Corn Bread for Mellow Bakers

I was surprised and delighted with this formula by Jeffrey Hamelman as I wasn’t expecting it to make such a charming bread.  I once again scaled the recipe down to make just one loaf as follows:

Poolish
113 g water
113 g bread flour ( I used the very strong flour again for this part)
1/16th tsp of active dried instant yeast aka a pinch of yeast!

Left overnight at room temperature for 12 hours

In the morning I soaked some 113 grams organic maize meal in 192 grams of water and left it for about quarter of an hour while I had a cup of tea and some brekkie and rattled around with some white leaven that I was using for some other breads.

Then I quickly weighed out another 226 grams of flour, using half and half strong and very strong which seems to give me a good balance at the moment.  Added 8.5 grams fine sea salt and 3/4 tsp of active dried yeast to the flour and then mixed it up with the poolish using my trusty danish dough whisk.  Then I remembered the slug of olive oil so I put that in too.  I gave it a good mix with my hands and after about five minutes it felt supple and evenly mixed so I left it in a clean lightly oiled bowl to do its own thing.

A fold after 45 minutes and then shaped into a rough boule after another 45 minutes, left to relax on the bench for 20 minutes,  then shaped it into a  batard and put to prove in a floured couche cloth.

Why did I want a smooth oval shape?

Well I thought I should boldly venture into stencil world having been dead impressed by  SteveB‘s cornbread.  Never tried one of those before  – I chose something rather over- ambitious but I’ve had a go. It’s harder than it looks figuring out what to do with it when you’ve made it.  Another time I would go for a simpler stencil and think really hard about where the slashes are going to go – design is not my strong point!

After an hour the loaf had almost doubled so I could not put it off any longer. On the plus side I remembered to move the dough onto the baking tray before I started the stencil part!  Then I picked up my flimsy stencil patted it down onto the dough, dusted flour all over it. Easy I thought, nothing to it. Then I lifted the edge of the stencil and it

S  T U C K

well of course it did, flimsy paper, sticky dough, what was I thinking? Not about what I was doing that’s for sure!

Somehow I got it off without using my teeth, made approximate slashes to pretend they were leaves and hastily threw it in the oven. Balled up the remains of my sad little ripped up stencil and thought that was a lot of cutting out for something that gets thrown away but onwards…..

Baked at 220 C for 30 minutes with steam. Let the steam out after half an hour and reduced the temperature to 190 C as I didn’t want the bread to go any darker.

And this is what came out!   I hadn’t planned for the great big grigne I got – when I want ones like that do I get them?  No I don’t.   Did I want this one?  Not particularly, but time to stop moaning and show you the rest of the pictures.

You can see both sides of the loaf in these shots but what you can’t see (and you will have to take my word for)  is that this was a great eating loaf, in fact B came home and ate three quarters of it, sandwich after sandwich.  It had a beautifully crisp and light crust, a moist and soft crumb and the corn meal gave it that happy photogenic quality of a lovely loaf. What more could I ask for apart from artistic talent?

Would I make this one again? Yes definitely, only maybe not bother with the stencil……

Corned beef and cucumber and mustard on corn bread was B’s sandwich of the day by the way. He ate two of those and finished off with cheese and cucumber when he ran out of corned beef.

My learning points from making this bread:

  1. Use fine corn meal, if you are British like me we call it maize meal. Whatever you do don’t use cornflour!
  2. Don’t skip the rest on the bench stage. It really helps the dough relax and makes it easier to shape.
  3. Remember to let the steam out of the oven part way through the bake. Just opening the door for about 20 seconds should do the trick that way you get a nice crisp crust.
  4. Finally I cooked mine a lot cooler than the book, go with your oven, you know it best!
  5. We won’t discuss stencilling!

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25 thoughts on “Corn Bread for Mellow Bakers

      1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

        I tried this on the weekend, Jo! Of course, I stuffed it up a bit…sigh…the cornmeal I bought was too coarse and didn’t really absorb the water during its soak. It was the only one I could find, marked “polenta/cornmeal”, so I’ll have to go hunting again for one that’s more flour-like. Also, forgive me, I subbed some 100% starter for the poolish, though it actually worked very well. The finished dough was a bit looser than yours, so I baked it in a tin, and the resultant loaf was delicious – crunchy, golden, perfect with butter and cheese!

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Sounds good Celia ! DL’s maize bread uses cooked polenta and buttermilk, there are lots of different ways to make all these breads :) Hope you’re going to post it!

  1. sallybr

    The image of someone trying to get the stencil off with the teeth is just too funny! I can definitely see myself doing that, have to admit :-)

    I thought the stencil art was beautiful!

    I intend to make this bread maybe two weekends from the next, but I think I’ll skip the artistic component, knowing myself too well

    Loved this post!

      1. sallybr

        My reputation is dangerously spreading… ;-)

        (I would probably end up baking the darn stencil on top of the bread – just to be on the safe side, I’ll have to look for edible paper)

  2. Pingback: Mellow Bakers May 2010: (2) Corn Bread « Family & Food & Other Things

  3. spiceandmore

    That is a mighty fine looking loaf of bread! Such a gorgeous yellow ‘corn’ colour too. I must try adding some cornmeal to my next loaf (thanks for the tip re soaking it in water first). Oh and I love the look of that dough hook too!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You can cook it completely, making polenta, leave it to cool and then break it up and disperse it in the water that you mix the dough with, that might be the way to go if the cornmeal you use is fairly coarse. The dough whisk is a great gadget. Known as a ‘danish dough whisk’ made somewhere in eastern europe and mostly exported I think to the States. Bakerybits is going to stock them eventually here in England when Patrick has tracked down the manufacturers. I got mine originally from Breadtopia. There, that’s enough free advertising for both these :)

      1. spiceandmore

        After reading this post I went home and found a packet of maize meal in my pantry (thank you – that is one more item getting used up in my pantry clear out!). I used about 25% maize meal into my standard sourdough loaf, and for some odd reason increased the water a lot (I think your soaking of the maize made me think it would all require heaps more liquid). I ended up with a very, very wet dough. This morning I baked half of it in a bread tin and the other half I just plopped on a tray thinking that it could be foccacia like. It turned out absolutely fantastic (haven’t tried the loaf in the tin as yet). Rose more than anticipated so I got little scorch patterns on the top from the oven element..ooops. It is such a tasty bread…the maize meal is fantastic in it. And it reduces the amount of wheat I am eating which is a good thing seeing how I am a tad gluten intolerant. I think I am going to make maize meal a regular feature of my standard bread now. Thanks heaps for the inspiration!

  4. Di

    Your bread looks great–I think the stencil looks cool. But like you, I get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I want them to. =)

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