Portuguese(ish) Cornmeal Bread


I’m not sure what magazine I cut this recipe out of but I changed it up enough that I don’t think it matters who gets the credit.  I served it with caldo verde from Leite’s Culinaria and the whole thing couldn’t have been better! A word (or two) about the flour: I use the kind of cornmeal that comes in the canister (Quaker). I do this because the Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind is too coarse; back when I used to buy it, one of those pellets cracked a friend’s tooth (although he politely claimed that the tooth was already cracked before the cornmeal lined pizza I served him finished the job); I also use King Arthur’s Artisan flour and I want to assure you that using a good quality bread flour is essential and totally makes a difference.  Start this bread the night before for best results. 
The night before: make the sponge
1/4 t instant yeast
1 cup bread flour (refer back to my word or two above)
1 cup lukewarm water
Mix with a spoon and cover tightly; leave this on the counter overnight until you are ready to start your bread.
For the bread:
1/2 t plus 1/4 t instant yeast
1/2 T sugar
1 1/4 t salt
4-5 T warm water
1 T butter, melted
2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your  Kitchen-Aid mixer and mix with the dough hook for 10 minutes, adjusting flour or water as needed.* The dough should be firm, tacky and moist but not sticky and it should come away from the bowl entirely. Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise until doubled and very puffy. In my cold kitchen this took 2 hours. 
Shape the dough into a round loaf (video here); I put it in a proofing basket to rise but if you don’t have one you can simply set it on top of a cornmeal lined piece of parchment and cover it with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough proof for about an hour or until doubled. Again, this is influenced by room temperature etc. so use the time as a guide rather than a hard and fast rule.  While the dough is rising, preheat your oven (preferably with a pizza stone inside it) to 375ยบ. Make some cuts on the top of the bread with a sharp knife or razor and bake for about 50 minutes. Serve with lots of butter. 
*If you don’t have a Kitchen-Aid mixer, I’m sorry for you. I guess you will have to knead the dough by hand. 

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