Easy sourdough polenta bread rolls for Sunday lunch

20140413-115840.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning in Rome, and we have a lunch invitation from friends with a private garden. Private gardens are rare here, as most of us live in flats, and even a large terrace is a luxury, though in most films set in Rome everyone seems to have rooftop terraces with stunning views. We like our little balcony, where I grow herbs and dry laundry, and where friends can smoke and watch the traffic.

Still, on a sunny spring like today, it will be glorious to go out for lunch, to drink prosecco in the sun, while the barbecue sizzles and we enjoy the company of good friends. They live near the Appia Antica, so we may end up there later. I should probably excavate some sunscreen, and a hat. As my contribution, I am bringing these easy sourdough polenta bread rolls.

Easy sourdough polenta bread rolls for Sunday brunch

100g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration, this one was rye/wheat based)
30g coarse rye flour
70g polenta
50g wholewheat flour
350g plain flour (here, 00)
350g water
5g salt (add after half an hour)

For baking, a little poppyseeds or mixed seeds

The evening before: mix the ingredients, and stir. Cover bowl with a shower cap. Leave for half an hour, then add salt and fold dough in bowl (a spatula or spoon works for me). Enjoy dinner and a couple old episodes of Black Books, and fold the dough a few more times. You will see the dough developing structure, and increasing slightly in volume. This is a typical 500g flour/350-400g water recipe, it generally works for both yeast and sourdough baking. More water may be needed, depending on the flours used. I added polenta this time, just for a little extra crunch.

Here’s the dough after a night in the fridge. And that’s my starter in the jar in the back, fed yesterday — I just do 50g or so, then feed before baking, without discarding extra starter – it seems to work. I’ve been leaving it unrefrigerated more, which seems to improve it, and baking smaller batches of bread. Anyway, back to the bread rolls:

Divide the dough in half, and roll it into a rough sausage shape. It will be quite sticky. Using a spatula or knife, divide each roll into 6-7 pieces. You could roll these into a nice tight shape, using more flour, but I wanted a more rustic type roll and just dolloped then onto a baking sheet with baking parchment. Optional: sprinkle some seeds on the rolls, pressing down slightly so they do not fall off. Let rolls rise 20 min or so while oven heats up.

Bake at 230C for 20-25 minutes or so, in the middle of the oven, until they look golden and sound hollow when tapped from below. These took about 25 min, a bit longer than expected, but done they are and off to lunch we now go, with piping hot rolls (and sunscreen….)

20140413-122912.jpgA very good Sunday to you all!

Notes: I started the dough last night, you could swap out the sourdough with 1 dry yeast and make it the same way. I added seeds to only half the bread rolls, as there will be small children present at the lunch who are not fond of seeded bread.



imageIt’s spring in Rome, and every afternoon I walk past this fruttivendolo, a greengrocer with piles and piles of lovely fresh produce. I’d been eying the agretti, and bought some for dinner that day. Agretti is a Mediterranean succulent, only appearing for some weeks in the spring. It looks like giant chives, but has a flavour of its own and is slightly crunchy when steamed. Agretti is wonderful with lemon.
CarciofiYes, it is also season for carciofi, and there are mountains of artichokes just begging to be taken home. Hmmmm, maybe pasta with carciofi and mint, or a nice artichoke risotto….? No, today it will just be agretti.

From http://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-blogs/agretti/ “…The Italians know and like it and besides agretti, call it barba di frate (monk’s beard) and roscano. The Latin is Salsola soda, which reflects its historical importance as a source, once burnt to ashes, of sodium carbonate, which is used in the manufacture of both glass and soap. Its profoundly unexciting English name is Saltwort.”

Cleaning agretti: Wash, and remove the rubber band (those survive boiling…). Just chop the roots off, remove any yellow stems. I’ve usually enjoyed agretti lightly sauteed in a frying pan, then served with a little fresh lemon juice squeezed over. Lovely quick springtime side dish.

imageI’d been reading on a couple Italian blogs that they preferred to boil the agretti (like here) in abundant salted water, so I tried that this time.
Boiling agrettiInto the pot of boiling water it goes, just for 2-3 minutes.
Agretti with lemonDrain, and serve with lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish.  Delicious, it’s slightly squeaky and very fresh-tasting. Nice cold for lunch the next day as well. Also good in omelettes. I think it is just as easy to steam the agretti or saute it in a pan, the main issue is not to overcook it. Good luck in finding some agretti to try for yourself!

Spring day in Garbatella

Spring in GarbatellaSpring has certainly arrived in Rome. There are blossoming trees, newly planted geraniums appearing in window boxes, and even the occasional local observed in short sleeves. No sandals yet, though it is gorgeous and sunny.
I wandered up to the farmers’ market last weekend, and as usual bought more than intended.
Salumi at market – it’s hard to resist!
SalamiThere was a lovely salami with tartufo (truffle) which I must get some more of.
Laundry in garbatellaI too had laundry waiting at home to be hung out, though not as picturesque as this.

GarbatellaLooking through the lotti, always interesting to see the internal courtyards here.