Cornmeal Peasant Boule for Abby Dodge’s #Baketogether

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At the beginning of the month, my lovely and talented friend Abby Dodge announced the new #Baketogether idea. Abby knew we were all a little burnt out from sweets during the holidays (gasp! how could it be?);). She proposed a Peasant Boule for #Baketogether. I couldn’t wait to get baking.

Abby explains how simple this bread recipe is. This recipe appeared in Abby’s book The Weekend Baker and is inspired by a bread she used to make when she ran the bakery at Hay Day Country Market (now Balducci’s) in Greenwich, Connecticut. Abby says, “The “peasant bread” was so popular that it regularly sold out faster than we could bake it – THAT good.” THAT good meant I had to give her recipe a try.
Yeasted breads are intimidating to many bakers. There are many variables that could affect the outcome and alter your course to obtaining that perfectly baked bread. Yeast is a friend to bakers, but a very fickle friend.
I learned a little more about yeast and bread baking last spring when my in-laws were here visiting from Italy.
I can’t tell you the amount of bread Teresa baked and we ate. She refused to let me ever buy a roll of bread. It was all “troppo caro!!” and the quality was sub-par. And forget about buying canned tomatoes. We canned tomatoes every week and made plenty of homemade pasta and gnocchi to go with our fresh sauce. It was a dreamy and delicious visit
Before making Abby’s bread following her recipe exactly, I had to change it just a little. Adding finely ground cornmeal to the flours would give it a nice rustic texture. I was aiming a little towards a bread my talented baking mother-in-law Teresa makes in Italy.  I added just a bit of whole wheat flour to make it a little more healthy. My kids aren’t crazy about whole wheat bread. I add it into recipes whenever I can, even if it means just a little bit. 
One of the fabulous aspects of this recipe is that you let it rise in a round cake pan and then let it bake in the same pan. For my cornmeal peasant boule, I baked it in my Le Creuset Dutch oven. I followed this baking method. It baked with the lid on for part of the baking time and for the last bit, uncovered. This bread was phenomenal. A crispy and crunchy crust with a softly textured crumb. As soon as I finished my few photos, half the loaf disappeared. Fabrizio declared that out of the two breads, this was his favorite. That didn’t shock me. Happy chef = very happy home baker.;)

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But back to this wonderful bread!

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The next day, I had to give Abby’s recipe a try just as it is. It would go perfectly with my roasted tomato sauce I had been working on for dinner. A simple pasta dish and homemade bread is dinner perfection to us. The kids just LOVED this bread. Gabriella’s friends’ mom texted me after her daughter had dinner with us to let me know it was, “The best and most delicious bread she ever had.” It is soft and buttery. I can see why Abby said this bread always sold out faster than they could bake it.;)
Here is my dough on the left when I placed it in the round cake pan. After about an hour, that’s how it looked on the right. Abby said it should double in about 25 minutes. I had to let my yeast do its thing. I kept checking it and could hear Teresa saying, “Lasciala lievitare!” Translated, let it rise. And I did.

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It rose beautifully and baked like a dream! During the 2nd rise, it did not rise as high as Abby’s original recipe did. It was shorter and more dense; a lovely bread. On my 2nd Peasant Boule following Abby’s recipe exactly, I baked it in my cast iron pan.

Here is the Peasant Boule following Abby’s recipes without any changes. The only thing different was I gave it an egg wash to add some color.
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Cornmeal Peasant Boule
 
Makes 1 round loaf; 8-10 servings.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup fine corn meal
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 packet (1/4 ounce) instant yeast (Rapid Rise)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups very warm water (between 115 and 125 degrees)

In a large bowl of electric stand mixer, whisk the flours, cornmeal, yeast, sugar, salt and baking powder. Clip the bowl into the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the dough hook.

Check that the water temperature registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (In order for this type of yeast to grow, the liquid needs to be between 115 and 125 degrees.)

With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the water into the flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Don’t venture too far away while it’s mixing as the mixer might dance around on the counter.

Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball.
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Generously dust a clean kitchen towel with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour (I used cornmeal). Gently place dough on towel, seam side down. Dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.

Loosely fold ends of towel over dough to cover. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, 1-2 hours (the dough should not spring back when pressed). *During the 2nd rise, it did not rise as high as Abby’s original recipe did. It was shorter and more dense; a lovely bread.
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After dough has risen for 30 minutes, preheat oven to 475 with rack in lower third of oven.
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Heat a covered 3 1/2 quart heavy ovenproof Dutch oven (9 inches in diameter) for 30 minutes or until dough is ready.

Carefully remove preheated pot from oven, and uncover. Unfold towel, and quickly but carefully invert dough into pot, seam side up.

Cover with lid. Bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover pot, and bake until bread is dark brown (mine was golden brown)but not burned, 15-20 minutes.

*If you don’t have a Dutch oven, simply bake it in a round cake pan at 375 and bake until the boule is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped (about 40 minutes). The 2nd time I baked in my cake pan and I left it in oven for about 50 minutes. The crust was amazing.
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Carefully lift bread from pot using metal spatulas, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I’m sharing my cornmeal peasant boule with the lovely Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly celebration of yeast, Yeastspotting!

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Baking!:)

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