If you drive by a farm stand called The Corn Crib, you must stop and buy four ears of freshly harvested corn, right?
And if a couple of hours later you open your CSA box and find another four ears of freshly harvested corn nestled between heirloom tomatoes and peaches, you grin at the unexpected surprise, right?
What would you do with the bounty that magically materialized in your hands? I cannot answer for you, but as soon as I got home, I turned on the oven and roasted the corn in two batches. I made Corn salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado and lemon cucumber for dinner and while savoring its fresh, juicy flavors, I started thinking about other ways to use the abundancy of roasted corn kernels.
I realized that corn kernels (chicchi di mais) are used in bread only in the context of cornbread. I do that too, in my recipe for Cornbread with roasted corn kernels. What about corn kernels in wheat bread?
I immediately did a trial run using a simple yeasted bread recipe. The result was encouraging, so I kept experimenting. I like a lto the Walnut raisin sourdough bread I presented recently, so I used that winning recipe as the basis. Let me introduce you to my roasted corn sourdough bread:
Important: this bread uses a starter that requires a bit of advanced planning. The corn must also be roasted ahead.
For the pre-ferment
- 30 g sourdough starter (refreshed previously, if stored in the refrigerator)
- 60 g water
- 60 g King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour (this is the flour I always use to make bread)
For the corn kernels
- 2 nice, fresh ears of corn (pannocchie di granturco1), still wrapped in their husks (if they aren't, wrap them in foil before roasting them) and with their silks attached (see important Note below)
For the dough
- 140 g pre-ferment (sourdough starter) prepared in advance with the ingredients listed above
- 260 ml water at 85 F / 30 C
- 0.4 g / 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
- 50 g stone-ground whole-wheat flour (I use locally grown and milled Hollis wheat)
- 25 g stone-ground cornmeal (I use locally grown and milled corn)
- 300 g King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour, plus as needed to shape the bread
- 6 g fine sea salt
- 200 g roasted corn kernels
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml basil chiffonade
Prepare the pre-ferment
12-16 hours before starting to make the bread, prepare the pre-ferment: weigh the ingredients in a 2-cup container, stir well with a fork, cover and let ferment at room temperature in a draft-free place. (Adjust the timing as needed for your starter and your room temperature so that by the time you start making bread the pre-ferment is bubbly active.)
Prepare the roasted corn
Note: even roasting 2 ears of corn, you will have some leftover kernels, but for efficiency's sake, I suggest you roast 3 or 4 ears of corn. Roasted corn kernels can be used in a number of other recipes, like:
- corn salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado and lemon cucumber
- corn soup with roasted Ancho Magnifico peppers
- corn salad with hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumber
- cornbread with roasted corn kernels
Preheat oven to 450 F / 250 C. Place corn on a baking sheet leaving some room around each ear. Roast corn in the oven for 20 minutes. Let cool briefly, then remove the husks. Working on a shallow bowl or pyrex dish, use a knife to separate kernels and scrapings from the cob. (Save the empty cobs to make stock or broth.)
Make sure the corn is at room temperature by the time you are ready to start making the bread. With the help of a fork, separate the kernels, so they distribute evenly in the dough.
Prepare the dough
I start making the bread early in the morning, so I am sure the boule will be baked and thoroughly cooled by dinner time.
In a bowl, mix pre-ferment (sourdough starter), water and instant yeast. The small amount of yeast I use helps keep the leavening process within a predictable time frame in the cool environment of our house.
Add the flours and stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk (I recently purchased the smaller version of this tool and love it: it works nicely and is easy to clean).
Add corn and basil and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rest 5 minutes. In the meantime, oil well a plastic tub with lid where you will transfer the dough when fully mixed.
Wet the spoon (if using it) and mix dough until it is homogeneous.
Transfer the dough to the oiled tub. With wet hands, letter-fold the dough and then flip it to oil the surface. This is your time 0. Cover the tub and let rest for 45 minutes.
This very nice video on The SF Baking Institute website describes and shows a couple of important techniques I apply to bread dough.
- Stretching and folding: as Mac says in the video, the stretching part is of fundamental importance in gluten development
- Pre-shaping and shaping rounds (useful for later)
The video is not long, but if you don't have time to watch it in its entirety, you can start at 4':30" and watch about 8 minutes until Mac shows how to shape a boule.
- A) Stretch and fold the dough in the tub along both sides.
- B) Cover and let rest for 45 minutes.
Repeat A and B two more times, at which point you will be at time 3 hours.
Check gluten development by stretching a corner of the dough to make a windowpane. If you don't get a windowpane, let dough ferment a little longer.
Shape the bread
Lightly flour your working surface and transfer dough onto it. Use a bench scraper to help you move and turn the dough.
Gently pat dough to flatten it into a thick circle and degas. Fold corners of dough towards the center, flip (so it is seam side down) and pre-shape into a boule on an unfloured section of your working surface, which offers some resistance (see video at 8'). Move the round towards you, then back with a slight rotation, all the while tucking dough underneath. Bring a bit of tension to the dough, but not as much as you will later, during shaping.
Let pre-shaped round rest for 20 minutes, covered (I leave it on the kneading board and cover it with the plastic tub turned upside down).
In the meantime, generously flour a lined round bread basket or similar container (my brotform is unlined, so I have a square piece of cloth that I flour and use to line it). Flip the dough (so it is seam side up) and flatten lightly, then fold corners of dough towards the center. Flip (so it is seam side down) and shape into a boule on an unfloured section of your working surface, which offers some resistance (see video at 12'). Move the round towards you then back with a slight rotation, all the while tucking dough underneath. Bring tension to the dough, but do not overdo or the surface will tear.
Gently flip the dough and place it seam side up into the prepared basket. Cover (I use a clean shower cap for this) and let dough rest until doubled in size (also, until a dimple made on the dough with your fingertip persists), in my case 3 to 4 hours, depending on the room temperature.
Prepare the oven
Place a lidded 5-Qt cast-iron Dutch oven. in the cold oven and preheat the oven to 475 F /245 C. (You can bake the bread on tiles and use your preferred method for creating steam in the oven.)
Bake the bread
When the dough is ready to be baked, cut a piece of parchment paper large enough so that you can take hold of it by the corners and use them to help you lower the dough into the Dutch oven and later to retrieve the bread from it. Lay the parchment paper onto the back of a baking sheet. Flip the dough onto the parchment paper, lift basket and peel away liner.
Score the surface according to your preference. I got the star-shaped scoring you see in the photo from the recipe for White sourdough in How to Make Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou: With scissors, cut the points of the star all around the top of the boule.
Take the Dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the parchment paper and lower the shaped dough into the Dutch oven. Put the lid on and place the Dutch oven back into the oven. Turn the oven temperature down to 425 F / 218 C.
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes. At this point, check the bread's internal temperature: if it is 210 F / 99 C, it is ready. Otherwise, continue baking for another 2 minutes, then check again. In my case, it takes 32 minutes for the bread to bake.
Carefully extract the bread out of the Dutch oven using the parchment paper flaps to lift it up. Place on a rack to cool. Restrain your desire to go at the bread with your knife: let it cool completely, at least two hours, then slice and feast on it with all your senses.
This is a lovely summer bread, with a gentle corn flavor. The roasted kernels look like golden pearls and act as little surprises when savoring a morsel.
You can enjoy this bread by itself or with a bowl of soup, cheese, salumi (charcuterie) and other dishes.
1 Both mais and granturco mean corn in Italian.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the pane al lievito naturale con chicchi di mais arrosto audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]