Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cornbread

Cornbread, for me at least, is something of a misnomer. This is not the chemically leavened batter bread that contains more cornmeal than flour, what I normally associate with the term. Rather, it is a yeasted bread that is only 25% cornmeal. It produces a lovely golden crumb when made with yellow cornmeal and an attractive crust.

The recipe calls for fine cornmeal. On both occasions that I’ve made the bread, I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill Medium Cornmeal. This is what I happened to have on hand, and it is generally what I prefer when making traditional cornbread. Still, I really should go back and make the bread again with a fine cornmeal just to see what difference it makes. This won’t be a problem. This is a bread that I particularly like, and it is not difficult to make. This bread is definitely a favorite.

I used cornmeal directly from the freezer, so the dough was a little cooler than desired, around 72 degrees, but this didn’t seem to create any problems. Perhaps it took a bit longer to rise, but I didn’t do a comparison. The bread uses a poolish, but the poolish is made without the cornmeal. The cornmeal is soaked briefly, about 15 minutes, to soften it. It would be interesting to repeat the bread adding the cornmeal to the poolish. Peter Reinhart’s Struan, of which this bread is vaguely reminiscent, soaks the corn meal overnight (along with other grains) claiming it produces a better flavor.

I’ve made this both as a boule (shown) and in a loaf pan. In many ways the loaf bread is more practical. This is a hardy bread that works very well with sandwiches, particularly egg salad, chicken salad, or pimento cheese. The boule gave a rather flat loaf (something else to work on) that wasn’t a good shape for a sandwich. It also makes a very nice toast. I prefer a jam, blackberry for example, rather than a jelly because the textures marry well.

Yet to do? I want to repeat this using a fine cornmeal, and altering the poolish to include the cornmeal. It would also be interesting to compare the recipe to Struan.

Update (6/28/10): This weekend I repeated the recipe replacing the corn meal with corn flour making a loaf bread. This worked very nicely. The result of a very light, soft bread without the graininess of the earlier loaves, but the loaves still had a nice corn meal flavor and color. The results are show to the right.

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