DSCN5086 When I first began making an iteration of this bread years ago, my sister felt I’d finally taken a serious birdwatching habit a step too far.  I’ll admit, the idea did come to me as I was filling feeders one morning.  Outside my restaurant, I had several of them distributed under the eaves overhanging a long set of dining room windows that looked over a creek.  Bird life was abundant, and when the room was quiet, we could hear the crunch of seeds as goldfinches, junkos, and pine siskins lunched alongside us. I came to wonder if tiny, golden globes of millet (from the bulk bins of a natural foods store, not the bucket of bird seed, just so you know) would lend a similar, satisfying crunch to bread.  And so it does. DSCN5020 GOLD NUGGET BREAD 6 3/4 cups bread flour 1/4 cup uncooked millet 1/4 cup ground flax seed (because your body absorbs its many nutrients better when it is ground) 2 tablespoons whole flax seed (lovely, and its texture so satisfying) 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1.5 teaspoons instant) 2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt 10 ounces hot tap water 10 ounces milk 1 large egg 2 tablespoons honey 2 ounces neutral oil (I like corn oil) for the dough, plus a tablespoon for oiling the bowl 1.  Measure the flour, millet, ground and whole flax seeds, yeast and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Swish the dough hook through everything to disperse the yeast.


Left to right: millet, sea salt, whole flax seed, ground flax seed, instant dry yeast (center)

2.  Run 10 ounces of hot tap water into a measuring cup.  Add 10 ounces of milk (whole, if you have it; if not, please not less than 2%).  The temperatures will meet in the middle at warm.  Pour the mixture into the bowl.  Add the eggs, honey, and oil.  Using the dough hook, mix on lowest speed until the dough comes together.  Within 6 to 7 minutes, it should appear cohesive and begin to leave the sides and bottom of the bowl. DSCN5038 3.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t do so completely.  You’ll be tempted to begin heaving flour into the bowl.  Don’t.  You’re going to give the dough a rest period known as an autolyse.  Briefly, it permits gluten strands and starches in the dough to take up moisture and expand outside the stress of kneading.  Turn off the mixer.  Drape a piece of plastic around the top of the bowl, and let it sit for 20 minutes. 4.  At the end of the autolyse, remove the plastic (hang onto it), turn the mixer back on.  You may be amazed to see what different mass your dough is.  Give it a few rotations of the hook, and lo and behold, the dough will come together tightly around it, leaving the sides and bottom of the bowl clear.


See the difference!

Let it knead  for 5 minutes.  After that time, turn off the mixer and pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough.  Round it up quickly between your palms, and stretch it into a windowpane over the tips of your fingers.  The thinness/strength of the windowpane tells you if you have adequately developed, through kneading and the autolyse, the gluten in the dough.  Gluten is the protein which quite literally holds bread up. DSCN5049 If your windowpane breaks or tears, toss the knob of dough back into the bowl, and knead for a couple of minutes more.  Repeat the windowpane test. 5.  Once you’ve achieved a good, strong windowpane, turn the dough out of the bowl and pour a tablespoon of oil into it.  Use a paper towel to spread it around the sides and bottom.  Don’t worry about a few specks of dough.  Return the dough to the bowl and press it into place.  Turn it over once, and press it down again.   Cover it with your sheet of plastic.  Use a piece of masking tape on the outside of the bowl to mark the dough’s level so that as it rises, you can see when it actually has doubled rather than guessing.  Or hoping.


I used a piece of electrical tape because I’ve put the masking tape someplace where I can always never find it

DSCN5058 6.  Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a work surface that you’ve lightly dusted with flour.  A bench scraper is perfect for dividing the dough in half. DSCN5064 Shape it as you wish:  into a conventional loaf pan (lightly oil the pan before dropping the dough into it), or as a hearth loaf.  I generally prefer the latter simply because I find them so pretty. DSCN5068 Line a baking sheet with parchment, and set the loaves on it.  Dust their tops lightly with flour, and drape your sheet of plastic over the top.  Let them rise at room temperature until they have doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  The second rise goes much faster than the first because of the yeast population that you have built up. 7.  While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375º.  When the dough is ready, remove the plastic (which you can likely fold up and re-use).  Use a serrated knife to carve some decorative slashes in the top.  The slashes should be a good 1/2 inch deep.  The purpose for slashing the bread is two-fold:  it gives the dough a direction in which to expand – and if you don’t slash it, it will still expand, but in a direction it chooses, and you probably won’t like it – and it looks beautiful. 8.  Place the pan in the oven.  The total baking time will be about 45 minutes.  Set a timer, and rotate it at the halfway point. 9.  When done, remove the sheet from the oven and set the loaves on racks to cool. DSCN5073 I can never wait until a loaf is absolutely, completely cool before cutting into it, so I don’t expect you to, either.  Try, though, to let it lose some of its heat before you have at it.  Otherwise, all you’ll taste is the heat, not the bread.  Or its crunch. DSCN5085 I used to religiously watch televised awards shows with a friend.  Emmys, Globes, Academys, even the CMAs, though I’ve got to tell you that one was hard.   But a couple of years ago, I began to wonder:  why?  One evening I left the kitchen to change over a load of laundry downstairs, and by the time I came back just minutes later, the screen was black.  I could hear whatever was on, but it was as though I’d developed some sort of selective blindness.  I decided it was a sign.  Out the thing went, and I’ve never replaced it. I’ll never have to watch the Country Music Awards again.  Whew. Tonight the Grammy Awards are on, and I’ll be missing that, too.  It’s just as well.  I don’t listen to contemporary music anyway (by now you’re thinking thank heaven you don’t hang out with me).  Who will win?  People I’ve never heard of, singing shit I couldn’t listen to if tied to my chair.  There.  The suspense is over.  I’ve got an entire evening to get some reading done for a class I’m taking this semester. I’ll cuddle up to a warm Kindle while soup simmers quietly on the stove.  Pour a small glass of red wine.  Break off a morsel of fresh bread.  Dip it gently into the wine.  Watch the warm colors blend.  Savor a primitive pleasure.  It is Sunday, after all. DSCN5089

About thesolitarycook

I'm a chef, a cook, a teacher, a reader, a writer, a bike-rider, a dog- and cat-woman
This entry was posted in Breads & Pizzas, RECIPES, SUNDAY BAKING, Vegan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Brilliant! This made me laugh out loud. You are describing me and award shows especially Grammy awards. Silence, sounds of the wind and the quiet when walking outdoors, food bubbling on a stove on a cold day, dogs/s snoring gently , even classical music is allowed especially if it is Arvo Part at the moment … each or all float my boat. Above all, there is nothing that stirs a soul more than the smells of bread baking in an oven. This post is masterly at every level and in every way. A triumph!

    • Oh, we had the most fantastic hike this afternoon! I took them to a place somewhat sheltered from the wind, and we happened on a couple of women and their dog, and all had a wonderful time. Returning to a house filled with the scent of rising dough and simmering soup was such a haven. A beautiful Sunday all around. Back to the real world tomorrow, but not until then.

  2. kool*son says:

    As an amateur baker I loved this, especially the explanation of autolyse which was new to me. I was with you in spirit as you dunked the fresh bread and watched the colours meld. A small point: can you possibly give weights as well as ‘cups’ because we don’t use ‘cups’ in UK. And, even smaller, you omitted the baking time. Intentionally? Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2014 02:57:49 +0000 To:

    • Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you caught that I neglected to fill in the baking time! It is 45 minutes all together, and I will be glad to include weights. That’s an excellent suggestion, and thank you for it.

  3. That bread sounds delicious…. I shall pass the recipe to the bread maker in our house. And for Kool*son I have a cup measure, so I can convert to weights for you. I am guessing baking time about 30 – 35 minutes?

  4. chef mimi says:

    Interesting! I’ve never heard of the window pane test! Beautiful bread!

  5. Gorgeous bread and as always masterfully written. You are really such an incredible teacher. I now when ever I bake bread know what autolyse is and windowpane. This bread is loaded with goodness. As soon as I can use my hand again one of the first things I will do is bake some bread.

  6. ZazaCook says:

    Beautiful job! Your bread is fantastic and looks delicious!
    Bravo 🙂

  7. Well Cynthia, I made your bread last night and it has been voted as really really good!

    As promised, I also weighed out the ‘cups’ for your other European followers so here’s what it worked out at.

    1 kg. flour
    95 grms Millet
    95 grms. Flaxseed
    1 packet of dried active yeast

    The rest of the measurements are the same for all of us. Hope this helps your readers.

    Just an aside, I used spelt flour, as I am intolerant to wheat and it worked beautifully, needed a bit more needing (a minute or two) at the first stage, and about 3 more minutes on the second round.


  8. jama says:

    Those breads are beautiful! They sound wholesome and delicious. Enjoyed this post. 🙂

  9. Beth F says:

    I’ll have to give this one a try — we like millet and flax here. And, yes, so many people forget about the importance of the autolyse.

  10. Glad you didn’t use the millet from the birdseed bucket 😉
    The bread looks delicious!

  11. Pingback: Birdseed Bread | Ayearinredwood's Blog

  12. Looks fantastic – crunchy millet rocks, right?!

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