W hen I realized that I could make potato bread without the recipe, I knew the time had come to expand my bread repertoire. This sounds obvious, but making it happen proved more challenging than you might think.
Every week since school started in August, I’ve baked bread for my daughter’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (okay, I admit to missing one week, but I had a surrogate baker, so I say it counts). Since I usually begin bread-baking in spare moments after work or before throwing dinner together for my family, I’m a rushed and distracted baker. This makes familiarity a fine thing. After baking a recipe several times, I’m able to multi-task: I can mediate drama associated with intense Candyland rounds or facilitate the sharing of a purple magic marker, all without screwing up my dough, or even forgetting about it completely.
I’d had my eye out for a new recipe to try, but my willingness to trade a little variety for the certainty of mayhem and discontent hindered my progress. Finally, though, I found a Chez Panisse recipe for cornmeal graham bread that seemed a compelling risk.
The mention of graham in the recipe’s title initially grabbed my attention. I knew I had some graham flour stashed somewhere in my freezer, the remnants of my adventures making from-scratch s’mores last summer.
The first time I baked cornmeal graham bread, I liked it enough to give it another try, and then another, and then another.
The bread’s nutty flavor and subtle cornmeal-crunch complement peanut butter and jelly, as well as the savory sandwich fillings favored by my husband and myself.
If your timing’s right, though, this bread is best oven-warm slathered with butter. I realize this isn’t saying much. What bread isn’t best fresh from the oven slathered with butter? In any case, the last time I baked this bread, I proceeded to consume nearly one whole loaf in this fashion.
I’m now on my second package of graham flour and need to buy a third. And I can finally bake and pay attention to my children at the same time. I guess that means I need to start looking for a new recipe.
Cornmeal Graham Bread
Adapted from Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, by Alice Waters. Makes two medium loaves.
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups graham flour
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
Add water to bowl of standing mixer. Sprinkle yeast and a generous pinch of sugar over the water’s surface. Stir to dissolve. Let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in buttermilk, salt, and maple syrup. Add this mixture to the yeast, along with the graham flour. Beat vigorously for about a minute.
Add flour while mixing on slow speed, about a 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add cornmeal and mix just to blend. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for a minute or two. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Adding enough flour only to keep the dough from sticking, knead dough again until it is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
Butter two 9 by 5-inch loaf pans. Turn out dough and form into two loaves. Place in greased pans, cover, and let rise to the tops of the pans, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Place loaves in oven preheated to 375° F. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped on top. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.