Although Pain Polka is attributed to the French, the name actually comes originally from Czech where it translates as "little half"...malá polovina.
By the time the French 'owned it' it was referred to as pain polka. It was the time when the polka dance and polka dots were very much in fashion. In fact the polka dance - which required the participants to take little 'half' steps originated in Czechoslovakia as pulka - 'little steps'. From Czechoslovakia to Central France and the rest is baking history...
The bread is defined by the shape, rather than the ingredients. However, as with so many French breads, this is made from the addition of a piece of old dough...what the French call a pâte fermentée.
Fortunately, you don't actually need a piece of old dough to make a pain polka. It's just as easy to make a quick 'starter' or pre-ferment and then add this to the main dough.
for the starter:
225 gms of 6 - 15 hour old French baguette dough
2.3 grams of instant bread yeast
120 gms of lukewarm filtered water
115 gms all purpose / plain flour
for the dough:
450 gms strong white bread flour
15 gms sea salt
280 mls lukewarm filtered water
2.3 gms instant bread yeast
MAKING THE STARTER
Method 1 (using the old bread dough)
Proceed to 'Making the Dough'
Method 2 (making the starter)
Mix the yeast with the water.
Stir in enough flour to make a batter. Beat vigorously and then gradually add the remaining flour.
Knead for 5 minutes.
Place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and leave for 4 - 5 hours in a warm place or at room temperature until it's well risen.
MAKING THE DOUGH
Add the yeast to half the water and stir.
Add the ready made starter or the old dough and knead to mix thoroughly.
Gradually add the flour and then the salt and mix to a dough.
Knead for about 8 - 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for about 1.5 hours until it has doubled in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back (de-gas it) and shape into a boule.
Preheat the oven to 230⁰C.
Dust the top of the loaf with flour and cut deeply into the dough in a criss-cross pattern. Keep your lines fairly close together.
Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Mist the inside of the oven or bake under cover. (Mist about 3 times over the 30 minutes)
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden.
Cool on a wire rack