Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Accident-25 lbs of Teff Flour-Part 2


After last week’s fabulous teff pancakes I continued building the starter even though I sorely needed a break from bread baking. I was busy and thought it would be a good opportunity to practice growing starter in the fridge as this would cut the feedings from 3 times a day to twice.

The starter grew beautifully with a mild aroma. I would take it out for about an hour in the morning, feed it, let it sit another hour or so and put it back in the fridge for 12 hours. I’d repeat the sequence at night before bed. I noticed some thickening and some small bubbles but nothing dramatic.

I had been thinking about creating bread that was mildly sweet without any sweetener beyond 1 teaspoon of stevia powder. I used small amounts of carob and maca (a malty flavored root) and used buckwheat flour for one loaf and shredded coconut for the other. I also used coconut oil for the fat. The batters were rich looking, like cake batter. The aroma in the kitchen was heavenly and the resulting breads were fabulous. Sweet without any added sugars, so no blood sugar spikes. The bread is satisfying and the taste is complex. I found the taste getting sweeter each day.

My daughter, who named Sourdough Bread #1 “Mommybread” said this Teff Carob bread was the best ever and I should make it exclusively. Forever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Accident-25 Lbs. of Teff Flour-Part 1

I thought I was ordering Teff Whole Grain but I obviously made a mistake somewhere along the line because when my order arrived I opened a 25 lb. bag of Teff Flour! I went back to my original order slip and saw that, indeed, I had ordered 25 lbs. of flour. I just looked at this massive amount of flour and wondered how long will it take to use this up. Ugh.

I usually buy whole grain teff and grind it up as I need it. Teff is a potent high protein seed grain and has been a blessing after learning I had to go off gluten. I also use whole grain teff for a power breakfast. I soak the teff grain the night before, 1 cup teff to 3 cups water, add a little water kefir to boost the enzyme activity, cover and let it sit overnight. The next morning I simmer it for about 15 minutes to cook. Mixed with chia gel, flax seed oil and soaked nuts, I'm off and running. I'll often pour the leftovers into a loaf pan where it becomes like polenta. I'll slice it and toast or saute it. Using spices and herbs it could be made sweet or savory.

Since I was missing my teff breakfasts I ordered some more whole grain, this time only 10 lbs. To my horror, I opened a box of 10 lbs. of teff flour, again! I really must slow down, I'm making way too many mistakes.

Anyway, what to do with my 35 lbs. of teff flour?
My book, The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking, is based on brown rice flour starters. I'd begun to experiment with buckwheat sorghum starters and have had some great results. I figured I better move on to Teff starters so I wouldn't have pounds and pounds of teff flour either stuffed into the freezer or sprouting critters with legs.

I began a new starter using only teff flour and water in a ratio of 1 to 1. I chose this because teff absorbs a lot of water. I usually use teff to thicken and give structure to some bread recipes. I was surprised that this starter was actually very soupy but I continued along with my 1 to 1 experiment, feeding it every 8 hours or so for a couple of days.

I used the bubbly starter to make Teff pancakes and was pleasantly surprised that they were as good as or even better than the rice pancakes! They were naturally slightly sweet with a great cake-like texture. The leftovers were great toasted the next day. Since I can't eat sweet stuff I used them as an accompaniment to a bean stew. I'm sure they would be great with maple syrup or fruit.

Starter Recipe:
Make a starter by mixing equal amounts of teff flour and water. Add a tablespoon of water kefir or other fermented liquid.
Feed every 8 hours or so with equal amounts of teff flour and water.
After 2 days it should be ready to use.

Pancake Recipe:
One cup of starter makes about 4 pancakes.
Add a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoons of any oil or fat and 1 tablespoons ground flax seeds.
Mix let it sit about 10 minutes and cook.
The pancakes will not show bubbles so flip it when it starts to dry out around the outer third.
Sometimes I cover it while it's cooking. It cooks faster and more thoroughly.

My next experiment will be making breads using this teff starter. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grain Mills for Gluten Free Seeds and Grains

I’ve been wanting to try a new grain mill for 2 years and just recently bought one and wanted to share about my grain mill experiences.

I started off with a Kitchen Aid grain mill attachment because when I started baking I already had a Kitchen Aid mixer. This attachment is excellent for large grains like rice and buckwheat but cannot grind small gluten free grains like amaranth, quinoa and teff. These tiny grains just fall under the grinding worm and sit there.

The rice flour wasn’t nearly as fine as store bought but my breads were still good thanks to the long sourdough fermenting periods. Then I learned, from someone on this forum, to grind once at medium and then again on fine. Much, much better!
I like the Kitchen Aid but I can only do 3 cups of rice, twice, before the machine gets very hot and needs to cool off. I don’t mind that, just have to plan my time accordingly.

I used a Krups coffee grinder for my small grains, which did an excellent job. The downside is that only ¼ cup can be ground at a time, which was fine initially but now I bake in 4 loaf batches and need large quantities.

Then I tried a Barista coffee mill for the small grains which was bigger, fancier and with a larger capacity. I was happy with that for a good while but lately noticed the grind isn’t as fine as when I started. I think the blades must be getting dull.

After a year of reading blogposts about grain mills I finally purchased the Blendtec Grain Mill. It grinds the small grains really well, excellently in fact but I had to dig out my chain saw ear protectors because of the high decibel level. As it finishes grinding it sounds like a plane taking off.

It also makes a bit of a mess as it sends flour out through small vents and slots, much messier than my other mills which hardly sent any flour out at all. Now when I use it I cover it with a cloth to contain the flying flour. Beyond that it seems to be an excellent machine. I can grind many cups of grain, and the holding basin holds about 20 cups of flour before needing to be emptied.

I continue to use my Kitchen Aid for rice and buckwheat but will use the Blendtec for the others.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Growing Sourdough Starter in the Refrigerator for a Milder Sour

Growing starter in the refrigerator is said to minimize the sour taste of sourdough. It also enables us to reduce the feedings from 3 times a day to twice. I find my starters ferment very quickly these days making me wonder if I have enormous invisible colonies of yeast and bacteria in my kitchen. I also ferment water kefir, milk kefir, and kombucha so I assume there is quite a bit of activity going on.

A friend of mine, Peggy, likes to tinker in the kitchen. She experiments with many recipes and techniques and documents them in great detail. She tried growing a starter in the refrigerator, something I haven’t had time to see all the way through.

Here are her notes:

“I decided to go with a simple loaf of bread using quinoa and sorghum flours.
I had a small amount of rice-sorghum-teff starter left over from making multigrain bread and fed it for four days with alternating and equal amounts of quinoa flour and sorghum flour. I chose to use these because they were what I had on hand. I also was going for a lighter colored bread.

I gave it a little boost with 1 tablespoon of water kefir to perk it up on the second day.

After 24 hours of feedings I put it in the fridge because it was very bubbly and soupy! I didn’t want a strong sourdough flavor this time as I just baked two batches that were strongly fermented.

I continued to feed it 3 times a day continuing to keep it in the fridge.

36 hours later, I removed it from the fridge because it looked flat and dead But four hours later, when I next looked at it, it was furiously bubbling away!!! I had been deceived by the chilled mixture. I fed it and returned it to the fridge.
8 hours later when I took it out to feed it, it was actively bubbling even though it was so cold. I think it liked the fact that I had taken it out that first time for a few hours.”

She said that the finished bread had just enough sour taste to let you know you were eating sourdough. Not overpowering at all!