Oh boy, it has been a very rough January. And an incredible February. And thanks the gods (all of them as I do not follow any specific one) I am still alive. Sweden has never been as dark, cold and grey as this year and our health has suffered from it. But, hey, I am getting well again and also my lust for life is getting back. Which means: let’s bake.
So I opened one of my bread baking books and my attention was captured by an Italy-inspired bread with a super interesting formula including leftover polenta and corn flour, so much that ca. 50% of the bread is actually made of corn and therefore it contains almost 50% less gluten than regular bread. The recipe for this yellow and moist bread brought my mind back to a dear memory, that of pane cunzato, seasoned bread I used to get in very sunny Sicily. In the little island of Levanzo, to be precise, the smallest of the Egadi Islands, just outside the Trapani coast. Every morning during my short but unforgettable stay, I walked up the sunny little streets to get the freshly baked bread, sliced and seasoned with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and oregano. The Sicilian bread was made with a coarse semola di grano (the same used to make cous cous, which is so very present in the Egadi Islands) rather than corn, but the two breads are very similar in color, consistency and taste. SCROLL DOWN FOR THE RECIPE.
ITALIAN CORN BREAD WITH POLENTA (adapted from Dan Lepard’s Maize Bread)
150 g leftover polenta
260 g water
17 g fresh yeast
100 g buttermilk (I used 80 g cream+20 g milk)
150 g corn flour
350 g bread flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon fine marine salt
Crumble the polenta and the yeast in the water and buttermilk (or cream). Whisk well to avoid lumps. In a separate bowl combine the flours and the salt. Add the flour to the polenta mixture and combine with a spoon. Let rest covered for 5 minutes then knead for 10 minutes at low speed. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, folding a couple of times. It will look very liquid in the beginning but that’s OK. Transfer to a floured surface and shape into a round. Place seam-side up in a heavily floured rising basked. Place the whole thing in a plastic bag, close and let rise a hour. Meanwhile heat the oven to the maximum. Invert the dough on a baker’s peel and score like a turtle.
Bake at high temperature with initial steam for 30 minutes then lower to 210 degrees (Celsius, 410 Fahrenheit) and bake for another 20 minutes ca. It is OK to eat it warm
CONSIDERATIONS: This has immediately become one of my favorite loaves ever. The moisture and flavor of this bread are impossible to guess if not but trying it, so I strongly recommend you to go get the ingredients and make it! It makes no sense freezing it as it hold fresh so well for days. And it is unbelievably good and comforting when eaten as pane cunzato the Levanzo way, which is, simply pressing a few open tomatoes on a slice of the bread, adding salt, olive oil and oregano… summer in my kitchen even on a snowy cold day. I will make the routine of always have some leftover polenta in the freezer so that I can do this bread whenever I feel like. Thank you Dan Lepard for your recipe which I twisted a bit changing all but the formula. I will remake it with sourdough one day but for now I am very happy with the yeast version (why ask for the moon when we have the stars?). Still longing for Sicily but I can close my eyes and feel like I am there just by eating my home-made pane cunzato. To the lust for life!