Reinhart's Whole Wheat Anadama Bread
After trialing a few other Anadama loaves recently (Beard's, an Anadama experiment of my own, HBin5's), it was finally time to give Reinhart's Anadama recipe a try.
In addition to Reinhart's Anadama with cornmeal, I have also baked a loaf with corn flour. All other ingredients and steps are the same.
The difference between Corn Meal (Left) and Corn Flour (Right)
I picked up a bag of Maseca Corn Flour from a local supermarket, out of curiosity. This corn flour was imported from Texas, and it is called an "instant corn masa mix". 'Masa' is just Spanish for 'dough', but it usually means 'cornmeal dough', and the cornmeal flour is used to make tortillas, tamales, pupusas, empanadas, corditas, arepas and sopes, all Mexican breads or dishes made with cornmeal or cornflour breads.
One of the customers who reviewed this flour for Amazon says you can't use it like other corn flour, it is only good for these Mexican flatbreads and dishes, but they didn't say why. Why can't I use it in bread? If I use it in an Anadama recipe, why will I fail? I had all these questions. I wanted to know.
I was about to find out.
I generally have concerns about corn, because it is one of the grains that is grown using transgenic technologies. Let me be clear: some corn is. And how can I be sure that this corn is not modified by the latest gene splicing technologies? In fact, I can't. It doesn't specifically say that they do not use transgenic corn; and it doesn't say that the corn they select is organically grown. It may have been grown using atrazine or other herbicides. But I guess I was convinced (?stroked) by several reviews and by their online presentation. By all accounts, I have here a quality product.
The bag of flour I purchased has a symbol on it to state that it is gluten free; and another symbol indicates that it is kosher. The nutritive facts table gives the fat at 2%, the carbohydrates at 8%, the fiber at 8%, and the calcium and iron at 2% each.
The only ingredient listed is "selected corn treated with lime". I became curious about this added lime, and have been slowly educating myself.
Most people are aware that corn was a grain that was widely used throughout the Americas, and that it was taken back to Europe shortly after the new world was discovered. There, it quickly found favour. Of all the grains that are grown, corn seems to have the best ratio of yield to square footage required (1 bushel of this grain can be grown in 500 square feet, whereas a bushel of wheat requires about 1000 square feet, rye about 1500 square feet. [source: Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living (2003)]). Landlords could suddenly feed their peasant tenants for less, thus seeing more profit. But the sudden dependence on corn as a staple caused many poor people to develop pellagra. In fact, our word from that disease comes from north Italy (Pelle Agra means 'sour skin', and is descriptive of one of the symptoms of the disease), where, presumably, they ate a lot of Polenta (that's what they call corn mush in Italian). Soon, corn was regarded with suspicion. Some even believed it contained a toxin, but it could never be proved. Eventually, conventional folk wisdom said that corn was acceptable to feed to pigs and chickens, but it was not grown for humans. This is why we don't find, for example, too many German breads made with corn. I would be hard pressed to find an authentic German Maisbrot or a bread similar to an Anadama. Was der Bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er nicht. Acceptance of corn in the diet in Europe came slowly, as more was learned about how the native Americans used it.
It turns out that corn, while being very nutritious, is by itself incomplete when it comes to providing enough vitamin B3, or Niacin. The natives of the Americas generally prepared their corn with lime. To loosen the husk, they would soak it in heated water with some ash or some limestone. A simple rinsing then washes away the husk and the lime water; but the process has the added benefit of making the niacin in the corn bioavailable.
The Europeans and the Americans of the southeastern U.S. had to learn this the hard way. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the early part of the twentieth century of pellagra. Finally, vitamin B3 was found to be the key. So in 1942, the U.S. Government mandated that Niacin be added to white flour, thereby preventing a large number of deaths due to pellagra. Most of these deaths had been occurring in the southeastern U.S., where a lot of grits were consumed. Grits is a porridge made from ground corn. It is healthier when made from hominy, which is corn kernels that have been treated with an alkali like lime - and this is apparently how the First Nations people ate it.
Why put niacin in flour, though, which is made from wheat? Well, it turns out that a deficiency of lysine can also cause pellagra. And lysine is the one amino acid that you don't get enough of, if you are eating a lot of wheat bread.
So what kind of lime is added to corn flour? Probably because of the green and yellow picture of a cob on the bag of corn flour I purchased, I was picturing in my mind some green, lemon-shaped, citrus fruit. Nah-uh.
Lime is our name for Calcium Hydroxide (Ca(OH)2); this is an inorganic compound, made from heating limestone (calcium carbonate) in water (a process called Nixtamalization).
Calcium Hydroxide is commonly used in building, as ingredients in plaster and mortar. But it has also been used forever in food processing. Practically Edible has a good article on lime and its use in food.
Comparing Reinhart's Cornmeal Bread to the Bread made with Corn Flour
I think that the soaker using the corn flour could have used more water. It seemed a lot dryer; the corn meal must not soak up as much water as the much finer corn flour does. However, I kept the same hydration for each. I think it shows in the finished loaves: the official cornmeal loaf was bigger.
The Soakers are left at room temperature 24 hours
The Bigas were identical in ingredients.
The Bigas are refrigerated 8 hours
I mixed the Official Reinhart Anadama dough first, and my experimental corn flour dough second.
Final Dough ingredients
Both of these doughs formed magically during the 3-4 minutes of kneading. I am always amazed at the way these Reinhart doughs (from his book Whole Grain Breads) come together under your hands, when they have been mixed and then kneaded for 3-4 minutes. Never have I been more amazed to see how it worked, than for this whole wheat bread with cornmeal. The texture feels interesting, and it becomes a bread dough out of ingredients you wouldn't believe would become bread dough, in a matter of seconds, as if by magic.
The Cornmeal Dough
The Cornflour dough
My bigas were only out of the refrigerator about an hour and 10 minutes. And you know what? I think that actually made working with the dough by hand a lot easier. The heat in your hands will change the consistency of the dough as you work with it, and frankly, I don't think it is always for the better. If it is cool, it will likely take longer for the yeast to get to work, sure. But if it remains cooler, it seems to retain its structure better, and makes it easier to work. So we are experiencing a trade-off here.
The smell of molasses predominates as you squoosh the dough together through your fingers like mud pies when you were a kid. Remember?
After the first rising, the dough made with Cornmeal (the one that followed the official Reinhart recipe) was spreading a bit more. It was gooier, sagged more, and the gluten seamed to tear more easily at the surface. The one with the Cornflour was tight. Again, this was probably entirely due to the hydration. The corn flour could have used a bit more water.
I folded them into a loaf tin as the recipe required, and baked them both at the same time.
This is supposed to change the texture of the crust
After I took them from the oven, I rubbed some butter on the one made with the corn flour, to see what that might do to the crust. I read that somewhere, elsewhere.
Reinhart's Anadama Bread, and a version made with Corn Flour instead of Corn Meal
The next morning, my wife agreed to have a slice of one of the loaves. I cut them both for picture-taking purposes, but didn't taste them myself for a few hours, because I was having some bloodwork drawn, and was not eating until after that (nothing serious, but we have a new doctor and she wants a baseline of data). She opted to taste the official Reinhart Anadama, simply because it was closer to her, not because it had a greater appeal.
She toasted it and ate it with butter and honey. Her verdict was that it was gritty in texture (due to the cornmeal) and yet delicate -- meaning, it felt like it might fall apart, but it didn't. "It was pretty sweet too," she said, "and I'm sure it would have been sweet even without the honey." But, she concluded, "it tastes okay." Said with a shrug, that is a reluctant good review.
I could not convince her to do a real taste test. She was simply not hungry after eating the first slice. Under duress, she agreed to toast the second slice and take a bite. "What's the difference?" she wanted to know as it toasted.
"This one should not be as gritty," I offered by way of explanation.
Dutifully she toasted it up and put honey on it as she had done before. I was hoping that, after one small bite, she might be enticed to eat the whole slice. But it was not to be.
The cornflour bread, made Anadama-style, is not an Anadama bread but an experiment
She turned to me and actually spat the lump of dough from her mouth to her hand. "It turns into this lump of mush in your mouth," she said, shaking her head. "If this were served in a restaurant, people would say, "what is that? Why does it taste like that? It looks like it is cooked, but something is wrong.'"
She concluded, "The cornmeal bread is still better."
We were preserving some grape juice yesterday, and it has stained this bread board a lovely purple.
When I finally did come to eat both of the breads, I could detect no real difference other than the texture or mouth feel. To me, they both taste okay.
But I say that with a shrug.
Notes to Myself
- If you fortify flour with Niacin, why doesn't baking with it destroy the vitamin? If you add Niacin to your dough that is not so fortified, what will happen?
- Use a bit more water if you use cornflour instead of cornmeal for your soaker, for loaves using this recipe.
- But I think we can conclude, from this experiment, that you won't be using corn flour for Anadama bread any more. Stick with the cornmeal. There is a reason why cornmeal and not corn flour is used.