Using Whole Grains

Written by Warwick Quinton. Posted in Doughmaking Methods

 

Brown Rice Sourdough Slices

Using whole grains as either a porridge (cooked), blanched or soaked to soften them is common in many countries. Not only does the use of cooked whole grain improve the nutritional value of the bread, but cooked or partially cooked grain helps the bread to stay moist for much longer. The grains also give the bread a sensational flavour.

I'll be going into detail in future articles, but grains like rice, oats, millet, wheat, barley, rye, spelt and quinoa all make great additions to bread, using the 'cooked' method that follows.

You can also use the 'blanched' method for all of the above grains, and use it also for linseed, sunflower kernels, pumpkin seed meal, nut meals, semolina, rye or wheat grits, kibbled wheat or rye, and even wholemeal flours.

Simpler still, you can make a 'soak' for things like pearled barley, rolled oats, or some of the above grains and seeds - depending on the texture you wish to achieve in the final bread.

 

The Cooked Method

This could be as simple as placing last night's leftover rice in a plastic bag and storing in the fridge! Or, you may require specialty preparations. Read on!

Stage one: Involves cooking the grains in enough water to cover them in a pot, until the are softened or, if preferred, fully cooked. Grains can also be taken to a porridge state, simply by adding more water and cooking them for longer. Some grains need to be fully cooked to be palatable in bread. Some breads are too delicate for whole grains, so a porridge is required. It's an area we'll cover soon. For now, experiment, but read on first.

You can also use the cooled porridge mix straight up in dough - just make sure that it's cooled enough to be able to put your hand in it comfortably. Safety rule: If in doubt, wait!

Stage two: Remove the cooked grain from the pot when it's cooled a bit, and place it in a zip lock plastic bag with the air removed and the lock zipped. Put it in the fridge.

Stage three: When you are ready to make bread using the grain (this can be up to ten days later if stored correctly) remove the chilled grain from the fridge, and break it up while still in the bag with your fingers, the more broken up the better. Even if you don't use it all, the grain will gradually dry and be useable for a long time.

Weigh the amount you require and reserve the rest to be stored in the same way. This grain will smell possibly a little sweet - this is wonderful stuff for fermentation, and while it still smells sweet, it can be incorporated as a feed for your sourdough starter. But it will keep quite a while in the zip bag with air removed.

Now proceed to Advanced Sourdough recipes.

The Blanched Method

For some things, fully cooking the grain is too much. On the other hand, many recipes use kibbled grains, for example, raw. I prefer them to be softened first by blanching. Things like kibbled or rolled grains, whole grain flours, and seeds of all kinds, especially linseed, benefit from blanching. For a brief overview, here goes.

Different grains and seeds hold different amounts of water, so this is only a rough guide. Experience is always the better teacher. As a starting point, lets say one part dry to one part wet. So if the recipe requires 300 gms of porridge, you could assume this was made up of 150 gms dry grain or seed and 150 mls water. You can vary this ratio according to how things go when you've used them in bread. Your tastes will dictate variations each time. Keep notes and change only one thing at a time!

Anyway, here follows a rough guide.

Stage one: Place grains or seeds in a glass bowl or heatproof plastic container - glass or heatproof plastic are handy materials because it's handy to see through without lifting the lid! Cover to approximately its weight in boiling water. Cover with a lid or plate and allow to cool slowly.

Stage two: Remove the porridge from the bowl, and place in a zip sealed plastic bag after removing the air. You can break it up a bit with your fingers as you go.

You can also use the cooled porridge mix straight up in dough - just make sure that it's cooled enough to be able to put your hand in it comfortably. Safety rule: If in doubt, wait!

Stage three: When you are ready to make bread using the grain (this can be up to ten days later if stored correctly) remove the chilled grain from the fridge, and break it up while still in the bag with your fingers, the more broken up the better. Even if you don't use it all, the grain will gradually dry and be useable for a long time.

Weigh the amount you require and reserve the rest to be stored in the same way. This grain will smell possibly a little sweet - this is wonderful stuff for fermentation, and while it still smells sweet, it can be incorporated as a feed for your sourdough starter. But it will keep quite a while in the zip bag with air removed.

 

Finally, a 'soak' is a no fuss way to utilise whole grains in dough. Generally, this involves adding just enough water to any grain, seed or meal to have the water fully absorbed. The 'soak' is then used in the finished dough to give it a grainy texture. You can soak a grain for as little as an hour or two, or overnight in the fridge. Any water left over should either be used in the dough, or poured off, so as not to upset the softness of the dough too much.