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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Polenta Sourdough - a recent discover: polenta flour

I know it's a little late to just discover Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena. We drove pass this bakery numerous times but never stopped by until two weeks ago. Oasis Bakery is a Lebanese bakery and food store. They make beautiful baclava. In my opinion, their baclava is the best I've had.  It is just perfectly sweet and so crispy.

Their cafe/bakery is great and the food store is even better, it's fantastic. I felt like a kid in a candy store walking into the shop (yes, I can be easily excited when I'm in a food store full of items that are new to me, and Oasis is just like that) . The store has an excellent range of ingredients for middle east cooking. It's also well-stocked with good variety of grains, flours, nuts and dried fruits.  

I came across polenta flour (maize flour) and bought a bag to try it with bread. I use polenta (coarse grind) quite often with my multigrains bread and I like its taste. It make the bread sweeter and give a nice yellow hue to the crumb. I never came across this flour before and figured that it would be an interesting ingredient for bread.

Having no experience working with polenta flour, I had no idea how well it would absorb liquid, what changes it would make to the gluten development when mixed with wheat flour, etc. A search through Google and The Fresh Loaf website didn't give much information either. It doesn't seem like polenta flour is widely used in bread making, at least not from the information I found on the Web.

I had little clue on what to expect from Sourdough Polenta bread. I made the bread with liquid starter and substitute approximately 25% of bread flour with polenta flour. It took substantially longer to develop gluten (I believe there is absolutely no gluten in polenta flour. The flour has protein level of 7%, which doesn't necessary translate to gluten level). After kneading for 45 mins, I could only achieve slightly moderate gluten development. At this point, I gave up the kneading as I didn't think it will ever achieve a good gluten developement with polenta flour in it. The flour also didn't seem to absorb water as well as wheat flour. The dough was slackier and wetter.

The dough was proofed to a satisfactory height, however, it was almost deflated when it was scored. It didn't get great oven spring as normal. But the crumb is well open nonetheless.

The crumb is denser and chewier than usual, which, I am guessing, is a result of polenta. It has a nice yellow crumb and nice flavour with a mild aroma of polenta. It's nice change from the normal wheat bread.

Because polenta has a strong association with Italian food, it made me feel something Italian would go well with the bread. With a splash of olive oil onto the slice of bread, then top it up with cheddar cheese (sorry, no bocconcini arond, we had to make do with what we got), slices of home-grown tomato and basils, there... we have it, a simple snack for lunch.

Home-grown tomatoes and basil make a yummy lunch.

A perfect match, tomato and basil. It always works. 

Sourdough Polenta recipe
adapted the techniques and recipe from Vermont Sourdough bread from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's book of techniques and recipes

Make 2 large loaves

Recipe note:
1. I left the dough to autolyze for 30 minutes.
2. The shaped loaves was retarded in the fridge overnight
3. I did two stetch-and-folds, during 2 hours and a half fermentation

Overall formula
Polenta flour (corn meal) 240 g 
Bread flour 667 g
Water 635 g 
Salt 18 g
Total 1.56 kg

Baker’s percentage
Polenta flour (corn meal) 26.5%
Bread flour 73.5%
Water 70%
Salt 2%
Total 172%

Liquid-levain build
Bread flour 136 g
Water 188 g
Culture 28 g

Final dough
Polenta flour (corn meal) 240 g 
Bread flour 531 g
Water 447 g
Salt 18 g
Liquid-levain all of the above (less 28 g)

1. Liquid-levain build: Make the levain build approximately 12 - 18 hours before the final mix.

2. Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the salt. Mix or stir the ingredients together until it becomes a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic and let it stand for an autolyse phase of 30-60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough and continue kneading until the medium gluten development is formed.

3. Bulk fermentation: 2 ½ hours

4. Folding: Fold the dough twice, at 50-minute intervals

5. Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, make a pre-shape dough balls and let it rest on the bench for 10-20 minutes. Shape the doughs into round (boule) or oblong (batard).

6. Final fermentation; Approximately 2 -2 ½  hours (alternatively, retard for up to 8 hours in the fridge)

7. Baking: with normal steam, 225C (440F) for 40 45 mins, turn the loaves half way through the bake.

Some mishap with flouring of banneton. I was too heavy-handed with the flouring,
and this was the result of it, not so shiny crust.

Submitting this post to YeastSpotting


  1. Beautiful! I'm incorporating polenta in my starter today to give it a try. Great blog by the way.

  2. Thank you, Valere.

    I love the flavour and aroma of polenta (cornn meal). I''m doing more bake with it this week too, adding both polenta flour and coarse polenta to the dough. They'll be baked today.


  3. The polenta in the starter was a success :-)
    I love the polenta taste and the chewy texture. I've done a sun-dried tomatoes and black olive bread with it - delicious with cheese or dipped in olive oil.

  4. Great to hear. I love the idea of sun-dried tomato with it too. That sounds yummy.

    My sourdough corn bread went well too. I put about 10% coarse polenta as well as some honey and butter. The aroma of the loaves were sensational. The texture was great, chewy, nice creamy color, and it got a hint of nuttiness from polenta.


  5. I would never have thought of using polenta flour in a bread. I need to give this a try!
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. The polenta flour gives natural sweetness to baked goods. The bread was really nice. I also made scone with polenta flour and it turned out lovely as well (though the texture was slighly crumbly as polenta is lack of gluten).