Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bird Seed Bread

Growing up, my family cared for a menagerie of odd animals - rodents, snakes, newts, anoles, aggressive bullfrogs - but we also had dogs and, my favorite, parakeets. My mother would teach them to curse when she cleaned out the cage. There is nothing quite like entering a room lain with a carpet of swear words and whistles.

When it came to feeding time, this was my business. I always wanted to feed them three-times what my mother would allow. It just seemed like such a teensy amount. I would myself nibble on the shiny little beads of seed, the little birds cooing 'F-you, F-you' in my ear. Of course, the little yellow pellets were the best. Millet. Crunchy and mealy and strange.

Millet is one of those things that people approach with apprehension. It is a seed, yeah, not a grain. In America it was only ever used as bird fodder, though we have all read in our Encyclopedias that it is an important staple in Africa. It would take the hippies decades to sing of its virtues before successfully raising it from exoticism and ignobility alike.

I've been eating millet for as long as the hippies have been extolling it. For me, it's the same as reaching for brown rice or the more highly-esteemed quinoa. Here's a tidbit: millet is said to reduce cellulite (most important), and it is also proven to reduce the risk of heart attack, migraines and the severity of asthma. This ought to get you all cracking then on this loaf of bread whether for health or vanity.

This loaf was an experiment. I had some millet, I wanted to use it up, and this is a bread that I have neither read about nor experimented with. Here's some helpful advice: I actually use millet to clean out the Komo between millings because it's cheap. After milling your flours, run a cup or two of millet through the machine on a coarsish grind and it will gather up the collecting flour and dash it out of the machine. This is especially helpful if you are making durum rimacinato regularly, since the very fine flour has a tendency to cake up in there and shoot out in nasty little sheets the next time you move to make flour.

I have to say. Wow. This bread turned out amazingly. I first toasted up a measure of millet, ground some of it up into flour (52g) and added the whole toasted and soaked seeds to the dough (75g). The resulting loaf turned out nutty and toasty and delicious. The little seeds tenderized during baking, so, no crunchy little bits here. I also added some freshly milled Bob's Red Mill hard white wheat flour to the dough (107g), and the remainder of the flour was, of course, my beloved Giusto's Artisan. The shattery crust was beautifully festooned with little golden beads, making the loaf not only heavenly to taste, but glorious to behold.

It's impossible to keep from eating slice upon slice of this bread. So the next time someone accuses you of eating like a bird, you might think of this loaf, smile knowingly and say, 'Yes, yes I do.'

I give you this week's bird seed bread.

This formula makes one loaf


3 or 4 days before you make your levain, kick it into high-gear by feeding it 3-4x a day. On levain day, you will need:

11g 100% hydration dark rye starter (mine is made with BRM home-milled dark rye flour)
75g freshly milled BRM hard white winter wheat flour
75g h2o

Mix the levain ingredients together until you reach a paste. Mine fermented for about 8 hours.


You will need:

345g h2o
341g Giusto's Artisan flour
107g Bob's Red Mill hard white wheat
52g toasted* millet flour*
75g toasted* millet, soaked overnight (on the counter is fine) and drained well
13g kosher salt, I used Diamond
All of the levain

*To toast millet, just pour the total amount of millet needed for your formula into a cast iron pan, and over high heat, toss the millet ceaselessly in the hot pan until it turns golden brown. For this formula, toast the total amount of millet needed, then grind 52g of it into flour and soak 75g overnight on the counter. I just poured this amount into a glass measure, filled it with water and let it be.

Back to the formula.

When your levain is properly fermented, mix together the levain, the flours, the soaked and drained millet and the h2o until you reach a shaggy mass. Autolyse for 1 hour.

After the autolyse, the dough should have expanded a bit. Squish the salt into the dough until it's fully incorporated work the dough into a smooth mass. Now it's time for the 4-hour bulk fermentation.

Every half hour, perform a series of turns, taking care not to deflate the dough as you near the end of bulk. You will likely stop your turns somewhere around 2 hours into the bulk. For the remaining bulk, leave it untouched. I did two hours of turns, left it untouched at room temp for an hour, then popped it in the fridge for the final hour because it has been really warm here.

When bulk fermentation is accomplished, turn the dough out onto a workspace dusted with brown rice flour, and shape into a loose round. Let it rest. Mine rested for 10 minutes. 

After the bench, shape the dough into a taut boule. I am a huge fan of the 'Forkish fold', so, I shaped the boule and popped it into a bowl lined with linen that I have first dusted with brown rice flour (you may use a banneton), seam-side down.

The next day when you unearth the dough, the seam-side lands upward, and it is at these fissures that the steam is released, thus the dough will open erratically and beautifully.

Alternatively, you may shape your boule placing it seam-side up in the banneton or linen-lined bowl, then on bake day, you can unearth the dough and score as desired with a blade.

Pop in the fridge and ferment. Mine fermented for 19 hours.


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a dutch oven and baking stone inside.

Pull the dough of of the fridge. Pop a piece of parchment over the mouth of the bowl, then place a peel over this. Quickly invert the bowl so that the dough ends up sitting on the paper and the peel, seam-side up for the Forkish fold method, seam-side down if you plan to slash.

The 'Forkish fold', dough lands seam-side up

If you plan to slash, then do so in some divine manner first before getting the dough into the oven. For the Forkish fold, just slide the dough immediately into the shallow half of the hot dutchie. With both methods, after the dough has been slid into the pan, cover with the fat half of the dutchie, slide the contraption into the oven, and steam for 15 minutes at this temp, then turn the oven down to 475 and steam for another 15 minutes.

After the steam, remove the fat end of the dutchie, then stack the pan over its mouth to create a buffer between the hot stone and the bread. This will help keep the bottom of your bread from blackening.

Toggle the oven between 460 and 475 until the boule is baked to chestnut brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

This post has been shared on Susan's Wild Yeast Blog.

To the staff of life!


  1. Wow, what a splendid looking loaf! I've had millet on my list of grains/seeds to use for a while not but haven't had the chance -- I think your post is a great motivator. I really need to get my hands on a KoMo (hoping for later this year) but I also believe my corner market sells milled millet, maybe even Whole Foods as well.

    Thanks for the recipe!

    Oh and I've been using Giusto's flour for a while now and it's just superb.


    1. Thank you Maurizio :) Get a KoMo, they're fun!
      I could not live without my Giusto's. My freezer is stuffed with it!

  2. Can you elaborate what is the Forkish fold method? I did a google search of what Ken Forkish does but came up unsuccessful. Thanks!

    1. Instead of shaping into a perfect round, you actually fold the dough into a tight package then ferment it fold side down, so that when you unearth it, it lands fold side up. you allow it to open at the natural folds in the oven.

  3. I made this bread last week - it was delicious but not as pretty as yours. I note that you are using your Komo mill to get durum flour. Do you use the slightly granular semolina to make this, or do you use whole grains of semolina? How many times do you have to mill the flour to get fine durum? Thanks, Patsy

    1. Hi there. I mill my durum to the fineness of standard semolina. Durum is a hard grain, so the flour always feels coarse on first grind. Mill the flour twice to get fine grain durum.

  4. Beautiful bread! That is one inspirational post! Love your writing and your photos, by the way. Thanks for recording all of this.

  5. Hi there - thanks for the great bread tips and recipes. I just found you via a Google search for making Tartine-style bread with beer. Here's my question: I keep my rye starter in the fridge. It's pretty healthy and I usually refresh it only once, day before the bake. Do you still do the four days of refreshments? In what proportions do you feed your starter? I normally do 1:2:2. Are you throwing away a lot of flour? Or do you make other goodies with the discard? I've had great success with pancakes, waffles, popovers, banana bread and even pie dough with sourdough discard...but those were all with wheat flour starter, not rye. Oh and thanks for the scoring tips - I'm getting great oven spring and ears now - Yay!

    1. Hi Cherie. The more often you can feed your starter, the better for it. If you are making successful breads, then I would say 'why change a thing?' but I feed my starter at least 3x a day every day (it's on the counter), and often 4x a day for two days preceding a bake. my starter is 100% hydration (20g/20g/20g). I don't worry about throwing away starter. Many people, when they first start baking bread, worry about this. You just have to get used to this as part of the bread process. There is no way I could eat that much just so I didn't have to feel guilty about throwing away starter! :) If you want to experiment with it, though, I don't see why it would not work with your rye starter. YOU'RE WELCOME on the scoring!



  6. Hi France. I'd like to ask how are you able to get an even crumb like that? I follow your technique pretty closely and I usually get a few random medium-sized holes which is not a terrible thing but I'd really like to have a crumb like yours. I think doing turns is pretty straightforward (as opposed to kneading) so my issue must be somewhere else. Do you think shaping is key for having a nice crumb? Or could is be having freshly milled flour (I'm buying already milled BRM)? Last variable I can think of is maybe my starter is not as active as yours and/or dough is underproof?
    Thank you for any suggestion!

    1. shape firmly. yes. that's important. i also use moderate hydration. higher hydration makes larger holes. if you have an under active starter it will create weird holes, as will over fermenting. a weak starter will create unsavory holes. the older your starter, the more reliable. mine is going on... 6 years old??

  7. I am in awe of your baking skill! I've noticed that when I put my shaped dough into the fridge for an overnight retardation, it frequently will not rise much (fridge temp less than 40 degrees). Do I need to rest on counter til it shows signs of life, or bake anyway? My best loaf so far was your beginners loaf with extra levain. Thank you so much for sharing your baking knowledge/skills!

    1. I like your question as I have the same issue. I hardly get a rise in the fridge but do get it after a few hours at room temperature.

  8. Hello France:
    It's been awhile, my last posts were on the Tartine Experiment site. I've made so pretty good bread since then, but I may have a slight dilemma this time. While in my fermentation period, I noticed that I have pea size chunks of flour which I probably did not incorporate very well during the mixing of the levain, flour and water stage. Is this going to affect my crumb?


Hey. So, I answer all of my comments, but it may take me a few days to get to it. Go ahead and leave a comment or ask a question and I will respond the best I can!