Cornmeal Garlic Herb Bread

My mom once gave me some pretty sage advice about cooking:

Practice, study and get comfortable with a recipe, then do whatever you want to it in order to “make it your own”.

They’re words that I now regularly not only cook, but also bake by when I can.

You want to know what the best part of knowing how to bake bread is?

I mean, apart from being able to eat it afterwards. Nothing tops that.

Once you become comfortable with a particular dough recipe, you can do pretty much ANYTHING you want to do with it.

Remember: baking is essentially, a scientific experiment/reaction of ingredients. So long as the key components get included and mixed together in the proper order and technique, there are certain recipes that will allow for variation and addition of a ‘personal flair’.

Bread dough is one of them. So long as your yeast is proofed, all your ingredients are there, your dough is smooth and given enough time to rest, then you can do practically anything you want to it after that first rise.

You can lump it all together into one, throw it in a loaf pan and bake one standard bread loaf. You can shape it into individual dinner rolls or buns. You can fill it with stuff. You can twist, braid, wrap, sculpt–seriously, just about anything you want or could think of.

That’s really kinda what we’re doing here today.

I first used this bread recipe to make standard, simple round cornmeal dinner rolls. Then, when I got more comfortable to it, I umped the ante with the recipe to shape them into pretty flower buns. This third iteration has me shaping it entirely differently, and filling it with a delicious herb butter that I made from scratch.

Don’t be intimidated by the finished product: I promise that it isn’t as nearly complicated to make as it looks. And like the first two versions, it’s really delicious.

Cornmeal Garlic Herb Bread

Recipe Adapted from a Previous Recipe by Jess@Cooking is My Sport

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (That’s 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°-115°)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour

For Herb Butter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
  • About 1 heaping tablespoon  of your blend of favorite herbs, finely chopped (I used rosemary and thyme, but basil, parsley, or chives are also great options as well)
  • 2-3 finely minced garlic cloves (depends on your taste for garlic)
  • A pinch of both salt and pepper

 

Directions

Combine the milk, cornmeal, butter or margarine, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and allowing to cook until the mixture is slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup water and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Soften active dry yeast in warm water (110 degrees F). Sprinkle the 1 tbsp of sugar on top and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until yeast is frothy and activated.

Combine cornmeal mixture, yeast, and 2 well-beaten eggs together in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment to combine together.

Then, using the dough hook attachment, add 1 cup of flour, mixing to combine completely. Continue to add the flour in about 1 cup increments, just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. (You may not need to use all the flour, this is dependent upon the time of year and your location).

Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour..

Place the dough in another greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour.

Meanwhile make the Herb Butter: Combine all of the ingredients together and stir briskly with a fork until it is smooth and easy to spread. Set aside until bread has finished rising.

Generously grease a 9 inch square or circle cake pan or general baking pan.

Sprinkle flour on your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Roll out the dough to a rectangle, around roughly 10 inches wide and 12 or more inches long.

Use a spatula to spread the herb butter generously and evenly over the dough, leaving about 1 inch of open space around the edges.

Starting from the shortest end closes to you, carefully roll the dough into a log. If any filling falls out, just tuck it back in. If the dough sticks to the counter, use a bench scraper to gently pry it up. When done rolling, pinch the dough to seal it closed. Dip a very sharp knife in water and gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers (kitchen shears will work for this too.)

Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up. Press the two halves together at the top, then twist the halves around each other, creating a spiral. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Wrap the braid into a round, courounne shaped loaf.

 Carefully lift the loaf into the center of the greased cake pan.

Cover it with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until puffy and risen, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray. Place it on top of a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven, about 45-50 minutes, covering with foil if it browns too quickly.

(Bread is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and because this loaf has so many layers, I HIGHLY recommend using an instant read thermometer to gauge when it’s done.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #282 cohosted this week by Angie and Antonia @ Zoale.com.