle - a bit I guess, forgot to weigh this, since it was an impulsive last minute thought


Mixed in all the ingredients except salt. Covered the bowl and neglected for the next hour. 

Added salt and attempted to knead. The dough was really really slack, but interestingly, it all stuck together into a super flexible ball. A bit like the slime that kids love to play with. Good thing my daughter wasn't in the kitchen or we would never have got around to baking. Although there was just a small amount of ragi, it made the dough significantly darker. 

It took 1.5 hours for the dough to double in volume. I just flattened it a bit and poured in into a large oiled tin. (again, it behaved like slime and just slid out of the bowl into the tin). 

After another 1.5 hours, preheated the oven to 250ºC, drizzled some olive oil on the dough, and sprinkled a little salt on the surface. After 10 minutes and a few water sprays (2 to be precise), turned the heat down to 200ºC and baked for another 20 minutes.

Cooled the bread on a rack. It smelt so good that I clean forgot to take a picture of the loaf until we had finished dinner! This may explain the bad lighting in the picture. It could also be shamefully poor photography skills :( 


The crust was soft (perhaps because of the oil drizzle?) and the crumb had air pockets as large as windows! The slightly sweet malt taste of ragi came through, although I had put in just a little. 

There was a glutinous texture to the crumb that one normally finds in steamed bread. Was it too much water? Was it the ragi? Whatever it was, it gave the loaf a sandwich bread-like softness that's usually missing in my baking. 

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