Kamut and Polenta Bread

I have the habit of buying myself a Chrismas present each year. Nothing frivolous, but something I really want and something I might not otherwise buy. This time it was the third Tartine book – encouraged by a number of reviews, an article about the sheer amount of research Chad Robertson put into the creation of this book and my friend Sara who thought I would enjoy the book given the large number of recipes using ancient grains created by Chad. And Sara was right.

I have only had the book for about a month, but in between the present-buying frenzy, traveling and Christmas itself, I have already baked the Chocolate Rye Cookies (crack in cookie form if you ask me), eaten far too many of a batch of the 50/50 sablés, munched my way through 3 loaves of the Toasted Buckwheat Bread and revolutionised my scones thanks to learning about Tartine’s technique of using both baking powder and sourdough to leaven scones. And there are plenty more recipes I want to try (high on my list are the choux recipes and the kamut chamomile shortbread).

Leaving aside all the delicious recipes themselves, what I really love about the Tartine book is Chad Robertson’s infectious enthusiasm about good bread which got me back into the kitchen to bake bread, getting my apron covered in flour and giving my dough scraper a regular workout, something I hadn’t done in far too long. Thanks to travelling over Christmas, a skiing trip and very likely traveling a fair amount in the next couple of months, I have not yet come round to preparing a new sourdough starter culture (and a lot of the recipes in the book rely on a sourdough starter). Until I do, I will continue soaking up the book’s advice on baking with ancient grains like kamut, spelt, einkorn or emmer and gluten-free flours like buckwheat, ideally while munching on a batch or two of the Chocolate Rye Cookies.

One key point I have already taken on board from the book is that some of the ancient grains that have been becoming more popular recently while high in protein (and thus gluten) lack the right kind of gluten. By the right kind of gluten, I mean the type of gluten which is responsible for the well-risen loaves we have become used to. What you get instead if you bake bread using 100% of these flours are somewhat flat loaves that while delicious are more akin flatbreads in height. Thankfully, the book gives a few pointers on how to avoid this from happening, mainly relying on a mix of these ancient grains and a high protein regular wheat flour.

This loaf is thus the result of playing around with flour ratios and flour to water ratios as well as testing results when using an overnight poolish* v using the tang zhong method** (a tip from my mum for creating loaves made with ancient grains) as well as playing around with my oven to try and get better ovenspring (ie the final rising of the bread once it hits the heat in the oven). It is a loaf that requires very little attention and is as close to a sourdough bread I have been able to produce without using a sourdough starter, i.e. it is the best bread to ever come out of my oven. Fresh out of oven it has a crackly crust, a soft and slightly moist crumb full of air pockets, a bit of tang from the slow fermentation and it stays fresh for several days (and once it starts to become firm, it still makes delicious toast or bruschette, if it even lasts that long). And best of all, it does not require the use of a Dutch Oven like most no-knead recipes require, one of the few cheap items my kitchen still lacks.

*Poolish is a type of pre-ferment commonly used in artisan bread baking to improve both the flavour and the shelf-life of bread (and is often used in addition to a sourdough leavener). It is usually made with equal parts flour to water by weight plus small amounts of commercial yeast, left somewhere warm overnight to ferment.

**Tang zhong describes a method whereby a mix of 1 part flour (typically equalling 5% of the total flour in the recipe by weight) to 5 parts water (again, by weight) is heated until it thickens into a paste which is added to the rest of the dough. Here, it results in a loaf that stays fresh and wonderfully moist over several days.

Kamut and Polenta Bread

Makes 1 small loaf (ca. 500g)

155 and 15g flour, type 00
100g kamut flour
30g stoneground polenta
1.5g dried active yeast
1 tsp salt
150ml and 75ml water

Extra water to work the dough and additional flour and polenta for dusting


1. The night before you want to bake your bread, prepare your bread dough. Start by whisking together 15g of the 00 flour with 75ml of water in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture on a medium flame until the flour has absorbed all of the water and starts to thicken. Set aside to cool to room temperature before whisking together with the remaining water.

2. In a large mixing bowl stir together the remaining 00 flour with the kamut flour, polenta, dried active yeast and salt. Add the flour water mix and stir to combine – the dough will be sticky and shaggy (and may even seem a little dry) at this point but this will even out as it proves. Cover the bowl and set aside somewhere warm for 1.5hs.

3. Next, follow this folding routine 4 times every 30 minutes over the next 2 hours: using wet hands (I like to keep a bowl with water on my countertop for this) pull one corner of the dough to stretch it and fold towards the middle, rotate the bowl by 90 degrees and repeat, rotate the bowl by 90 degrees again and repeat, rotating the bowl once more and repeat the stretching and folding. Repeat this 3 times every time you fold the dough (so that each of the four times you fold the dough during those 2 hours, you will stretch and fold the dough 16 times), keeping the dough covered with a towel somewhere at room temperature in between the folding. The stretching and folding of the dough serves two purposes: 1) it helps develop the gluten in the flour to give the bread structure and 2) it incorporates air into the dough, which, together with the bubbles created by the yeast, gives the bread its light structure. During the 2 hours you should notice the dough becoming smooth, soft and elastic as well as growing in volume.

4. Cover the dough with a teatowel and keep at room temperature overnight, by the morning the dough should have significantly risen and be covered with large bubbles here and there.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius and place a sheet pan and a springform cake pan in the oven – the cake pan on the rack second from the bottom and the sheetpan on the rack second from the top. Generously flour your countertop and the top of the dough before carefully turning the dough out on to the countertop. Line a bowl large enough to fit the dough with a clean towel dusted with polenta. Using your hands or a dough-scraper shape the dough into a ball before placing it seam side up into the prepared bowl. Cover and set aside while the oven pre-heats.

6. Once the oven is hot remove the cake pan from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel to lift the dough out of its bowl and carefully drop it seam side down into the cake pan (if the dough looks a little bit lop-sided at this stage, gently shake the cake pan and the dough should centre). Place in the oven and bake for ca. 35-40 minutes or until the bread is well risen and golden brown. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

9 thoughts on “Kamut and Polenta Bread

  1. A fantastic loaf and amazing photo. Also your method is really different from anything I have made or read about, the Tang Zhong method is fascinating. I love that you are using ancient grains. This is really a great post!


    • Thank you Suzanne! The tang zhong method is wonderful, so easy and quick and produces such delicious bread. I hear it is a great addition to enriched yeast doughs as well so would love to experiment with it in baked yeasted doughnuts or challah.


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