This bread is a cornmeal molasses bread. I've never had a bread like this and I was quite surprised. The molasses was not overpowering, although it could have been had I used a dark molasses. I used a fine ground cornmeal instead of the coarse ground suggested and maybe that is why I didn't notice a texture change. It was good for about 4 days though before it started to crumble. I did have to knead it for almost 20 minutes before the gluten was developed properly. Maybe I just need practice in kneading :)
Makes Two 1 1/2 LB Loaves or Three 1 LB Loaves
1 C Cornmeal
1 C Water
4 1/2 C Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 C Lukewarm Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt
6 T Molasses
2 T Shortening or Unsalted Butter
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)
Note: Depending on the type and brand of Molasses that you use, it will change the flavor. I used Mild Brer Rabbit Molasses. You can find it in the section with the Corn Syrup in your grocery store.
1. Make the soaker the day before by combining the cornmeal and water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.
2. Make the dough the next day by stirring together 2 C of flour, the yeast, soaker and water in a mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge begins to bubble.
3. Add the remaining 2 1/2 C Flour, salt, molasses and shortening (I used butter) and stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. Add water if necessary to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.
4. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter and begin kneading (Or mix on medium speed with a dough hook), sprinkling in more flour as needed to make a tacky but not sticky dough. The dough should be firm but supple and pliable and definitely not sticky. It will take about 10 minutes of kneading to accomplish this (6-8 minutes in a mixer). The dough should pass the window pane test (which means you gently stretch the dough until it thin and you can see light through it. If it tears instead of stretches the gluten is not developed and you need to keep kneading).
5. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until it doubles in size.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces of 24 ounces or 3 pieces of about 16 ounces. Shape the dough into loaves, and place them into bread pans that have been lightly oiled or misted with spray oil. Mis the tops of the loaves with spray oil and loosely cover the tops with plastic wrap.
7. Proof at room temperature for 60-90minutes, or until the loaves crest fully above the tops o the pans. At this point you can hold back some loaves for up to 2 days, just place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Pull them out 4 hours before baking and leave them at room temperature.
8. Preheat oven to 350. Place the bread pans on a cookie sheet. Mist with water and dust with cornmeal if you'd like.
9. Place the sheet pan in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan for even baking and continue to bake for 20-30 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and register at least 185-190 in the center. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
10. When the loaves are done remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.