BBB - Polenta Bread, Corn Free version

Okay, the food allergy hiatus has been difficult, but it's time to start baking again.  Perfect BBBuddy recipe for us this month.  School is starting next week and I really prefer my bread to the spelt bread we can find at the store.  Spelt is okay for our wheat sensitivity and we've been avoiding the baker's yeast for a long enough elimination time.  The nice thing is, this recipe only uses a tiny amount of yeast incorporated into a walnut sized biga and then another tiny bit the next day.  Good way to start.  I used coarsely ground millet for my polenta, yielding a very nice "millenta" that looked just like the real thing.  Millet also has a mild corn flavor and is my go to seed for any corn type bread.  I used instant yeast, it's what I keep on hand, and white spelt for this recipe.  The dough was fairly slack and I did end up adding another half cup of flour as spelt requires less water for equivalent results.  I could have cut back the water even more.  But the loaves turned out delicious, crusty and chewy, which is what my kids love.  The only other thing I changed was using 3 tsp instead of 4 tsp salt.  It was very nicely salty and I'm glad I didn't use the full 18g.  Delicious bread warm, cool, toasted...  Check out the BBB host kitchen's hilarious post about Glow-in-the-Dark Polenta Bread!

Polenta Bread
makes two loaves

The afternoon before:
tiny Biga
9 g water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast
11 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)

The evening before:
60 g water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast
all of the Biga
100 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)

The morning of:
Polenta (Millenta)
35 g cornmeal a.k.a. polenta, coarsely ground (millet for corn-free, I used 55g because it needed to be used up and it gave me a nice, thick "millenta".)
175 g cold water

The morning of:
390 g water
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
265 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)
335 g unbleached bread flour (white spelt) all of the starter
18 g salt (I only used 12g which was a full tbsp and perfect.  Another tsp would have been too salty for us.)
all of the cooled polenta (millenta)
cornmeal, for garnish (millet flour) 

Tiny Biga: In the early afternoon of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the yeast with warm water in a smallish bowl until it has dissolved. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the small amount of flour until it is smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter, out of drafts, to ferment.

Cute as a button little walnut sized biga.  Of course it happily filled the bottom of the bowl by the next day.

Starter: In the evening of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the starter yeast with warm water in a medium-sized bowl until it has dissolved. Add the tiny biga that should be bubbling nicely. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the starter amount of flour until you have a smooth lump of dough. 

Polenta: In the morning of the day you are baking the bread, pour cold water into a small pot on the stove at medium high heat. Add the polenta and using a wooden spoon, cook, stirring constantly until the mixture if thick - about 5 minutes. Once the polenta is made, remove it from the pot to a plate or shallow container and put it into the fridge to cool.

Mixing the dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dough yeast with warm water until it has dissolved.
Add the starter (that should have doubled and be quite bubbly). Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flours and salt. It might be pretty sloppy. Or not. It might just be shaggy.

Kneading: Lay the cooled polenta on top of the dough. Plunge in with your hands to turn and fold the dough in the bowl, kneading until it's smooth (5 to 10 minutes). When the dough is smooth, cover the bowl with a plate to rest.

See, that millet cooks up just like polenta!

After about 20 minutes, turn and fold the dough a few times. Notice that it is significantly smoother. Cover the bowl with a plate and set it aside in the oven with only the light turned on to rise until it has doubled. Don't worry if it is quite sloppy. If it rises earlier than you expect, simply deflate the dough and allow it to rise again. This will just strengthen the dough. 

Shaping: When you are ready to shape the bread, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide it into 2 pieces. Trying not to disturb the bubbles too much, shape into two rounds. Liberally spray the tops of the shaped loaves with water. Cover them with cornmeal. Put each loaves seam-side up in a banneton, tightly woven basket or colander. Cover each one with a mixing bowl or plastic and allow them to rise on the counter until almost double. (I shaped mine round on parchment and dusted with millet flour, covering with a cloth to rise.) 

Preheat: Put a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 220-230ºC.  (I baked at 375º F and would go up to 400º next time.) 

Slashing: Turn each loaf out of its container onto a square of parchment paper. Using a very sharp knife (or a razor or lamé if you have one), starting at the center of the loaf and holding the blade almost horizontally, carve a spiral into each loaf. Try not to freak out if the spirals look like vicious circles. 

Baking: Liberally spray the tops of the loaves with water. Using a peel, slide them onto the hot stone and bake for about 30-40 minutes, turning them around once half way through baking, to account for uneven oven heat. The crust should be quite dark and the internal temperature should be around 96ºC. Allow the baked bread to cool completely before cutting into it. It's still baking inside!

(inspiration: Della Fattoria's Polenta Bread on p.118-119 in "Artisan Baking Across America: the Breads, the Bakers, the Best Recipes" by Maggie Glezer)

This tasty bread will go up for Yeastspotting!


  1. Wow, very cool. I didn't realize that millet was a good substitute for coarse corn meal this way, I'd love to try it one day! Your loaf looks fantastic!

  2. Wow, your bread turned out fabulously! I love the scoring, but I particularly love that you compromised so well by using millenta. Brilliant!

    Many thanks for baking with us.


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