Friday, February 09, 2007

Polenta and Mixed Seed Bread

Time to do a Delia - this recipe is from Delia Smith's How to Cook Book One. A book that according to accounts, lifted egg consumption in England by 10%!

I generally trust Delia - there's something solid and reliable about her recipes and techniques and if you're a novice in the kitchen you really couldn't go past her How to Cook series. Now, I only wish she wouldn't put crème fraîche in everything - even risotto!

This is a really quick bread to make, full of seeds and oats and surprisingly, polenta. The end result is a flavoursome bread with a moorish crunchy crust. I've made some minor changes to the recipe but it's available at Delia Online in it's original form.


Polenta and Mixed Seed Bread
[Makes 1 loaf]

150 grams fine Polenta (cornmeal)
175 grams Spelt Flour (or strong white bread flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
25 grams pumpkin seeds
25 grams poppy seeds
25 grams rolled oats
25 grams rolled rice
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 large egg
275ml buttermilk
poppy seeds, extra for topping

Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl. Add in the polenta, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, rolled oats, rolled rice and raw sugar. Stir this well.

In a small bowl add the egg and buttermilk, whisk lightly to combine and then add this to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture has absorbed the liquids - it will look like a cake batter.

Pour this into a lightly oiled bread tin and sprinkle with extra poppy seeds - Delia uses a 450 gram tin and that will give you a small but high loaf. I used a long (30cm/12 inch) bread tin for this recipe - you will need to make adjustments to cooking time if using a small tin.

Bake in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F oven for 40 minutes - or until the bread has browned and is cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Remove from the oven and turn out of the tin. Place it upside down onto a rack and return to the oven to crisp up the underside. This will take roughly 5-10 minutes.

Once done - let it cool on a wire rack.


It's a loaf of many textures - a mix of crunchy crust and a moist interior, thanks to the polenta - which also gives it a lovely golden tinge.


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  1. Delia did nothing that Edwina Currie couldn't undo. Looks great.

  2. I really like this type of bread, a kind of soda bread (?) with grains. I will definitely try it this weekend, thanks!

  3. I love polenta's versatility. This sounds like a nourishing and deliciously chewy bread! Thanks!

  4. Haalo, I was given Delia's How to cook series lately. You are right. She was very precise and detailed in her recipes. ALso agree with you that she put crème fraîche in almost everything :D!

    BTW, love the look of your bread... ;)

  5. Haalo,

    This bread won my heart just for having polenta! Not to mention all the seeds that are so healthy.

    The poppy seeds give it a beautiful effect, great recipe!

  6. This loaf is gorgeous! Love the lighting effects on the photos, especially the last picture.

  7. As Susan said, "I love polenta's versatility", I too continue to find or develop new ways to cook and present polenta as an accompanying dish to a bowl of beef or lamb stew on a cold winter's day or even as a stand alone appetizer in it's simply fried manner. After living in Italy for many years, I have seen polenta made in numerous ways, but when one considers we're just talking about corn meal, water and a little salt the result can be far more sophisticated than it's humble ingredients. I have seen polenta made by the most elder contadina (farmer's wife) or nonna (grandmother)of the farmhouses known as casa coloniche. In many of the hundred plus year old countryside farmhouses in Italy, especially in the north, there are huge fireplaces in the kitchen with stone benches built-in on either side. Big enough for two to four people to sit within and enjoy a bit of warmth or as more likely the case for the contadina to prepare today's polenta. Around since the early Roman times, when soldiers would carry their ration of corn meal and salt and acquire water along the way, the first polenta was a dish of sustenance and comfort. For centuries and even today in these countryside farmhouses a fire made of sticks and stems gathered for today's cooking would be set far enough away from the benches, so as not to cook the family or guests along with the evening meal. A large copper pot hanging from the roof of the fireplace by a heavy metal chain nearest the chimney would be the cooking pot for the polenta and the process was a very long and tedious stirring of the ingredients of polenta. Over the decades nothing would change in this scene except for the blackening over time of the copper patina. Polenta can still be made in that traditional method, but most of us don't have a lovely old farmhouse in Italy or a kind enough grandma to put herself though such a grueling task to make gruel. As a chef, I have deconstructed this most basic of cereal mashes and offer this method to Haalo and our growing group of gastronomes. My procedure is simpler, but more complicated. I hope that's clear to all. It is simpler because the prep and cook time are reduced from two hours at the farmhouse to around twenty minutes at our house. It is more complicated because it calls for one added ingredient. Polenta for me had always been a wonderful but one dimensional comfort food, because to me, it lacked a textural layer that I eventually developed and that creates a more interesting mouth feel and a more interesting base from which other polenta sequels can emerge. The basic recipe for polenta calls for two cups of coarse grind yellow cornmeal, a half teaspoon of salt and six plus cups of water. Stir together in a heavy metal pot, bring to a boil, bring back to a slow simmer and stir and stir. From there you can add butter or cheeses and ladle it onto a plate. What I have done is to split the two cups of yellow corn meal in half. One cup coarse grind yellow corn meal (preferably organic and stone ground) One cup fine grind yellow corn meal (preferably organic and stone ground to the texture of flour. Again the same amount of salt, ( I use a nice sea salt) and the six plus cups of water, ( I use bottled spring water as it has no chlorinated background taste) I mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk in the water a bit at a time till the mash is smooth. I pour the mash into a microwave acceptable bowl or container, glass, plastic etc. and cook the polenta on full power for twelve minutes. I then take it out of the microwave and stir the polenta with a heavy whisk or wooden spoon until it is again smooth textured. I replace the polenta in the microwave for an additional six to eight minutes and stir again. At this point, the polenta may be sufficiently setup or may need another minute or two for desired thickness. The addition of the two coarsenesses of yellow corn meal offers a smooth custard like mouth feel with the additional something of substance chew feel. You can now adjust the salt and or add butter or butter and cheese and serve. If you elect to leave the polenta in its basic state without butter or cheese, and if you make a doubling of this recipe, you can instead of serving the polenta as a thickened side dish, pour the cooked polenta into bread loaf pans {all the way to the top as there is no yeast or rising possibility} and place after initial cooling, the loaf pans in your fridge overnight Next day, slide a table knife around the inside borders of the loaf pan and invert the pan's contents onto a cutting board. Take a sharp knife and make one inch slices of the completely firm polenta. You can now pan fry in three quarters oil/one quarter butter or 0 trans fat margarine on a medium high heat or flame for about a minute to a minute and a half per side, being careful not to splash the oil when turning. You want a golden brown outside crust to appear. Pat dry on paper toweling. Salt and pepper and serve two to three pieces as an appetizer. A splash of a good hot sauce is very nice also. The result is a very crispy, crunchy outside bite with a very creamy inside chew. I have served this as described and also as a huge sandwich. Take a large fresh pannino, slice it. Tear out some of the dough and replace with a slice of the fried polenta and a nicely browned piece of Italian sausage. Heaven.

    Jay Kaufman

  8. Thanks Trig - though I'm not sure how the two are connected.

    Thanks Kitchenette - it is pretty much a version of soda bread. Hope you enjoy it!

    Thanks Susan - I'm always on the lookout for new things to do with polenta and this certainly is a good use of it.

    Thanks Anh - Delia's probably considered a bit daggy since Jamie and Nigella but she certainly was an important influence.

    Thanks Patricia - it's got a great texture and that wonderful crunchy crust.

    Hi Jay - when I was little my job was to stir the polenta which probably resulted in my later avoidance of it. You've described a most interesting version - and one to experiment with. It might give my microwave something to do besides heat up milk!


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