I'm pretty excited about this polenta sourdough bread. First, it definitely takes crunchy chewy crust to the next level. Second, the combination of the sweet polenta with a thrice fed 70 percent hydration levain creates an amazing flavor.
"Thrice fed 70 percent hydration levain." Did I just say that?
Polenta is the Italian version of grits, which is corn meal boiled in water to create a hot cereal. Corn is actually a native American food, so you could also call this "grits bread."
I had some leftover levain (sourdough starter) that I really didn't want to throw away. It was from a Ken Forkish bread. If you are familiar with the amazing book, Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, you probably know that tossing out extra levain is part of the program. While I do toss out my share of levain, I do my best to find ways to use as much as possible.
When Elizabeth of Blog from OUR Kitchen posted this polenta bread for the Bread Baking Babes, I decided to use the leftover levain to make this bread. It worked out perfectly. The crust was super crunchy, and the bread was light, moist, and airy. I also baked the loaves in cast iron pans.
You can still make this bread if you don't happen to have extra levain sitting around. Elizabeth's post provides a way to quickly create a starter.
I used a lot more sourdough starter than the original recipe called for to get as much "oven spring" as possible. In addition, I coated my bannetons with some corn meal prior to proofing the loaves to add extra crunch to the crust. Delicious.
This recipe called for slashing the dough in a spiral pattern. I need to work on my bread slashing skills. I'm pretty sure my spiral is "rustic."
I will be making this bread again. And again.
Sourdough Polenta Bread
Inspired by Artisan Baking Across America: The Breads, the Bakers, the Best Recipes
35 g (3 T) coarse cornmeal
175 g water
390 g water
1/8 tsp instant yeast
600 g bread flour
360 g mature sourdough starter (mine was 70% hydration. If yours is higher, adjust the flour in your final dough to accommodate the extra water)
18 g salt
all of the polenta
cornmeal, flour, and rice flour for the bannetons
- To make the polenta, pour the water over the cornmeal and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the ingredients, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour the polenta onto a plate to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, yeast, and flour. Mix to blend and let the ingredients rest for about 30 minutes, covered.
- Add the sourdough/levain, salt, and the polenta. Mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes.
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Stretch and fold the dough and re-cover with the plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rise until doubled.
- Divide the dough in half and form it into two preliminary boules. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.
- Dust two small bannetons or towel lined bowls with a combination of wheat and rice flour. Then dust with cornmeal.
- Form the dough into boules and place each into the bannetons, seam side up. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.
- Place two cast iron combo cookers on your oven rack and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- When the loaves have doubled in size, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces.
- Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough).
- Slice the dough in a spiral pattern. I hope you can do a better job than I did.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.
- Bake covered for 20 minutes, and then remove the Dutch ovens from the hot oven, uncover, and place the loaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Place the baking sheet into the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is browned.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.