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
- Bring 100% water to a roiling boil
- Pour it over 100% flour
- Make a paste (it will be full of soft lumps)
- Let cool
- 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
- Make the teff mash using the method described above
- 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…)
- Fold resulting dough onto itself several times, cover and let rest for 30 minutes
- Repeat three times at 30-minute intervals (more if necessary, judging from the dough consistency)
- Let ferment, covered, for another hour
- Then refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours (make sure your fridge isn’t set on super cold)
- The day after, bring back to room temperature
- 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
- Transfer to a flour-dusted worktable
- Divide @ about 500 g, trying to keep the pieces as square as possible
- 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
- Transfer seam-side down to a sheet pan lined with semolina-dusted parchment paper
- Proof for one hour
- Dust with flour if desired and score shallowly down the middle holding the lame at an angle
- 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)
- Cool on a rack
*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!