Polenta bread

Polenta bread

By
From
Lucy's Bakes
Prep
10 mins
Cooking time
10 mins
Photographer
Jacqui Melville

Finding ourselves in an authentic Italian restaurant my son and I ordered some focaccia and oil to start with while we talked about the university we had just visited.The bread took ages but when it came it was fresh from the brick oven and unbelievably light. On asking I was told the secret to very light bread is to add some finely ground polenta to the dough, so I removed some flour and added some polenta and here is the result. This bread is great for bread novices as the results is a super light super gratifying bread that works every time.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
475g strong white bread flour
50g fine polenta or cornmeal
15g fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
320g warm water
50g olive oil

Method

  1. Put the flour, polenta, dried yeast and salt into a bowl and mix together so the yeast is evenly distributed.
  2. Add the water and olive oil and stir the mix together with a fork until it starts to come together, then turn it out onto a clean work surface and bring it together to a wet dough.
  3. Follow the kneading notes in the chapter introduction at this point. I put the radio on and listen to two tracks and it is done! Put the floured, kneaded dough ball back into your bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size (I place it in my oven at 60°C with the door slightly ajar, for 30 minutes).
  4. Shape into focaccia (see note), pizzas (see note), a loaf in a 1 kg loaf tin, or 12 rolls on a lined baking sheet. Alternatively for breadsticks, divide the dough in half. For slim ones roll the dough to 1 cm thick and cut into 5 mm wide strips. For fat sticks roll out a little thicker and cut into 1.5 cm wide strips. Place them a little apart on baking sheets lined with baking paper.
  5. Except for the pizza, leave the shaped bread to rise until doubled in size again (in the oven or at room temperature).
  6. Preheat the oven to 220°C – take the bread out first if proving in there! Bake for 10 –15 minutes for breadsticks, 15 minutes for rolls or 30 minutes for loaves. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. For the pizza, bake for 5 minutes to crisp the base. Slide it onto the hot sheet on the top shelf. Use a cold baking sheet to transfer another pizza on to the oven floor. Bake 5 minutes more. Remove the top pizza and keep warm. Move the second pizza up to the hot baking sheet place another on the oven floor. Continue until all are cooked.

Note

  • This recipe is vegetarian, nut-free and dairy-free.

Alternative cooking times and yields

  • Pizzas: 5–10 minutes/makes 4 large pizzas.

    Breadsticks and rolls: 10–15 minutes/makes about 50 breadsticks or 12 rolls.

    Focaccia: 20 minutes/makes 2 flat focaccias.

    Loaves: 30 minutes/makes 1 large loaf.

What the the testers say

  • HATTIE CUFFLIN – ‘I've never made bread. This worked for me – I could not believe it. I used 125 g rye flour and 400 g white bread flour and made giant rolls for my homemade burgers.’

To make focaccia:

  • 1. Following on from step 3, re-knead the proved dough and divide it into 2 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece out using a floured rolling pin into a rectangle. Place in 2 oiled 18 x 28 cm baking tin.

    2. Using your fingertips, press the dough gently but firmly right out to the corners of each tin (it will be very elastic so persevere). It should evenly half-fill the tin.

    3. Using a pair of scissors, snip all over the surface of the dough to make little dents in it. Poke some chopped fresh rosemary into the slits, if liked.

    4. Brush with a little water and scatter coarse sea salt (or chilli or other flavoured salt, if preferred) over the surface. Cover with the tea towel and leave to rise again until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 220°C.

    Bake for 20 minutes until the base sounds hollow when knocked. Leave in the tin, drizzle with 100 g olive oil and add some crushed garlic if liked. Leave to soak and serve warm.

To make pizza:

  • 1. Divide the re-kneaded, proved dough into quarters and shape into balls. Roll each out on a sheet of baking paper to a thin disc, turning the paper regularly to keep the round shape.

    2. Push the edges all round with the fingertips to neaten and slightly raise the edge. Make a quick tomato sauce: blend a 400 g can chopped tomatoes with a finely grated garlic clove, 50 g olive oil, 1 tablespoon tomato purée, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper.

    3. Slide 1 pizza on its paper onto a baking sheet. Spread the tomato sauce thinly over all the pizza bases, not quite to the edges, using the back of a wooden spoon.

    4. If using more toppings (mushrooms, peppers, ham, olives etc.), add them now before the cheese. For a simple margherita pizza, simply sprinkle evenly with grated mozzarella.

    5. Take a small bunch of fresh basil leaves and scatter over the surface. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt. Preheat the oven as hot as it goes. Heat a baking sheet on the top shelf.

    6. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pizzas. Slide the one on the baking sheet off on to the actual base of the oven just on its paper.
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