Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough


polenta sourdough

polenta-crusted Sourdough

Having made a few loaves of seeded whole wheat bread of late, I decided to make a white sourdough for a change.   Della Fattoria is a small bakery in Petaluma in northern California whose breads are of very good artisan-quality and beautifully created.  There are two recipes from the bakery listed in Artisan Baking Across America, I already made the roasted garlic sourdough one and this polenta-crusted sourdough is the other.  Although it’s categorized as advanced I don’t think it’s difficult to make.  If you have already created  a few artisan loaves and have a mixer then you are good to go.    What draws my attention is the crusted polenta spiraling on top of the loaf; that means I got to slash a spiral, which I had only done once before.  I make one boule and one batard and the boule is a gift to a friend.  Here is the recipe and how I did it.  Let’s bake some golden polenta-crusted sourdough.

Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough

Recipe in Artisan Baking Across America

Yield two 600-gram loaves

Time: It takes me 30 hours, of which about 45 minutes of hand-on work.

The Levain

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Fermented Firm Sourdough Starter 20 g 20%
Water, lukewarm 60 g 60%
Unbleached bread flour (13.3% protein) 100 g 100%
Total weight: 315 grams

The Polenta

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Coarse Polenta 35 g 100%
Cold Water 175 g 500%

The Dough

Ingredient Weight Bakers Percentage
Water, cold 390 g 65%
Unbleached Bread Flour (11.5% to 12% protein) 265 g 44%
Unbleached high–gluten Flour (13% – 14% protein) ** 335 g 56%
Fermented Levain 30%
Salt 18 g 3%
Cooled Polenta 35%
Total weight:  1,540 grams


Coarse polenta for coating the dough.

** I added 1/2 teaspoon of wheat gluten flour (72% protein) & mixed well to make called-for high gluten four


1.  Refresh your sourdough starter 2 days before baking with it, about 3 to 4 times.

2.  Mix the levain and let it ferment overnight for 8 hours until it has expanded quadruple.

3.  The next morning, cook the polenta and water in small heavy pan, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, about 3 minutes.    Spread it out on a plate to cool to room temperature.

5.  Mix the cold water and the flour into a rough dough.  Let it autolyse for 20 minutes.

6.  Mix the dough with a mixer on medium speed until the dough is very smooth.  It takes me 10 minutes.

7.  Add salt and levain and continue mixing until the dough is firm and smooth.

mix in the polenta

8.  Add the cooked polenta in bits and mix until it is fully incorporated.  The dough becomes wet but not too sticky.

wet dough after mixing in the cooked polenta

9.  Place the dough in a covered container at least 3 times its size.  Let it ferment until it is airy and well expanded, about 3.5 hours.

1o.  Turn the dough 3  times at 30 minutes interval, that is, after 30, 60, and 90 minutes of fermenting.  Give the dough another turn if you think it needs it.  Then leave it undisturbed for the remaining time.

dough after 3 turns

11.  Flour your work surface and the dough and turn it out.  Cut the dough in half, each piece weighs about 650 grams.  Lightly round the pieces and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

12.  Carefully shape the dough into even and tight round loaves without deflating them.  I shape a round loaf and a batard loaf.    Place the loaves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Spray or pain their top with water, and lightly sprinkle the coarse polenta to coat them all over.

For the round loaf I proof it in a plastic colander, right side down like this:

proofing round loaf in colander

13.  Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and proof until it is well expanded, about 2.5 to 3 hours.

airy & well-expanded batard loaf decorated with raw polenta

14.  At least 45 minutes before the dough is fully proofed, pre-heat the oven with baking stone to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).  Prepare steam.

15.  Slash a spiral on top of the round loaf begin at the bread’s center and holding the razor almost horizontally, turn the bread on its parchment while you cut the spiral.

polenta dough spiral

spiral-slashed loaf

polenta batard

slashed batard loaf

16.  Load the bread with parchment on the baking stone.  Bake the loaves with burst of steam for the first 15 minutes, and without steam for 30 – 35 minutes more, until they turn dark brown evenly.  Rotating them halfway into the bake.   Turn the oven off, leave the loaves in with the oven door crack open.

17.  Let the breads cool completely on a wire rack.

polenta sourdough

spiral-slashed round loaf

batard-shaped loaf

18.  Enjoy.

I have always wanted a picture of a slice of artisan bread held up so that light can shine through its lacy crumb, like those shown in artisan bread book.  So with this bread, the opportunity has arrived.  Can you see the polenta pieces nested inside the wall of the crumb?

crumb polenta SD

crumb laced with coarse polenta pieces

I am sending this to Yeast Spotting; see you over there.


9 Responses to “Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough”

  1. […] Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough […]

  2. Mimi Says:

    OMG! What beautiful loaves! I bet they tasted amazing with all of that polenta.

  3. Sandra Says:

    Absolutely stunning bread! beautiful post!

  4. Mike Says:

    I and high gluten flour don’t make good company, I’m afraid. I tried this recipe, but didn’t get past the first mixing step of the flours and water. I end up with 2 tough, tough glutinous masses that strains my KitchenAid mixer. I can’t even begin mixing with the levain. Am I using the wrong kind of high gluten flour? Any feedback would be welcomed and appreciated!

  5. Hi Mike:

    What kind of high-gluten (protein) did you use? Is there a brand name that you can list. And BTW, what percentage of protein in that particular flour you used?
    I did not have high-protein/gluten bread flour so to create it I mixed in just a tiny bit, about 1/2 teaspoon – 3/4 teaspoon of wheat gluten flour (70% protein) to the called for amount of flour.
    I should supply this information in the post as a helpful hint. (How did I miss it?).

    I am afraid you might have used, perhaps too much wheat gluten (?). But it’s only a wild guess.

    Sorry your KA mixer got overworked; I hope it’s recovered and is still working.

    Pleas try this recipe again and let me know how it goes.

    Happy Baking Artisan Bread!

  6. Mike Says:

    Aloha, Mily; I (mis)interpreted the recipe posted and used 335 g of straight wheat gluten! Should i have used 335 regular bread flour and replaced just the .5 – .75 teaspoon of wheat gluten for the high gluten flour listed in the recipe?

    I have repeated this disaster before with different recipe calling for high gluten flour; I interpreted that as using wheat gluten. One giant rubber band!

    I’ll look forward to getting this recipe right. Thanks for your encouragement and clarification. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  7. Mike, you got it!

    I’ve only resourced to wheat gluten flour (70% protein) very sparingly & very occasionally (to almost none.)

    What we attempt to substitute for 13-to-14%-protein wheat flour by mixing [a very tiny amount] of wheat gluten & bread flour is not the same as the real thing but let’s hope for the best.

    I think you’d enjoy making this bread and eating it, if you like white SD.
    Do remember to report back. Thanks.

    • Mike Says:

      Aloha, I made time to make the recipe yesterday. The taste and texture were fantastic! I chose to add the salt after I added in the polenta and that’s when I noticed the nice tight glutinous dough fell apart. I’d added the salt as a final step in other recipes with good result (it seemed to tighten the dough). I was surprised this happened. Maybe you can explain. I wonder if I may have mismeasured the salt and added too much, but I don’t believe that happened. Or maybe I need to add more wheat gluten than you suggested?

      I got no oven spring, but I got wonderful crumb – irregular, alveolar – and the taste was wonderful and the texture was that beautiful hard crust and chewy interior.

      I’m gonna keep trying. This is a wonderful recipe.

      One final note; I noticed your steps 9. and 10. might confuse readers. I noticed this is how the recipe also reads in Glezer’s book that features this recipe. And that is the 3.5 hour rise includes the turns at 30, 60 and 90 minutes. I knew this, but others might get the impression it might be 3.5 AND the 30, 60 and 90 minute turns.

      Thanks so much for your encouragement and support!

      – Mike

  8. […] added, the dough became very wet, sticky and slack.” – txfarmer, 29 March 2010 » Mily, At Home in the Kitchen Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough “Although it’s categorized as advanced I […]

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