Sunday, July 15, 2012

Teff Mash Bread

Now that I know how to bake with teff, I would buy truckloads of it and make teff bread on a regular basis if it were not so expensive: not only is it very nutritious but the taste is unique and marvelous. How best to describe it for those of you who are not familiar with it? Think deeply caramelized black walnuts with a hint of raw dark cocoa and maybe, maybe a tiny whiff of the soul-warming spices used in African cooking. Think exotic, seductive and subtly addictive. Think "Wow! I can get all that flavor from just 10% of flour?" and you'll have an idea of what teff is like.
Of course the teff flour I am baking with here might taste different from the one to be found here in America but I have no way of knowing until I go home to the Northwest and actually buy a bag (as far as I know, there is none to be had for love or money where I am now). The one I have was brought to me from Ethiopia by a kindly colleague a few years ago.
I kept it in the freezer while we still lived back East and when we moved to the Northwest, since I was trying not to move everything cross-country, I brought it here to the little camp by the St-Lawrence River where we have been spending our summer vacations for the past twenty-six years.
Together with all the other grains, nuts and flours, I put it in a sturdy insect-, rodent- and waterproof trunk which weathered the winter under the cabin, sitting directly on the bedrock. Nothing like permafrost to keep everything fresh as I am sure the Native Americans who used to live here discovered ages before me.
Some people don't like teff and I suspect that is because they only ever had it in injera form at Ethiopian restaurants. Injera is traditionally made from a teff starter that is left to ferment until it is quite acidic and some cooks make it more sour than others. I love injera and Ethiopian cuisine and injera is actually what I planned to make with the teff my colleague brought me since I had never had much success with teff bread before.
I learned why at WheatStalk: teff flour has the annoying habit of first absorbing water like crazy and then of releasing it sneakily when one least wishes it to do so. The trick is therefore not to use it dry but to make a mash of it before incorporating it into a dough. Soaking it in hot water sets both the protein and the starch, making it much more stable. In the words of Frank Sally's (my instructor for the Baking with Ancient Grains lab), "baking with teff is a nightmare otherwise." Good to know!
To make a mash
  1. Bring 100% water to a roiling boil
  2. Pour it over 100% flour
  3. Make a paste (it will be full of soft lumps)
  4. Let cool
  5. Add to the dough as a soaker
The mash should be made the morning of the mix. According to my instructor at WheatStalk, if you'd rather do it the day before, you need to make it, let it cool and then add it to your levain build.
For this bread, I didn't want to use a WheatStalk formula: there might be copyright issues (I need to check into that) and anyway I didn't have the necessary ingredients. So I made up my own recipe with what I had on hand here at camp and as you'll see, it is fairly minimalistic. If you have all-purpose flour, a mature starter and a bit of teff flour, you are all set to go.
Ingredients: (for four loaves)
  • 890 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 200 g teff mash (100 g teff flour + 100 g hot water)
  • 555 g more water at warmish room temperature (or more or less according to the flours you use. Even if they are the same brand, they will always be different from mine. The consistency of your dough will always be a better guide than the amount of water used by the author of any recipe)
  • 535 g liquid starter @ 100% hydration (mine is currently fed with 40% whole grain - wheat, spelt and rye - but a white one -or better yet, a teff one - would work fine)
  • 27 g salt
Method: (This bread is made over two days. The dough was hand-mixed.)
  1. Make the teff mash using the method described above
  2. Mix all the other ingredients* (I used only 450 g water to start with) until incorporated and add the teff mash when lukewarm (I have developed a method for adding water which is really no-hassle: I first put in as much as needed to hydrate the flour, then I pour the rest (in this case, 105 g) into a spray-bottle and I spray the dough as I go, making sure to spray after each fold just before covering the bowl. The dough acts like a sponge as it relaxes and absorbs the water with minimal work on my part. Not that I don't love folding the dough over and over. I actually do but my wrists have apparently remained French-ier than the rest of me:  they tend to go on strike at the drop of a hat...)
  3. Fold resulting dough onto itself several times, cover and let rest for 30 minutes
  4. Repeat three times at 30-minute intervals (more if necessary, judging from the dough consistency)
  5. Let ferment, covered, for another hour 
  6. Then refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours (make sure your fridge isn't set on super cold)
  7. The day after, bring back to room temperature
  8. Turn on the oven to 475°F/246°C, making sure your baking stone is in it as well as a metal dish for steaming
  9. Transfer to a flour-dusted worktable
  10. Divide @ about 500 g, trying to keep the pieces as square as possible
  11. Shape (no pre-shaping) by pulling each piece of dough upwards (from the upper long side) then folding it upon itself once and closing the seam
  12. Transfer seam-side down to a sheet pan lined with semolina-dusted parchment paper
  13. Proof for one hour
  14. Dust with flour if desired and score shallowly down the middle holding the lame at an angle
  15. Bake with steam for 5 minutes at 475°F/246°C, then turn the oven temperature down to 450°F/232°C and bake another 35 to 40 minutes (the oven is old and quirky in this little cabin and I always turn the loaves 180° for the last ten minutes of baking)
  16. Cool on a rack
  17. Enjoy!
*When mixing by hand here at camp, I often skip the autolyse. I  mix flour + salt + liquid levain + the bulk of the water until everything is hydrated, then I cover the bowl and let the dough rest anywhere from 20 minutes to half-an-hour before proceeding with the recipe from step 3 on. It is much easier on the wrists (less folding) and it yields excellent results. Of course it may have to do with the temperature and humidity which are both in the high range here in the summer. Back home in the cool Pacific Northwest, I'll  probably need to hold the salt back until the end. I'll still add in the levain with the water and the flour but I may experiment with much longer resting times (if you interested in fiddling with autolyse, you may want to read Teresa Greenway's excellent posts on the subject: Experimenting with Autolyse #1 and Experimenting with Autolyse #2).

The Teff Mash Bread is going to Susan for this week's issue of Yeastspotting. Thank you, Susan!

37 comments:

  1. Have I told you before this was your best post ever? Am I repeating myself? Once more? Twice? NO, it is the THIRD TIME I say it?

    well, you did it again - I have flirted with the idea of making teff bread for a long time, as I am very fond of injera. I have a bag in the freezer, waiting to move to Manhattan (we'll move the frozen stuff only on our last trip) - and I PROMISE you I'll make this bread before 2012 is over!

    there. I said it in public....

    absolutely fantastic post, MC - your best ever! ;-)

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    1. Sally, thank you! Again and again and again! You make my day every time... Then I go back to your blog and I get even happier. Can't wait to see the teff mash bread on it!

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  2. Ah ... I can smell your bread, honest I can.
    I haven't been able to source teff flour here - but I've bought ragi flour (red teff) with Joanna at her local interesting shops, for the intended purpose of making ingera.

    I've never thought to make s/dough loaves with it - and breads with such flavour too.

    I've been baking my sourdoughs with atta/ chapatti flour recently (at 10% protein) and enjoying the new meadow tastes to my breads.
    Time to test out the ragi! Thank you for the top tips Farine.

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    1. Hi Gil, I am so happy you can smell the bread. That's exactly what I was hoping for when I was trying to describe the flavor. Now you have one advantage over me, you know what your teff is. I don't think that mine is black but is it white or red? And does it matter? I don't know and I would love to find out. I seem to remember that the one I have seen sold here under the Bob's Red Mill brand is actually much darker than mine. Maybe that's the black one?
      How I would love to taste your sourdoughs... Meadow tastes sound wonderful!

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    2. Hello....just landed on your blog because I was searching for reasons why teff is always mixed with some other flour to cook cakes, bread or just pancakes too. Didn't find the reason but some great recipes!! However now I have another question - is ragi flour red teff???

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    3. Hello, Anonymous,
      From what I read on wikipedia, ragi flour is actually made from an African plant called finger millet. I don't think it has anything to do with teff.

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    4. Thanks so much for replying! That's what I thought on the ragi but Gill above had me a tad confused...great site by the way!

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    5. You are welcome and thank you!

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  3. Hi MC,
    I think your teff bread is smiling back at you :^)
    The blush of color the teff adds to the crumb is really pretty.
    What a tantalizing description of the aroma and flavor of this bread; teff is a beautiful ingredient, isn't it?
    :^) breadsong

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    1. Hi breadsong, yes, it is! Another happy one, right? I too love the warm color of teff. But as I said in my reply to Gil the Painter, I don't know what variety I am using here. If you have some on hand, maybe you could take a look when you have a chance and let me know whether or not yours is the same color?

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  4. I am just peeking back at the blogging world after a break and this is such a beautiful post. You are an inspiration. I wonder if the mash idea would work with other grain types apart from Teff, it might be the answer to some troublesome English wheat flour I have used in the past, if one could set the starch that might help. I am sure one can get teff somewhere in England, probably London. I will ask around as the way you describe its flavour makes it sound intensely desirable.

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    1. Hello Joanna! I was just getting to your post on Zeb saving the day with the rye breads and here you are visiting already. Thank you and welcome back to the bread-baking/blogging world! I missed you.
      My instructor at WheatStalk say that both millet and sorghum can be mashed with good results. He says not to ferment the millet though as the taste tends to turn.
      The good news is that yes, making a mash is going to help with whole wheat too. He said not to worry about a decrease in enzymatic activity after what he calls the "cooking" because the enzymes are locked in the bran and don't get released in the mashing.
      You may also want to look at this post: http://www.farine-mc.com/2009/05/100-whole-wheat-mash-bread.html
      Please keep me posted. I am very interested in this mashing issue.

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  5. Look for Ethiopian grocery stores and you should be able to find it for around a buck a pound.

    Did you use regular or ivory Teff?

    It looks great and is on my to-do list!

    Thanks,
    Mike

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    1. Thanks, Mike! I googled it and found one in town. I'll be sure to check it out. I don't know for sure what my teff is since it was brought to me from Ethiopia in a bag with no label (it was probably purchased in bulk) but, judging from its color, I have the feeling it might be the red variety. I don't know if there are any taste differences between the varieties. I assume there are and I'd be curious to taste the other ones. Let me know how it goes if you do make the bread!

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  6. Hi MC, the day before you published your latest post, i was at my local mill to buy barley and kamut flour as some of your recipes are on my long baking list. I missed the chance now to also buy teff flour which i wasn't aware that it even exists. As it is cultivated in the Netherlands and Germany meanwhile, i can get it here in Switzerland easily. I will give your recipe definitely a try as your bread looks amazing!
    I may reduce my working time to reserve at least 2 hours/week for MC's breads (one hour for getting the ingredients and one hour for making the bread :-))
    Bernd

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  7. Hi Bernd, you are so so lucky to have access to so many different grains at your local mill. Sorry about the poor timing of the post though! Next time you go shopping, gimme a call first... ;-) Happy baking!

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  8. Hi MC, I was so happy to read about the way to cope with teff flour. My daughter in law brought me a two pound bag of it from the Eugene Saturday market along with a couple of recipes (but none for bread.)I tried adding it to my usual sourdough loaf and of course the dough became way too soft, and now I know why. Time to take it out of the freezer and follow your directions, thank you. The flour is the color and texture of hot chocolate powder, and I see that it came from Camas Country Mill. Their phone# is (541)-357-5448. I have been adding kamut to my sourdough but look forward to trying teff, AnnieT.

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    1. Hello AnnieT, so glad the timing worked out for you! We were so lucky at WheatStalk to benefit from the years of experience of the San Francisco Institute's bakers in working with ancient grains. They found out the hard way too what to do and not to do. Please let me know how the bread goes for you when you do try it. Thanks for Camas Country Mill's phone number. I have heard of them and I am glad to know they carry teff. I will definitely check them out. Happy baking!

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  9. Hi MC,Your description of Teff certainly has me wanting to find some and try it.I hope you are having much fun at camp (not sure what camp you are at, but I am sure it must be a bread camp!. Thank you for an interesting post and link to my autolyse experiments. I followed your link to the Wheatstalk classes and am finding that extremely interesting reading as well (as usual. Looking forward to seeing you this summer and for sure in Sept at the Kneading Conference....

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    1. Hi Teresa, no, not a bread camp, just our little cabin by the St-Lawrence River in upstate New York. Here that's what they call camp, on the other side of the River, in Ontario, they call it cottage. But either way, it is just a cabin! There is an old oven though and my own two hands and a definite need to bake as there are no bakeries for miles around. Glad to know that you'll be coming to the Conference for sure! Looking forward to seeing you there. Will email you about a possible date for a visit. Thank you for your work on the autolyse, it is a very useful reference to go back to again and again.

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  10. Hi MC, I decided to try again with teff, using your recipe. I poured boiling water into the teff flour and stirred - and got a very smooth paste, no small soft lumps. I have stretched and folded twice so far and the dough is very soft, much like my earlier doughs when I added the teff straight from the bag. I'm wondering whether my teff is somehow different? I will persevere - and let you know how it works out, Annie.

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    1. Hi Annie, sorry to hear the mash doesn't seem to have made any difference. A quick question: did you adjust dough hydration to take into account the water you put in the mash? If you haven't, that might be the reason why the dough is so soft. If you have, then it is a mystery.

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  11. the color and the moist of the crumb reminds me of... that's it, Ethiopian bread! we have a few Ethiopian restaurants in Stockholm, and the bread they serve is the most important part of the meal. Guests have in fact to eat the food with the bread rather than with silverware. Totally love the sour taste and the moist consistency and I guess I'd love your Western-style loaf too. Great job and very cool idea to make Western bread using an African flour! Next time I visit the restaurant I will ask them if they know where to buy Teff in Stockholm. Exciting!

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  12. No way! I have spent the past few weeks trying to make a loaf with teff flour in it, only to end up with dough that turns into a puddle and bakes into awful, flat loaves every time. The chickens love them but no one else does. After the final attempt two days ago I decided it was finally time to give up. Then I come here (better late than never) and you have the answer! What are the odds of that?!? I guess I'll be pulling that formula off of the scrap heap and giving it another try after all. Thanks! -Marcus

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    1. Hi Marcus! Glad you hadn't thrown out your teff yet. Just remember to deduct the water you used for the mash from the total amount of water in your formula! Let me know how it turns out. You may have to fiddle with it a bit until you get the hydration just right.

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    2. I finally got a chance to bake a loaf with teff flour again (properly prepped this time) and the result was much, much better. Now the teff tinkering can begin in earnest. Thanks again for the great info! -Marcus

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  13. That's a beautiful loaf MC- I'll have to try baking with some teff flour!
    -Jud

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    1. Yes, you do! I hope you like the taste. I am totally addicted.

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  14. Your Bread looks great! Until now, I hesitated to buy teff flour, because its so expensive, but your bread makes me wishing to try the formula directly!

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    1. It is expensive here too (unless you can find an Ethiopian grocery and maybe it's cheaper there since it is a staple of Ethiopian cuisine) but a little (10%) goes a long way taste-wise.

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  15. this mash is very similar to the Japanese water roux method which yields a very soft dough. Willtry this one also

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    1. Interesting! I heard about the water roux method but never had an opportunity to really see or taste bread made with it. Do you like it?

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  16. Hi MC, Am an ethiopian and injera is our basic bread to eat with our meals.It is made out of Teff.Am glad to know it is indeed known all over the world.

    Thanks.

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    1. Hello, Anonymous, and thank you for writing. Indeed I fell in love with teff the minute I tasted my first injera at an Ethiopian restaurant in New York City years and years ago. I too am glad that more and more bakers are turning to teff nowadays. Not only it is very flavorful but it is also very nutritious. I am looking forward to discovering other ways of using it.

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    2. Most welcome. I hope you visit Ethiopia and taste homemade 'injera' and 'wat' (stew).And of course along Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Authentic taste in everything. You will love it….God Bless, Ms.Frey

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  17. Hello Ms. Frey, yes, I hope I will one day. I know several people who have lived and worked in Ethiopia and they can't stop raving about the people and the food. A homemade injera sounds wonderful...

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