Sunday, October 11, 2009

Masa Bread is the new Cornbread!

Quick, when I say "chili", what is the first accompaniment that comes to mind? It's cornbread, right? That's been my answer every since I started making chili a few years ago. I love inventing new types of chili based on my mood, but the side dish never varies. And even though I usually like trying new things, this corn bread requirement never really bothered me.

Last week I planned to make a big pot of chili, and for whatever reason I stopped myself before I gathered the ingredients for cornbread. I had finally reached my limit, and determined that I needed something else to fill the "yummy carb" food category of this meal. That lead me to pull out a few cookbooks, and when I stumbled across a bread recipe from my mom I knew I had found my answer. Masa bread is something she used to make all the time when I was younger, and I loved it. I can't tell you what it is about this bread, but it's amazing! Maybe it's the texture... it's pretty dense but not tough or doughy. Maybe it's the flavor... it tastes like corn, but only subtly. Whatever it is, this bread is a wonderful alternative to cornbread, especially with chili or any type of mexican stew (like my Mexican Chili or Chile Verde).

Masa Bread
from Breads of the Southwest, by Beth Hensperger

-3 3/4 to 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 1/4 cups masa harina para tortillas (the masa I found said "instant for tamales" and it worked great!)
-1 Tbsp/package active dry yeast
-3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
-2 tsp salt
-2 cups warm water (about 115 degrees)
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
- 2 Tbsp corn oil, for brushing

In a mixer with a paddle, mix 1 cup all purpose flour with the masa, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add hot water and beat until smooth- about 1 minute. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix on low until dough just clears the sides of the bowl.

Switch to a dough hook, and knead until soft and springy- about 1-2 minutes for the machine. Dust with flour 1 Tbsp at a time to prevent sticking. The dough should be smooth and springy, not dry. Put the kneaded dough into a greased bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1-1/12 hours at room temperature.

Turn the dough out onto the counter to deflate, and form into two loaves. Place the loaves onto a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, at least four inches apart. Brush the loaves with corn oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the over to 375 degrees.

Brush the tops of the loaves again with corn oil. Bake on the center oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and hallow sounding. Place the loaves onto a cooking rack immediately. Bread is best warm or at room temperature on the day its baked.

My Notes-- since it makes two loaves, I slice one and put it in the freezer. Then I can easily grab a slice or two without defrosting the whole loaf. This bread is fantastic for breakfast, toasted with butter and honey on top.


Christy Lincoln said...

Sounds amazing. I love cornbread but I love all bread for that matter so I can't wait to try it.
I might have to find a recipe without the fancy mixer though. We don't have one yet.
I'll let you know what we come up with.

USA Kiwi (aka Kylee) said...

This is a great variation, and different to the same-old same-old.

I live in AZ, and have plenty of access to masa - so will definitely try this.

Thanks for posting!

TKW said...

I have a deep yeast phobia, but this bread sounds amazing! I bet it went great with your chili...which I'd like the recipe for, also!