Meditations on Millet

It appears that people only love me for my food posts.

Well, fine! I’ll just have to post more… maybe that will chase you away.

Information about gluten free baking is so hard to come by. You can get people’s recipes, but if you want actual data about how the flours actually work, you have to pay someone you aren’t quite sure you can trust some variable amount of money for the privilege of seeing what they figured out. They usually use flash and make terrible decisions when designing their website– which makes me hesitant to give them money. Sad, but true.

So I guess I’m going to have to do it myself.

Millet flour is kind of a mystery. You can go to various sites and find promising looking flat bread recipes– usually Indian in origin.  You watch them on video, and lo and behold, the bread just comes together and looks easy to make.

Then,  here comes the American blond, who buys millet flour (gluten free… this matters later) And.. makes a big wet mess. The bread dough doesn’t come together, the bread bakes unevenly and is part dry tasteless cracker and part unappetizing mush.  It was such a terrible disaster that it took me two days to clean my kitchen.  Oh, and let’s not forget the two page comment left on said page, complaining loudly about truth in advertising.

Only, I discover later that indeed, she’s right, the Indians have been making bread– simply and easily– for thousands of years this way.  The problem is, I bought gluten free millet.

Some of it is gluten free, some of it isn’t.

Oh come on! Do the gluten heads have to have all the fun?? When it comes to bread, the answer is usually yes.  However, there are other things that one can do. Also, I think it will mix well with tapioca products, which might help the “doesn’t stick to itself” problem.

So, here’s what I heard in a health food store. If this is a total fabrication, I would really appreciate knowing.

So, basically, if you harvest the millet at a certain stage, we’ll call it the bird seed stage, it is certifiably gluten free. It can make something like corn meal, and does all the things that us Americans tend to think of millet can do.  For one thing, folks in Taiwan make a porridge out of millet, that is served from food trucks, mixed (probably) with vegetables and/or meats, and served like con-gee.

However, if you let it ripen on the plant, it develops gluten. If it is harvested *then* you can make flat bread and all those other wonderful things that I can’t have. For what it’s worth, that’s what Sami’s bakery millet chips used to be made out of, and why you can’t find them anymore… or so says a certain health food store I frequent.

You can do what my mom did back in the 1980’s and give bran muffins some texture and zing. She used to make carrot-cake bran muffins with raisins and millet which were really terrific, unlike what most people were eating in those days.

I have not yet come up with a suitable flat bread recipe for millet– yet.  I have a theory that a combo of millet, (my old pal) buckwheat, and tapioca will yield something pretty amazing.  Incorporating some amaranth will add a nice nutty flavor, but it is so heavy you have to be careful with it. Buckwheat has wonderful gluten-like properties, but has a very strong personality, so it must be used sparingly.  Buckwheat is great pearled, but near impossible to find. White buckwheat flour is a figment of some wishful thinker’s imagination. as I have never seen it in the store. I think to use it I will have to buy the buckwheat hot cereal and mill it myself. Sigh. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to afford a food mill… but let’s get back to millet, shall we?

I have a long time recipe that I ripped off the back of the Bob’s Red Mill package, and have been ruthlessly mutating over time. It’s a millet/coconut ‘pudding’, but it’s more like a sweet spoon bread. If you can have cheese, you can further modify the recipe and make it a savory spoon bread recipe. I will have to try it with daiya at some point, just to see just how aggressive the coconut flavor really is.

At any rate, here is my recipe. Seriously, thank you to the fine folks at Bob’s Red Mill for having this recipe on the back of their package. Someone, might, somewhere, recognize it a little bit. 🙂

Margo’s Hijacked Millet Pudding

3/4  cup of millet

1 cup of unsweetened coconut (I find that the dry, small flake is best)

3 1/2  cups of almond/soy/rice/coconut milk

1/2 cup of coconut sugar, or… 1/4 cup of coconut sugar syrup plus 2 tbs of agave, or 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup plus 1/4 cup of splenda or other faux sweetener, or 1/4 cup of date or prune puree

1 tsp of vanilla, plus 1/4 tsp of coconut extract, or hazelnut or almond extract, or four to six drops of Wilson’s Bravarian Creme flavoring  or 1/4 teaspoon of chocolate extract

1/8-1/4 cup of any of the following: white chia seed (brown is ok, too), toasted golden flax seed (yum!), cocoa powder, carob powder (optional)

1/4 cup of protein powder

1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass lidded 2 quart baking dish with coconut spray oil,  grape seed oil or rice bran oil, canola or even PAM work fine. (Just remember that PAM and similar products may have wheat flour in them!)

Then take a two quart cook pot (saucier I guess) and heat up which ever milk appeals to you.  If your milk of choice has xanthan in it already, don’t bother adding it.  Rinse the millet, and let it drain, and pat dry-ish. Measure out the coconut, and your sugars and have them ready.

Heat the milk until it is scalding, but don’t let it boil. Some milks will break if you boil them. When the milk is hot, pour in the millet. Cook it for a time, until you can just detect that the grain is softening.  The grain will look slightly bigger and maybe a bit yellower.  Add the coconut. When you can see that things are thickening further, add the sweeteners and stir them in.  At this point it is ok to let the mix simmer, as long as you stir.

Add the protein powder and any of your additives except for the extracts.

Then comes the point where you can smell the sweetness in the air, and the mixture becomes thicker. It will never truly incorporate into one solid mass, but the particles will become less stratified, slightly glossy,  more stable and noticeably thick.

At this point, take the pot off the hot burner. Stir to cool a little, until the steam is less, but warm, not cold.  Pour in your flavorings, stir some more.  Pour into your baking dish, and bake for an hour, keeping an eye on it the last 15 minutes for the first few times you do it.  It should be a deep golden brown and smell like nutty sweet quick bread.

The results are better if you let it sit on the stove for about 10 minutes after you get it out of the oven.  However, if you don’t mind something a little less spoon bread, and a little more gloppy, it is perfectly acceptable to eat as soon as it cools, lid off from the oven. I do it all the time.   I like to serve it with a drizzle of cherry syrup or jam and some more “milk” or mimicreme.

The original recipe called for a cup of honey. I thought this was WAAAY too sweet, I must be VERY careful with honey, as it is very high on the old GI. So I cut the sugar way down. Normal people might want it to be sweeter. The results are better, however, if you use at least a little bit of real sugar or sugar like product.  I have plenty of options here.

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