This is the last, for a while, book in my most recent push of baking book reviews. For my review of Dan Leader’s book, Bread Alone, click here.
Of the recipes I flagged from this book, I was most interested in this one that combines corn and rye. The recipe comes from Leader’s chapter on local Italian breads. It made me wish I had access to European flours and small-batch wheat berries.
In making this recipe, I made the decision to include a bit of sourdough along with the commercial yeast. I did this because it has rye, and rye is always improved with a bit of the lactobacillus present in a starter. I discovered, of course, that I wasn’t alone:
For this recipe, you will need:
350g lukewarm water, possibly more
1 teaspoon commercial yeast
75g active starter
200g bread flour
200g fine-ground or nixtamalized corn flour
100g rye flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
This recipe did not have enough water, and I had to add between 50-100 additional grams of water to make a ball of dough.
This dough, after a bit of kneading, became mostly smooth but I wasn’t expecting it to get much smoother because of the low gluten content of the corn and rye flours.
After 1.5 or 2 (or 3!) hours, divide the dough in half and put them in separate banettons. This differs from Leader’s instructions.
At this point, the dough was extremely sticky and not smooth at all. I tried my best to shape it into a ball but I wasn’t overly concerned about it.
After half an hour, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone and baking sheet inside.
I flipped the dough onto the pizza stone and scored it with a razor blade, then closed the oven door as I collected a 1/2 cup of ice cubes. Then I opened it again and poured the ice cubes into the baking sheet. I baked the dough for about 35 minutes until it was completely baked.
The bread didn’t rise very much, but I already expected that because of the low gluten levels of the corn and rye flour. What I wasn’t prepared for was how SOUR this bread was.
Looking back, I should’ve known. The corn flour I used was treated with lime, and I did use rye flour which also has a sour taste. My sourdough starter typically isn’t very sour so I don’t think that was the culprit, but the lactobacillus also didn’t break down the starches sufficiently enough to release any sweetness from the flour. It’s possible that because I didn’t soak the flour overnight before mixing up the dough, I contributed to the sour taste. When I asked Mr. Bread Maiden if he thought I should start over and soak the flour, he shrugged. I think he thought it wouldn’t change the flavor enough.
If someone does decide to make this recipe, here are my tips:
Don’t use lime-treated (masa or nixtamalized) corn flour.
Use more sourdough starter. Someone online used nearly two cups of starter for two loaves.
Soak the flour overnight so the enzymes in the flour start to break down the starches.
Let me know if you do decide to make this bread, and how it turns out. For me, it was interesting but I just don’t think I’ll make it again.