Over the last decade, the sight of millet cookies, cakes and breads has become more common.. In the last few years, baking with millets has evolved to feature everything from roulades to tarts, rolls, creams, even sour dough.
The recently-held millet baking contest was a testimony to the rise of the discerning, health-conscious Indian home baker.
“I started working on healthy baking over five years ago, first with whole grain flours such as wheat. Then I started exploring how I could incorporate ragi for my son. I wanted him to eat more ragi (finger millet) because it was a good source of nutrition. Then I started working with other millet flours and realised they were quite versatile,” says Simran Oberoi Multani, who runs the Facebook group ‘Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community’.
She began bringing out millet bakes in combinations that worked according to the taste profiles of the flours.
“It took a long time for me to experiment on using millet flours in cakes and cookies. I started with dark chocolate ragi cookies, which worked well. I use jowar flour for baking cakes. Recently, I even made ragi and jowar (sorghum) tarts with a chocolate flavoured shell and a coconut filling.”
She created the Facebook group to share her findings and spread awareness on millet baking so first-timers would have a chance to experiment with tried and tested recipes.
Simran played an important role in the recently-conducted millet baking contest held as part of the run-up to The Organics Millets International Trade Fair 2018 that will take place this weekend.
“I was wondering how to get more people involved,” says Caroline Radhakrishnan, a publicist for the trade fair, who hosted the contest as part of the run-up to the event. She is a blogger (currylines.com) and a home baker who also conducts baking workshops.
“We had to extend the deadline because the response was so great. We had over 130 recipes sent in by 40 bakers. It is easy to cook almost everything else with millets, it is more challenging to bake with them.”
Caroline has been baking with millets for over six years, following nearly a decade of baking with whole grain flour. “First I discovered ragi, jowar and bajra (pearl millet). And then I moved on to the minor millets such as the barnyard, proso and foxtail millets. Earlier you wouldn’t find them in markets. It is only in the last few years that these minor millets have been easily accessible. I typically use a mixture of whole wheat and millet flours, unless I want a totally gluten-free product. But it is also possible to substitute wheat in certain kinds of breads such as pizza crusts.”
Each major millet, has a distinct flavour. “Ragi adds a darker colour and a sandy texture, jowar is more like wheat in terms of the smoothness of the flour. Bajra adds a more bitter tinge. The minor millet flours (not the grains themselves) behave almost the same when baked. It is easier to use a mixed-millet flour in bakes,” Caroline says.
The winning entry in the contest organised by Caroline was a Swiss roulade, made with millets. “Baking with millet flours is a challenge because they are naturally gluten-free and high in protein,” says Vidya Arvind, the winner, an architect turned home baker, who plans to take up baking full-time. “I wanted to try something new. I also made millet cream as an alternative to butter-cream. We, as participants, are challenging ourselves to do something different by incorporating French cuisine into millet baking, for instance,” Vidya adds.
The Organics Millets International Trade Fair 2018 organised by the Govt of Karnataka, Dept of Agriculture, will be hosted from January 19 to January 21 at the Palace Grounds. For details, visit organics-millets.in .