Once upon a time I visited a then-new store on High Street Kensington, called Whole Foods. I’m not often in Kensington, so I made the most of finding myself there by buying lots of things that I thought would be hard to find elsewhere, and that sounded suitably exotic. Today I finally used up the last remnants of the only remaining item from that shop: maize meal.
It’s sometimes said that the English and Americans are separated by a common language, and that’s certainly true when it comes to the kitchen. Just what exactly is maize meal in British-English parlance? I never did really find out. It wasn’t semolina, nor was it polenta. Or was it? Are they all the same? Was it actually cornmeal? It had the colour and consistency of gram (chickpea) flour, but wasn’t as cloying. So, whatever it was, I was never really sure of what to do with it, and instead it just got used up here and there.
Today, while watching the Spanish Grand Prix, I used what remained in a focaccia, and to my surprise it turned out quite well.
I didn’t follow a recipe as such. I had about 150g of maize flour, and added another 350g of strong white flour, along with 10g of salt, 10g of fresh yeast and a tablespoon of malt powder. For the liquid I used about 30g of olive oil and made the rest up with water to take it to about 70% hydration. I then did the three-ten-second-kneads method and left it for an hour before turning it out onto an oiled tray and dimpling it all over with my fingers. It rested for half an hour, then got covered in salt crystals and rosemary before another dimpling. It then went into a 250C oven for five minutes before being turned down to 200C for another 20 minutes or so.
As the picture shows, it’s got some big holes, but the crumb structure is actually quite tight overall (probably because I didn’t stretch and fold the dough). It’s ever so slightly biscuity in texture, but actually has quite a nice earthy flavour and a subtle yellow colour from the olive oil and maize meal.
So, I wont be rushing out to buy some more maize meal, but its final hurrah will go very nicely with the chorizo I picked up the other day and the rocket that’s growing in our windows boxes.