My Happy Birthday Chocolate Millet Cake I decided to compose my own birthday cake this year, and it might become a tradition. I might even start receiving requests for birthday cake compositions! Who knows? I’ve been curious if I could break the ingredient barrier and make an outstanding cake out of whole millet. My son and I tried last year, and failed miserably. The millet tasted lumpy and dry. But, I know more about millet a year later, and decided to try again, and miracle of miracles it's worked. It’s a very good chocolate cake, and I'm ultra critical of cakes.
What made it work this time?
Toasting the millet to bring out the flavor
Making a porridge out of the millet and letting it thoroughly fall apart. Making a fermented mash for a cake, with fat and sugar in the mash!
Fermenting the batter, so it enzymatically supports the structure and flavor development of the cake
Adding flax and potato starch to offset the dry nature of millet and provide more glue for the cake's structure
Using raisins to create sweetness, without sacrificing minerals
Adding spices, enough salt and a pinch of cayenne to intrigue the tongue
Beating the batter into lightness
Using whole cane sugar, sea salt, butter, freshly ground spices, and undutched cocoa for their superior flavors.
A different rhythm for baking The recipe may seem complicated at first glance, but actually it's quite easy. Once you get the hang of it, it’s relaxing to only need to do a bit of the baking process at one time. If you start it in the evening you can finish it in the morning or afternoon. You can use any sourdough starter but it should be firm and not wet. Just add flour to your starter to make it firm. This cake doesn’t need any more liquid! Let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear from you.
Sourdough Millet Chocolate Cake Gluten free Millet/Sourdough/Low Sugar/Whole Grain Serves 10-12 This is a rich moist, chocolaty cake with subtle spice notes. It’s not too sweet, and has a light crumb. It’s definitely a celebration cake. It will amaze your guests, if you tell them, that it’s made with whole millet. They'll be even more amazed that it’s sourdough, and has only ½ the sugar of a regular cake. The ganache frosting is made with millet milk! It’s naturally gluten free, but try it even if you can eat gluten! It can be made with coconut oil and is eggless if that’s the way you fly.
Ingredients For Step One ¾ cup /150g millet 1 cup/ 125g raisins 1 cup/ 226g unsalted butter or coconut oil ¾ cup/ 130g unprocessed cane sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon pinch of cayenne 4 ½ cups/1 litre water
Instructions For Step One Toast millet in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. It will smell toasty and start to pop. Add all step one ingredients to a rice cooker and set it for the regular cycle. You are making a millet porridge. If you're cooking without a rice cooker: add everything to a pot and cook on low, stirring occasionally until you have a soft porridge about 20-30 minutes. Let porridge cool to blood warm. I spread mine out on a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool. This porridge is yummy, so it’s ok to snitch a few spoonfuls.
Ingredients For Step Two ½ cup/ 113 g firm sourdough starter 4 tablespoons/ 30g ground flaxseed ½ cup/ 90g potato starch
Instructions For Step Two I used a food processor, a blender would also work Grind flaxseed, add the potato starch, flaxseed and sourdough starter to the food processor and spin until fine. Add the cooled porridge and process for 2 minutes until very smooth. Put batter into a bowl and ferment at room temperature overnight or 8-12 hours. It will taste only slightly sour when fermented and won’t be bubbly, because it's hard work to ferment in lots of fat. Ingredients For Step Three 1 cup/ 100g undutched cocoa ½ teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder 3 whole cloves ground 5 whole allspice berries ground 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Tip: Grind spices with some of the cocoa to create more volume in the grinder.
Instructions For Step Three Preheat oven to 350F/176C set rack in middle position Line two preferably removable bottom round cake tins with parchment paper, butter the tins. Grind spices with some of the cocoa and set aside Add vanilla to the fermented batter and stir in Mix all dry ingredients together Sift ⅓ of dry ingredients at a time into fermented batter and stir between. With a hand mixer beat batter for 2 minutes on high speed Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes. A knife may come out slightly wet when you test the cake but the cake will set more as it cools. Cool completely, while you make the ganache.
Finishing Un-mold the first cake round onto a plate or cake stand, turning it upside down so that the parchment is face up. Pull parchment off, spread a thin layer of ganache on between the layers. Stack the second cake round, also upside down, pull off the parchment and spread remaining ganache on the top and sides of the cake. Make it beautiful, sing a song, have fun, and wipe the edges of the plate of excess ganache when you’re done.
Chocolate Ganache Ingredients ¼ cup /56 g unsalted butter ½ cup/ 118 ml millet milk ½ cup/ 50g undutched cocoa 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract Pinch of sea salt 2 tablespoons honey or to taste
Instructions for Chocolate Ganache Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat or over a double boiler Stir in cocoa, add millet milk, and pinch of salt and honey Ganache will thicken quickly don’t let it get too hot or it will break, take it off the heat and add vanilla. Use for cake at room temperature With Love Enjoy!
Millet is a delicious and nutritious grain if a bit mysterious. I’ve been working with it lately, cooking the grain up into pilafs, making porridges, fermenting it, making it into milk, desserts, and working with the flour in baking.
Several Ah Ha’s I’d like to pass along about millet flour:
Start with the whole grain and toast it. It’s easy to mill into flour, at home with a spice grinder, for the amounts you’ll need for a baking recipe. Toasting millet radically improves its flavor, and helps to open up the nutritional content of the grain.
Make it into a Protein/Starch/Gum mix. Millet flour is fairly high in protein but lacks gluten. It tends to be dry tasting on its own, so I realized that it’s best to buddy it up with a starch and a gum. I chose potato starch for its ability to hold moisture, but other starches could be used to suit where you live and what’s available. I used ground flaxseed for the gum, because it’s nutritious in its own right, easy to buy, and grows traditionally in the same areas as millet.
Let it ferment. Letting millet go through a fermentation process, like sourdough will increase its nutritional bioavailability, help it to retain more moisture, and heighten its flavor profile.
Use it for baking that naturally carries moisture like dosas, idli, muffins, fritters…
Use it with a fat to help offset its dry nature.
My Millet Flour Blend 1 ¾ cup /344g whole proso millet Toast and grind into flour using a spice grinder 1 cup /172g potato starch 2 tablespoons /13g flaxseed ground This mix is 2 parts millet to 1 part starch and 2 tablespoons flax per 500g of mix I haven’t tried other millets because they’re unavailable in the USA !!!
More Fermented Flatbreads
Food For Thought
It takes me into my heart when I really consider millet. How long people and millet have been together, 10,000 years? How it's one of the five sacred grains of China. How it's this hard working grain that takes less water, and will grow in poorer soils. How it feeds the poor. That there are places in Africa where it's eaten three times a day. How in my country it's used as bird seed, and most people have never tasted it. How it's so nutritious, and all of us-- rich and poor are so in need of nourishment. Nourishment for our bodies and our hearts. I've been meeting good people, people who care a lot, and are working to bring millet to us. This grain that will grow in drier and hotter conditions. A grain full of health. I go deep into my heart when I think of these things, standing at my stove toasting millet seed, pressing millet roti, smelling the baked bread, breaking it and bringing it to my mouth to eat.
Spiced Millet Roti
Ingredients Use all of the millet flour blend 1 teaspoon sea salt ½ teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon toasted whole cumin ground 1 teaspoon toasted whole coriander ground ¼ cup /55g ghee or coconut oil 2 teaspoons pickled jalapenos minced ¾ cup /100g minced onion ½ cup+/ 4oz/ 114g water kefir, kefir or yogurt You can also use 1/2 cup of sourdough starter They may need a little more liquid
Instructions for Making Dough I use a food processor but this can be done by hand.
Toast whole millet on medium heat in a heavy bottomed skillet until it begins to pop and smells toasty about 4-5 minutes. Let cool. Grind millet in a spice grinder in several batches until flour consistency. Add millet flour, and all other dry ingredients to the food processor. Spin to combine. Add ghee and spin to incorporate into flour. Add jalapenos, and onion combine briefly. Add liquid with the machine running until it becomes a thick dough. Put batter into a bowl and ferment with a towel over at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours or until slightly sour.
Instructions for the griddle Preheat a griddle on medium heat. I use cast iron. Separate the dough into 14 balls of 65g each Press the balls with a tortilla press lined with parchment paper Griddle the roti for 2 minutes with a lid covering it, Flip the roti and cook for another 2 minutes with the lid on. Cook as many roti as needed. Remaining dough balls can be stored in the fridge in a mason jar for up to a week to use as needed. Roti are delicious by themselves, or with a topping, dal, chutney. They're like a corn tortilla except better. With Love EnJoy!
Dough balls will ferment in the fridge and can be used as needed. They'll last several weeks slowly fermenting. You can also save dough balls that are already fermented, and use as needed. This is a fab fast food. Just press and griddle!
A Couple Cool Millet Activists
Dwiddly-- Working towards improving millet cultivation practices in India The Millet Project--Rediscovering the traditions of cultivating and consuming millets.
If you’re following along with my carrot/apple kraut adventures, we were gifted several boxes of McIntosh apples last week, so along with making sauce, butter, and drying them I decided to make some apple/carrot kraut. I’d used apples in cabbage kraut before with fresh cranberries and loved it. Then came another off-the-wall idea from reading around in Fermented Vegetables to design a recipe to make a apple/carrot kraut cake. I did and it was good, but I couldn’t get over the fact that it just tasted like a good carrot cake, because I couldn’t taste the sour at all.
A good trick huh, ha-ha: You love that cake you just ate a big slice of?... and surprise it’s sauerkraut cake! I just pulled that trick on my daughter and her boyfriend this morning, haha. They did love the cake, and didn’t believe it was made out of kraut, which neither likes. Anything to amuse myself.
But the whole cake experiment left me wanting to taste what kraut’s like in bread, thus this recipe. So what is carrot/apple kraut like in a sourdough rye bread? It’s good, think Reuben with the kraut already in the bread. I made it a steamed bread, although I’m going to try a Boule in the oven next. Overall I was happy and will make it again, it didn’t rise as high or as quickly as my regular steamed rye loaves, but only by a bit. It rose to the top of the loaf pan, and took an hour longer to get there. My guess is that the lacto-bacteria become very active from both the levain starter and kraut, creating an acid environment that’s a little too much for the yeasts to optimally thrive. The dough is also denser with the kraut and sunflower seed additions, so the yeasts were having to work harder, and in more difficult circumstances. I could have added the kraut right before proofing with the salt, and maybe I will next time.
It’s texture is like a whole grain sandwich bread. I especially like the oats, and the way they taste toasted. I like the bits of sunflower seeds. It’s a good toast/sandwich bread, great with sharp cheese, and mustard. The two sour hits, but with different flavor profiles are worth it; the rye sour and then the kraut sour.
Overnight Ingredients 1 ½ cup/136g oatmeal ¼ cup/30g ground flaxseed 1 cup/150g gluten free mix ( ⅔ cup sorghum flour and ⅓ cup potato starch) 2 cups/240g rye flour ½ cup/100g firm gluten free levain (or firm sourdough starter) 2 cups/200g apple/carrot kraut ½ cup/65g sunflower seeds 1 ⅓ cup/315ml filtered water
Morning Ingredients 2 teaspoons sea salt 1 tablespoon honey
Evening Instructions I use a food processor for mixing, but it can be done by hand. Grind flaxseed in a spice grinder and set aside Measure oatmeal into food processor and spin until fine Add gluten free flour, ground flaxseed, rye flour, sunflower seeds spin Crumble firm levain over mix and spin for a minute. Add kraut and pulse to briefly combine Dump into a mixing bowl, add water, stir until combined, cover and let sit at room temperature 65-75F for 12 hours or until fermented.
Morning Instructions Turn large oval slow cooker to high for 20 minutes with the lid on Sprinkle salt over fermented dough Add honey and combine with your hands thoroughly Butter loaf pan, smooth batter into pan. After 20 minutes, turn OFF slow cooker and set the loaf to proof inside. It should reach the top of the pan within 2-3 hours. Pour 3 cups water into the bottom of slow cooker and set to high for 4 hours. The loaf is done after four hours, its internal temp. should be 202-205F. Turn it out of the pan and let cool completely before slicing, This bread slices well when it’s fresh. It also re-steams nicely when dried out, makes wonderful toast, freezes well pre sliced. Store in a cloth, or paper bag at room temperature.
Another interesting note: we’ve had a few fruit flies in the house with all the apples and pears. They're after this bread but not anything else baked. Which makes me feel the bread's super alive sweet, ripe and in harmony with the season.