Pane di Mais – Polenta Bread


 Prep Time : 30 + 30 Minutes | Cook Time : 25 Minutes | Total Time : 5 hours | Difficulty : Bread

Hello my lovelies! This is a bit of a deep dive bread. An old recipe from Italy that I found while playing with traditional bread recipes. It is absolutely delicious and holds a lovely soft texture for days. It might seem like a bit of mucking around making the polenta first. But totally worth it. Modern fine polenta cooks pretty fast so it’s not a major drama. There are points where it might seem like there is not enough water but go with it. The dough ends up soft and pliable once everything is brought together and kneaded. Set aside a bit of time for this – it has three rises. If your house is warm the time will fly by. Impress your family and friends with it at Christmas. Use your leftover polenta to make polenta chips. Or just toss some parmesan and cream on top and eat it as a snack while you’re waiting for the ferment to rise…

First we need to make the polenta. Put the water and salt on to boil over a medium heat. While the water for the polenta is heating, mix the honey into the warm water and sprinkle the yeast over it to start blooming and get all foamy.

When the water is boiling start stirring the water with a whisk. If you have one that has the knobs on the end of the wires use it – it’s the perfect thing. Keep whisking CONSTANTLY and slowly pour the polenta into the water. If you don’t whisk all the time you will get lumps. It will thicken very quickly.

Now stir constantly while the polenta cooks. It will take 5 to 10 minutes. Taste it from time to time to check if it’s done. It will be creamy and thick and lose any grittiness.

Take the polenta off the heat. Measure out a cupful and put it into a large bowl.

It will need to cool a bit before we can add the yeast to it. Let it cool for about 10 minutes. test it with your finger to make sure it’s warm but not hot. Add the yeast and water along with the first measure (half a cup) of flour. Mix to a porridge consistency.

Cover and leave to double in size. It will be all bubbly and puffy.

Add the rest of the flour and the salt and mix to a dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. It will be infuriatingly sticky at first. And it will still be a bit sticky at the end. Pop it back into the bowl, cover and leave to double in size.

Tip the dough out and shape into a neat round. Sprinkle the top generously with flour

Using both hands turn the dough gently on a clean bench using the edges of your hands to tuck the dough underneath as you turn. The top will become taut and smooth. Pop the dough onto a piece of baking paper. Dust the top with a little more flour. Cover loosely and leave to double in size.

Heat the oven to 220C (425F). Pop a heavy baking sheet or cast iron griddle inside to heat up as well. Slash the top of the loaf decoratively as you like or cut a cross in the top. Use a very sharp knife or razor blade to do this.

When the oven is hot slide the loaf in on the pre-heated tray. Direct contact with the hot tray will help the loaf to spring up in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until well browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack – resist the urge to slice it before it has cooled. Slicing warm bread can squash it down and also release too much moisture from the cut surface which will dry the bread out.

Put some butter on it. Good advice in general really.

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Pane di Mais - Polenta Bread


Prep Time : 30 + 30 mins | Cook Time : 25 mins | Total Time : 5 hours | Difficulty : Bread | Makes : 1 medium loaf

Golden fragrant bread with a sweet note of corn that stays soft for days.

Ingredients:

For the polenta

  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) fine polenta
  • 2 cups (500 mls) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the bread:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mls) warm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup (200 grams) cooked polenta (as per the first step)
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) bread flour
  • 1 + 1/2 cups (225 grams) of bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

– If using metric cups, reduce volume measures by 1 tablespoon for every cup of dry or liquid ingredients – 

Equipment:

  • Small saucepan + whisk
  • Bowls and spoons
  • Heavy baking sheet or cast iron griddle
  • Medium loaf pan

Directions:

First we need to make the polenta. Put the water and salt on to boil over a medium heat. While the water for the polenta is heating, mix the honey into the warm water and sprinkle the yeast over it to start blooming and get all foamy.

When the water is boiling start stirring the water with a whisk. If you have one that has the knobs on the end of the wires use it – it’s the perfect thing. Keep whisking CONSTANTLY and slowly pour the polenta into the water. If you don’t whisk all the time you will get lumps. It will thicken very quickly.

Now stir constantly while the polenta cooks. It will take 5 to 10 minutes. Taste it from time to time to check if it’s done. It will be creamy and thick and lose any grittiness.

Take the polenta off the heat. Measure out a cupful and put it into a large bowl. It will need to cool a bit before we can add the yeast to it. Let it cool for about 10 minutes. test it with your finger to make sure it’s warm but not hot. Add the yeast and water along with the first measure (half a cup) of flour. Mix to a porridge consistency.

Cover and leave to double in size. It will be all bubbly and puffy.

Add the rest of the flour and the salt and mix to a dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. It will be infuriatingly sticky at first. And it will still be a bit sticky at the end. Pop it back into the bowl, cover and leave to double in size.

Tip the dough out and shape into a neat round. Sprinkle the top generously with flour. Using both hands turn the dough gently on a clean bench using the edges of your hands to tuck the dough underneath as you turn. The top will become taut and smooth.

Pop the dough onto a piece of baking paper. Dust the top with a little more flour. Cover loosely and leave to double in size.

Heat the oven to 220C (425F). Pop a heavy baking sheet or cast iron griddle inside to heat up as well. Slash the top of the loaf decoratively as you like or cut a cross in the top. Use a very sharp knife or razor blade to do this.

When the oven is hot slide the loaf in on the pre-heated tray. Direct contact with the hot tray will help the loaf to spring up in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until well browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack – resist the urge to slice it before it has cooled. Slicing warm bread can squash it down and also release too much moisture from the cut surface which will dry the bread out.

Put some butter on it. Good advice in general really.

Cook’s Notes:

  • You can bake the bread as a boule or batard – shape and leave to rise on a piece of baking paper and transfer to the hot baking sheet/griddle using the paper as handles. Bake for 25 minutes at 240C as a single free-form loaf.
  • This bread makes excellent sandwiches because it retains it’s soft texture.
  • Absolutely be pedantic about stirring all the time while adding the polenta to the hot water – it will clump if you don’t and it will enrage you. It’s hard to get all the lumps out afterwards.

 – This bread will keep well in an unsealed bag at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. It also makes excellent golden toast for longer – 

Adapted from The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz.

© 2017 The Winsome Baker. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

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4 thoughts on “Pane di Mais – Polenta Bread

    • I haven’t tried it so I’m not sure what the result would be – it won’t have as much flavour since semolina is made from wheat anyway and may behave differently because it will also have gluten in it where polenta doesn’t – I am interested to know how it would come out though!

    • Yes and yes – it has a nice sweetness of it’s own so would be lovely with something fruity with a little spice or o it. And cheese.

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