Friday, February 25, 2011

Polenta Bread

 I received this recipe from a coworker in November 2009, and it has taken me this long to make it! Sad, isn’t it? But I’m also glad I procrastinated, because I did not have a blog back then, and that means I couldn’t share this simple and delicious bread recipe with you! The inside is soft and tender, and the outside has a wonderful, golden crust. It was “practically perfect in every way” (Bonus points if you know the movie that is from!)

This bread is perfect for French toast, bread puddings, panini or even simply toasted with a slight smear of jam or butter. I loved it the first day when the crust was nice and crunchy, but I think the hubby liked it better on the second day, when the crust had softened up a little.

The only changes I made were that I added vital wheat gluten to my dough, and I used active dry yeast instead of the quick rise yeast. That just meant that I added my yeast to the warm water solution instead of to the dry ingredients.

Polenta Bread
From Simple Italian Cooking
(also on the Williams Sonoma Website
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup finely ground, quick-cooking Italian
polenta, plus more for baking sheet
2 tsp. quick-rise yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups warm tap water
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, the 1/2 cup polenta, the yeast and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir to mix well. Add the warm water and olive oil and stir until all of the flour has been absorbed and a dough has formed.

Using your hands, gather the dough into a ball and transfer to a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough until soft and elastic and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. Work more flour into the dough if needed to reduce stickiness; be sure to keep the work surface well floured. The dough should remain in a rounded shape and not flatten out when left on a work surface for a minute or two. If not, work a little more flour into the dough. Place the dough in a warmed, lightly oiled bowl, turning several times to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 to 75 minutes.

Sprinkle a little polenta on a baking sheet and set aside. Punch down the dough, return it to the lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Form the dough into a round ball or an oval shape and place on the prepared baking sheet. The dough should retain its shape and not flatten out. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes. While the dough is rising, position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 425°F.

When the dough has risen, using a very sharp, thin-bladed knife or single-edge razor blade, carefully make a slash 1/2 inch deep across the top. Brush the surface with the egg mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until golden and crusty, 30 to 35 minutes more.

Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and let cool.
Makes 1 round or oval loaf; serves 6 to 8.


oneordinaryday said...

Looks really delicious. There would be no leftovers for using for french toast around here. Jim and I could eat a whole loaf of fresh bread by ourselves.

Meg Luby said...

yum, i love polenta and this looks like a great use of the common ingredient! thanks for sharing!

Caroline said...

I was pretty close to eating this in one sitting. The bread is so tender inside but perfectly crusty on the outside. The crust softens a little on the second day, which the hubby actually prefers, so he preferred the 'second-day polenta bread' whereas I prefer fresh out of the oven! Using the polenta was definitely a new 'trick' for my bread recipes, but this one is so fool-proof and so delicious that I'm going to have to make it again!

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