Cornmeal Peasant Boule for Abby Dodge’s #Baketogether

by cakeduchess on January 24, 2012 · 29 comments

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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!:)

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

The Wimpy Vegetarian January 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I love the cornmeal idea, and genius to use your Le Creuset!! I’ve added this to ways I want to try Abby’s bread. Love this #baketogether!!! Beautiful photos too.

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Hanaâ January 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Great idea to add in both cornmeal and whole wheat flour. I used 50% white whole wheat flour in mine and it turned out great, not dense at all. I hope you have a chance to check it out on my blog! :o)

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Yuri - Chef Pandita January 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for the reminder, I want to join the #baketogether fun before January is gone! I hope mine turns out as pretty as yours. *panda hugs*

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Mary Ellen @ Pâte à Chew January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

This looks great. You are right, I’m a huge baker but I’ve never baked a real loaf of bread, I’m way too scared. I think this one might have to be my first, it doesn’t take much time (especially compared to other breads!). Great post!

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Michelle January 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm

love that you did this in a skillet… opens up whole new possibilities for those without stoneware! Thank you!

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Rachel @ Baked by Rachel January 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Argh now I’m craving bread. ;)

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Kiri W. January 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm

That’s a gorgeous boule! I’ve never had this style of bread from cornmeal, it sounds intriguing!

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Abby January 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Love the cornmeal, the Dutch oven and the skillet — All excellent additions to the recipe!!
xxA

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Sandra January 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Very delicious bread Lora you made here. Love the recipe and your photos too! Would love one slice right now :)

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Lizzy January 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Both loaves look amazing, Lora! I love homemade bread…it reminds me of my mom. We’d hover in the kitchen waiting to eat a hot slice fresh out of the oven. This recipe (either version) looks worth trying! YUM.

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Paula January 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I love home-made breads. Both of yours look delicious and I do like that you used a bit of whole wheat flour and the cornmeal in your first loaf. Baking the second one in your cast iron skillet was a great idea. Makes me think of Little House on the Prairie for some reason ;)

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Maggie January 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Oh my word! I am crazy about making homemade breads. I haven’t made one with cornmeal but you can bet I will be soon! This is amazing and such a fun way to bake it!

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laura January 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Gorgeous! Drooling ……..!

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Becky January 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I have yet to make home made bread, except for King Cake. This recipe sounds so good, and something that I could handle.
I love baking your boule in the Le Creuset.

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Roxana GreenGirl January 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I have never made a bread in my heavy pot, although I heard it makes such a wonderful crust.
Looking at your loaf I definitely have to give it a try!
Thanks Lora!

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Carolyn January 25, 2012 at 12:27 am

Seriously stunning, Laura. I don’t bake conventional bread much any more, practically never, but it truly is an art.

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Happy When Not Hungry January 25, 2012 at 2:13 am

What a beautiful bread! Looks so fluffy and delicious. Nice job!

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Marnely Rodriguez-Murray January 25, 2012 at 3:18 am

Gorgeous bread! #breadlove

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Terra January 25, 2012 at 4:39 am

Love the addition of cornmeal, would be wonderful in this beautiful bread! Looks delicious, Hugs, Terra

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Family Foodie January 25, 2012 at 4:52 am

That bread looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!

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Maureen January 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I bake my bread in one of those pots too when I make no-knead bread. I’ve never used baking paper with it before but I’m definitely going to try it.

This bread looks amazing!

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Lisa January 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

What a gorgeous boule! Beautiful crumb! I love the cornmeal, and I’m an egg wash girl myself…except when I was making these 3 day long complicated artisan breads with razor slashes and steam a few years ago…would have stymied the oven spring, I think. I’m dying to try this loaf! Abby’s recipes always look and sound great!

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Angie's Recipes January 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Such a beautiful artisan bread! Love the addition of cornmeal.

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Lana @ Never Enough Thyme January 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm

What a beautiful loaf!

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A Thought For Food January 26, 2012 at 2:22 am

And look at the result! Wonderful!

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SweetSugarBelle January 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Beautiful! I would like to work toward an attitude like that of your mother in law. We’re always in such a hurry and rushing, and we miss the simple pleasure of preparing our own food. It’s so rewarding. Beautiful story and cooking method.

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Nancy January 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm

I think you should consider opening a bakery – this loaf is gorgeous!

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Priscilla - She's Cookin' January 27, 2012 at 5:30 am

Your beautiful boule has me convinced I have to join in the #breadlove! Adding cornmeal is a great idea, Lora.

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Karen Harris January 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Love your rustic take on this beautiful recipe. I would love a slice of this with some butter, cheese and thinly sliced ham. That’s my idea of the perfect breakfast.

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