The difficultly level of this bread is marked as “advanced” in Maggie Glezer’s book. I took one look at that and thought, what the heck. I’ve got a bread class under my belt, and I just won’t take pictures of it if its inedible :).
I adapted the recipe from her book Baking Across America, and this particular recipe is from Della Fratoria’s Bakery. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand which was about 70% why I chose to get started on this recipe last night. The other 30% was that it used sourdough starter, and I’m always looking for a reason to use it! I keep my starter at 100% hydration, and adapted the recipe to account for that.
I thoroughly enjoy polenta on its own, and was curious how it would turn out in a bread. One of the steps is to have the polenta absorb about 5x its weight in water, and that made for a great bread with a lot of taste and texture.
You can see the amazing crumb in the pictures, and the crust was just as fantastic. The polenta that was dusted on the top gave a great additional crunch. We enjoyed this with black bean chili, and it was the perfect accompaniment. I brought the rest of the bread to work today to share, and it was gone in no time. I even had someone ask about purchasing some - hmmm
One last thing - the spiral shaping was a bit harder than I had thought it would be . I normally use a curved lame, which I did for this, but I would think a straight knife would’ve made the work easier. The dough is tacky, and the polenta on the top makes it that much harder to get a smooth cut. But I still think that it turned out fantastic!
(adapted from Polenta Bread in Maggie Glezer’s Baking Across America)
makes two 650kg boules
Refresh Starter - Depends on how current yours is
Make polenta and chill - 30 min
Rough mix and autolyse dough - 15 min
Mix dough - 20 min
Bulk Ferment - 3 1/2 hours
Shape and bench proof - 2 1/2 hours
Bake - 45 minutes
- 225 g mature sourdough starter - 100% hydration
- 35 g coarse polenta
- 175 g cold water (for polenta)
- 345 g cold water (for final dough)
- 265 g unbleached bread flour
- 335 g unbleached high-gluten flour
- 18 g salt
- coarse polenta for coating the dough
- Mix the polenta and water in a microwavable container and microwave on high power for 4 minutes. Stir and microwave for 2 minutes more. The mixture should be very thick. (you could also do this on the stove top, it will take about 5 minutes). Then spread the mixture out on a plate to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
- Measure the cold water (for dough) into the mixing bowl, add the flours, and stir with your hands or a wood spoon just until a rough dough forms. The water will not absorb all the flour at this point. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for about 15 minutes.
- Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed until the dough forms (and it will) a smooth, cohesive round. Add the starter and salt, and mix until the dough is firm and smooth. The dough will be incredibly wet to start with, and it will seem like it won’t come together. It will. I was mixing at about speed 5 here, and in about 5 minutes it had come together. Add the cooked polenta in small bits, mixing until fully incorporated. This whole process can take up to 15 minutes to achieve moderate gluten development.
- Place the dough in a large container and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until it is well expanded, but not yet doubled in size, with folds at 30-, 60-, and 90-minutes. Then, leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining 1 1/2 - 2 hours. The entire bulk fermentation time should be around 3 1/2 hours.
- Flour the surface of the dough and your work surface and turn the dough out. Cut the dough in half; each piece should weigh roughly 640 grams (23 ounces). Lightly round the pieces and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Pour some coarse polenta into a large pie plate. Shape the dough pieces into even and tight round loaves without deflating them. Spray their tops with water, then roll them in the polenta to coat them. Place each shaped loaf coated side down in an unlined tightly woven basket, or plastic bowl. I was concerned that they would not release, so I lightly sprayed my bowls with spray oil. Cover them well with plastic wrap and proof the dough until it is well expanded, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
- About 45 minutes before baking, arrange a rack on the oven’s second-to-top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all racks above the one being used. Preheat oven to 425F.
- If desired, just before baking the bread, fill the oven with steam (I used ice cubes and spritzed the loaves as they went into the oven). Turn the breads out onto separate sheets of parchment paper. In one continuous motion, slash a spiral on top of each loaf: Begin at the bread’s center and, holding the razor almost horizontally, turn the bread on its paper while you cut the spiral. Slide the breads, still on paper, onto the hot stone. Bake the loaves until dark and evenly browned all around, about 40-45 minutes, rotating them halfway into the bake. Let cool on rack for at least an hour.