I have often baked traditional corn bread before, but never thought about combining corn meal with my normal artisan baking techniques.
Recently I had run out of coarse ground corn meal, which I use to prevent the loaves from sticking to the proofing baskets (or bannetons). I asked my wife to pick some up on the way home, but she brought fine ground corn meal instead. This isn’t corn flour or corn starch, this still is a bit gritty. In any case, I decided to try using it for some other recipes, including a bread one. I had a fast scan across the Internet and found a recipe that seemed similar to what I wanted to do, so I let myself be inspired by that. The original recipe I found is here. I tend to bake much wetter doughs nowadays, so I made a few changes and this is my take on it:
For the starter for this bread:
- 50g of my standard starter
- 240g water
- 300g white bread flour
Mix up the starter and let it rise in a warm place until it is bubbly and ready. It took mine about 6 hours in the airing cupboard.
For the main dough:
- 450g water
- 565g (roughly) of the starter (all of it)
- 250g fine yellow corn meal
- 450g white bread flour
- 19g salt (I tried this with 17g and it was just a bit under-salted to our taste)
- 40g extra virgin olive oil
Combine the water, olive oil, and starter in a mixing bowl with a whisk until the clumps have been broken up and the starter is effectively dissolved in the water. Then add the flour, first the corn meal then the bread flour. Measure and add the salt. Using whichever technique suits you mix the ingredients together so that the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the wet. The result should be a fairly sticky wet dough. I used a hand mixer with dough hooks and a spatula to ensure I was getting everything into it.
I then covered the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. I then did 4 turns of the bread, one roughly every 10-15 minutes. The dough was then allowed to rest and rise until 2 hours had passed from the initial mixing. I put that into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I took out the dough and let it rest on the table for two hours. I then split it into loaves, and let the resulting rounds have a bench rest for 30 minutes. After that I formed the loaves and put the result into the bannetons dusted with more of the same yellow corn meal. These were covered and allowed to rest for two hours. At one hour and forty minutes I started the oven (mine takes 40 minutes to reach baking temperature).
The loaves were baked in the usual way. The resulting loaves turned out really well. My kids certainly loved them :). Here are a few shots of the finished bread loaves and the first cut loaf.