Flatbreads from Your Morning Porridge

baking, bread, fermentation, Homegrown Grains

This recipe is a continuation of a ditty about the early days of grains and the gradual “rise” of bread. The first step to this process is making some fermented porridge, which is described in aforementioned ditty. I love the variability of a process where the same porridge can be cooked for your breakfast, and any leftover can become bread for scooping up your lunch and dinner. The more active the ferment obviously the better, so if your porridge has been sitting for a long time, scoop the scum off the top and make some flatbreads!

In modern days like we’re in where just about every aspect of a food and its production are able to be controlled for really specific outcomes, this recipe is a refreshing throwback to times when intuition and experience were more valuable than control, and “perfection” was likely defined in a less homogenous way.

Process

There are no precise measurements that make sense to give. However much fermented porridge you have to use is what you have, and obviously the water to grain ratio will be all over the place. Yet, none of that business should be much of a hurdle here.

Pour your porridge into a bowl. Add a sprinkle of salt. If you are doing this on a scale something like 16 grams of salt per 500 grams of final dough is good. If your breads are undersalted you can always sprinkle some finishing salt over them straight out of the oven. Always be careful to not over salt!

Start adding in flour that has good gluten building qualities. Store bought “Bread” flour is the ticket. Add gradually, mixing it into the porridge slurry until a dough gets formed. You’d want enough flour so it’s not a sticky dough but not so much that it’s super firm either. Intuition and experience right? Getting things right the first time is boring, you learn nothing. A recipe worth making is one that you earn a relationship with, right?

Give the dough a few kneads and let it rest. The goal is to have everything mixed and incorporated but being mindful to not overmix. Giving it a covered over night or long day rest is great. The dough can be stored in a container the fridge and used here and there if not needed right away.

When it’s time to make the bread, on a lightly floured surface cut the dough into whatever size your after, perhaps the size of a doubled golf ball? And then roll them into a ball. Let the balls rest for 20 or so min and in the meantime warm up a skillet on the stovetop to medium high.

After a little rest period, using as much flour as needed, roll out the balls into flat disks. You can press them first with your fingers, and toss them like a pizza or come in with your rolling pin. Play around with the thickness and size (which will also be factors in how hot your skillet should be) until you found what you like.

Cook the flatbread, flipping as needed until both sides are lightly browned and the bread is cooked all the way through. Breads can be dressed up with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of seasonings if that’s your bag. Then fill em up with delights!

Fermented Porrdige & Kvass

fermentation, Homegrown Grains

Sometimes the grandeur of bread makes the grains feel unrecognizable from the labored summer months caring for it, processing it, and cleaning it. Porridge makes me feel closest to my grains. Tortilla retains an intimate connection too. I remember reading a long time ago somewhere that a bread baker was the first specialized profession. It’s easy to understand for anyone who’s tried to consistently integrate the time intensive task into their daily life. Before bread “technology” became widely accessible, porridge was the primary way people consumed their staple grains.

It’s believable to say that porridge is the rough stone that was smoothened into bread by the running waters of time, fermented porridge actually! Before porridge maybe there were handgathered kernels chewed between your teeth. Actually doing this yourself is a jolting time warp worth doing to reset your racing clock. It’s become an annual moment after harvest for us to hand thresh a small bowlful of kernels and eat them as is, just to remember. Next I’d imagine was progressing to crushing kernels between stones, earth’s teeth, and maybe add some earth tears like water, and there you’d have a porridge. Uncooked it would be a chewy mush. With enough time it would ferment and soften more, maybe making it easier to eat and introducing humans to their first versions of a sourdough starter. With a little added flour, cook a fermented porridge into a flatbread and there’s a leavened bread. Add a little more ground grain for an even firmer dough and with more time and a cook, you got yourself a loaf.

Fermented porridge can be made from any grain: wheat, rye, corn, oats, rice, and so-on. It can be cracked, ground, whole, or even just sifted bran. A hand cranked meat grinder works great for cracked grain and often pop up in the tool sections of thrift stores for a couple bucks. It’s possible to crack them too by laying the grains on a hard flat surface, draping a towel over them, and pressing hard on them with bottom of a jar, a rolling pin, or maybe a rock.

The prep work is easy, just covering your prepared grain with a generous amount of water or milk or nut/ seed “milk” to keep it submerged for a prolonged soak- a couple hours or a couple days or weeks at room temp depending how funky you’re feeling. The fermentation will help breakdown grain characteristics that inhibit digestion. In the morning, heat it in a pot until boiling, then lowering it to a short simmer, keep an eye on it all the while in case some extra liquid needs added along the way. The final consistency is up to you. Depending on where you’re trying to take your day, add a splash or nob of fat (buddder/ oil/ maybe bacon), pinch o salt, and any seasonings and delights (like those summer time berries you dehydrated or a potato) before cooking. For a quicker fermentation turn around you can backslop today’s porridge into a new one just like splashing in a starter. What an easy vehicle for any adventure.

Remember the rye bread recipe for traditional style pumpernickel from a few months ago? This one? The recipe used “scalding” which was heating a porridge situation until it was at least 160 degrees at which point the flour released its starches and gelatinized. In pumpernickel, this is what gave the gluten-lacking rye bread some bonding to help it hold its shape. This is the same process that occurs when cooking the porridge, transforming it into a lovely cohesive mush rather than water and grain that sit separately in a bowl like oil and water. It’s also the same process used for making injera which is a mixing of “fermented porridge” and scalded porridge to help the thin batter hold together.



Kvass

The same grains- whether cracked, ground, whole, or bran, but this time also adding old baked bread to the list, when covered with water and left to ferment is the beverage associated with Eastern European origin called kvass. There are a million variations to this beverage (including versions without grain), with many adding some kind of additional sugar whether it be cane, fruit, berries, vegetables, juice, honey, sorghum, or maple in order to get a spritely effervescent and maybe alcoholic beverage. Where’s the line between fermented porridge and kvass? Doesn’t seem like there is much of one, just don’t boil your kvass or you’ll lose the fire in that firewater. What’s the difference between beer and kvass? Beer gets most of its sugar out of its grains by sprouting them first (aka malting) and steeping them at a specific temperature (mashing), kvass is a little lazier and ferments things as they are with no special processes (although malt still may be used). It almost feels like kvass is a brew made of collected leftovers.

Winter is a good time to perch a brew of kvass on your radiators as if it were your hearth. To make it add cracked grains, old bread, and as much sweetener of choice as suits you. Dress it up with any other flavors and seasonings that inspire you. Don’t forget a little splash of sourdough starter to help get everything rolling (not required). Let the wild yeast ferment it at room temperature till it’s actively bubbling. Remember it’s winter so be patient. Then strain out the contents and enjoy.

(I suppose you can also not strain out the contents and warm it up into a nice porridge! Boom.)