Monday, 29 January 2018

Malted finger millet bread

As soon as they turn a few months old, the babies of Karnataka and Maharashtra get introduced to one of the most delicious foods they're ever likely to eat. This phenomenon is called ragi malt (or nachani cha satva in Maharashtra).

Ragi malt or malted finger millet is a pinkish brown powder that smells sweet in a slightly earthy way. When a couple of teaspoons of ragi malt are cooked with milk and sugar, you end up with a creamy concoction that has the consistency of  thick pouring custard, and a unique warm sweet taste that has subtle hints of caramel and spiced chocolate. Babies wallop it by the spoonful and it's a wonder they want to ever grow up and give up on this amazing food.

While I have baked before with finger millet, I thought I'd try out the malted version from scratch; by making the malt myself!

The bread in the picture owes its colour to ragi as well as the powdered jaggery I added in place of sugar. The loaves turned out super soft, although they weren't as airy as I had expected. I suspect the custardy texture of ragi had something to do with that. There was a nice crust that looked tough but was quite gentle. That somehow seemed appropriate for bread that had a baby food ingredient.

I gave one of the loaves to a friend who belongs to Karnakata to get her expert opinion on the heritage ingredient, and the bread passed her test.

The second loaf vanished quickly at home, with the able assistance of pats of butter and big bowls of soup :-)

I kneaded 400 g of flour, 73 g ragi malt, 27 g powdered jaggery, 3 grams of yeast, 9 g salt and 320 ml of water.
The dough was quite sticky and slack, but after almost 20 minutes of serious kneading, it started looking like bread dough.
After a first proofing of around 2 hours, I shaped the dough into two small loaves. An hour later, they were
scored and baked for around 30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Making ragi malt

Here's how the odd figure of 73 appeared in my recipe. I sprouted 100 g of ragi seeds (2.5 days), roasted the sprouts on a baking sheet at 150 degrees for around 15 minutes and then ran them through the coffee grinder.

I was rewarded with 73 g of malt for my pains :-)

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