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.