Pressure-caramelized grains

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When we were writing Modernist Cuisine, we developed a method for caramelizing food under pressure, using baking soda to accelerate the process. This produces particularly rich results, intensifying the caramelization of sugars (in both the food and the additional sugar itself) and concentrating the flavors through the alkalinity of the baking soda combined with the heat buildup at 120°C/250°F in the pressure cooker. When we first worked on this technique, we used it mostly for vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fruits. It turns out that the method also works for many other foods, including grains. To pressure-caramelize grains, you will need to cook them first, separately, in a pot on the stove or in a pressure cooker until al dente. The water in the recipe below should be added only when pressure-caramelizing grains; without the additional water, the grains will harden and become unpalatable. If you are pressure-caramelizing any other ingredient, omit the water. We found that in addition to intensifying flavors, the small amounts of butter, baking soda, and sugar we added actually improved the structure and quality of bread dough, producing a larger volume and more open crumb structure. We suggest adding up to 50 percent of pressure-caramelized ingredients to your breads.


200 grams cooked grains
40 grams sugar
60 grams butter, melted
1 gram baking soda
100 grams water


In jar with a lid, combine grains, sugar, butter, baking soda, and water; seal, not too tightly nor too loosely. Place the sealed jar on a trivet in a pressure cooker. Fill the pressure cooker with water until it reaches half way up the jars. With the cooker uncovered, set the Control Freak to the highest temperature setting (482ºF) and bring the water to a simmer. When water reaches a simmer, securely fasten the lid of the pressure cooker and allow pressure to build; once this happens (there pressure valve will pop out from the cooker) turn the heat down to 208ºF to 210ºF. The goal is to maintain the pressure, not to boil the water. If too much steam is coming out of the pressure valve, it is boiling and you need to turn the temperature down so that only a few wisps of steam come out of the valve. Cook for 1½ hours. Remove from heat, and allow to cool while the cooker’s lid is still sealed. Once the pressure valve drops, open the lid and remove jars. Allow the jars to cool before opening and drain the grains if necessary. Completely cooled, caramelized grain is ready to add to bread dough.

If you’re mixing dough by hand, add caramelized morsels on top of the dough after the first or second fold in a single layer; they’ll mix into the dough as your folds progress. If you’re mixing by machine, add them into the dough when it has reached medium gluten development: turn the mixer down to low speed, add the pressure-caramelized ingredients, and mix until they’re just combined with the dough.