Glow-in-the-dark Polenta Bread (BBB August 2014)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Polenta Bread, based on Della Fattoria’s Polenta bread in Artisan Bread Across America by Maggie Glezer; extremely long-winded (as usual) account touching on reading labels carefully and using alternate methods to create a spiral design; a Bread Baking Babes project; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) August 2014

It’s corn season! J’adore corn. In all forms …even glow-in-the-dark!

polenta bread

It’s my turn to choose the bread this month and I wanted to choose something a little different from our normal bread but one that was made with only grains. Initially, I was going to suggest we make the yeasted cornbread from The Moosewood Cookbook. It is fabulous sliced and grilled on the barbecue then used as a “plate” for grilled meat and vegetables.

But when I looked to make sure that none of the BBBabes had chosen it before, I saw that one of us had chosen a yeasted corn bread already. :lalala: It was me! It was the very first BBBabe bread that I chose: Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread (BBB October 2010)

And then, as I was typing this up, I suddenly noticed that I hadn’t made the Moosewood bread with the BBBs after all. (I’m so embarrassed… clearly, I have no memory. Not to mention that I still can’t read.)

So. I thought I’d do something unprecedented and make something new. I decided to start by actually looking in the books on our cookbook shelf. It turns out that they’re not just for decoration… :lalala:

polenta bread I began by leafing through Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Breads Across America because it has such lovely colour photos. I got stopped by the amazing photo of Della Fattoria’s Polenta Bread on page 116.

Wow Wow Wow THAT’S the one!!

So I looked at the recipe.

This beautiful polenta-encrusted sourdough is a bit tricky to mix, and is not for the inexperienced baker. The dough is mixed in several stages to allow it a full development before cooked and cooled polenta is added. This long and involved mixing process yields a high-rising bread with a lacy crumb.
The dough is too soft to be mixed in a food processor, and it requires a lot of mixing before it is fully developed, making hand mixing nearly impossible; using the stand mixer is the only option for this recipe.
– Maggie Glezer, Della Fattoria’s Polenta Bread, Artisan Baking Across America, p.118

Pfffft! A stand mixer?! BBBabes don’t need no stinkin’ stand mixers! We’re experienced bakers! (I’m just going to pretend that my wrestling match with the Croc never happened.) This is perfect for BBBabes!

Then I looked at the ingredients list and saw

225 g mature sourdough starter

Alarm bells began to sound. Loudly.

Oh oh. That’s no good. The last time that I accidentally on purpose murdered my wild yeast starter, I vowed never – ever – to capture yeast again. It’s just too much grief and too much wasted flour. :stomp:

We already have a wayward pet. Why would we want one more?

“I won’t!” said Mary. […] “They may drag me in but they can’t make me […] I’ll stare at the floor!”

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, Chapter 16

Luckily, no dragging is necessary and Maggie Glezer is way ahead of me. In the sourdough section of Artisan Baking Across America, she wrote the following:

Any sourdough-based recipe can be converted into a yeast-based recipe. The bread will not have the complex flavor […] of a true sourdough, but it will still be a very fine loaf.
To convert a recipe from sourdough to commercial yeast, you will just use a small amount of yeast in the levain and omit the sourdough starter. […] Dissolve ¼ teaspoon yeast in ¼ cup warm water and use 2 tablespoons of the yeasted water per cup (150 grams, 5.3 ounces) flour. […] Be sure to reduce the water measure in the levain by the same amount as the added yeasted water.
Let the levain, which is now technically a pre-ferment, ferment for 2 to 3 hours, or until it has risen to about half again its original volume, then refrigerate it overnight until ready to use. Let it come to room temperature before adding it to the final dough. Continue with the recipe as directed – there is no need to add more yeast.
– Maggie Glezer, ‘Unraveling Sourdough’, Artisan Baking Across America, p. 94

So. If you are a glutton for punishment and want to use sourdough, please, be my guest – I’ve put the necessary percentages in the notes section of the recipe. But if you are like me and really don’t like sour (sourer than the sourest lemons) bread, I have included the alteration.

If you haven’t already, please see cleaning and tidying the fridge and 1st Attempt at Tartine Bread: Looks good, doesn’t it? for the sour reports on the sordid details.

BBB Polenta Bread

BBB Polenta Bread diary:

30 May 2014 09:14 Look at me!! I’m getting started early for once! REALLY early! :whoohoo:

Rogers Flour: now available in Ontario Yesterday, we made our bi-monthly trek to Coppa’s (formerly Highland Farms) on Dufferin north of Finch to get a 10kg bag of Rogers “No Additives” unbleached flour. But THIS time, we rode our bikes. What a great ride! 44.71km total, almost all of it through neighbourhoods.

While we were at the store, we looked on the shelves to see if they had coarsely ground polenta like the polenta pictured in Glezer’s book. Miraculously, they did!

We think.

mystery grain It looks like cornmeal…. I managed to glean from the label that it’s a product of Ukraine. Our checkout clerk’s name was Natalia and her accent sounded Eastern European. On an offchance, T asked her if she could read the label and what exactly it was. Yes. It was in Russian and she is Ukrainian. She began skimming

[running an index finger along the text] Yes. Is Russian. [reading] is rice [reading more] no… is grain. not corn. I think kasha.
-Natalia, Coppa’s Supermarket near Finch and Dufferin in Toronto

She then took the package to another worker who read the label and said it was definitely corn, even though there was nothing on the package saying it was corn. She, however, when she was ringing it through, made it clear that she was not convinced and told us it was kasha.

But. Kasha is expensive. Corn is not. It has to be corn!

9 June 2014 07:38 I was looking at the label again and saw that there is a website. Alas, very little information is available there; whoever is taking care of their website, …um… isn’t.

I did a little more searching and discovered that Grand Mersi is a company in Moldova. Hey! That’s not Ukraine!!

But the good news is that whatever it is, it’s not GMO. :-)

Still, it was probably grown pretty darn close to Chernobyl. But it doesn’t appear to be glowing very much… (where is the smiley with wide-eyed terror when I need it?)

I can’t believe it’s been 27 years since the disaster! I wonder how dangerous it still is now. So I did a little more googling and see that there were still restrictions in UK in 2009 due to the Chernobyl fallout.

Nearly 370 farms in Britain are still restricted in the way they use land and rear sheep because of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident 23 years ago, the government has admitted.
-Terry Macalister and Helen Carter,, Britain’s farmers still restricted by Chernobyl nuclear fallout, 12 May 2009

However, Belarus began farming in 2005 (!!) and possibly/probably earlier.

Nearly 370 farms in Britain are still restricted in the way they use land and rear sheep because of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident 23 years ago, the government has admitted.
-Steven Lee Myers,, Belarus Resumes Farming in Chernobyl Radiation Zone, 22 October 2005

2 July 13:01 scoring I baked the bread on Monday and we had it last night for our 1 July celebrations. My scoring was less than stellar and I should have baked it a little longer to get it really dark and the crumb more fully baked… perhaps I’ll actually measure the internal temperature with a thermometer. (It was revolting hot that day and we just couldn’t bear to have the oven on any longer.)

I’m planning to bake it again and try a slightly different method – to paint in water a spiral with my fingers on the seam-side of the round, scatter the cornmeal on that, proof the loaves seam-side down in floured baskets and then spray them with water just before baking to remove the flour pattern. I’ll let you know if it works.

But. Even though the bread was a tiny bit underdone, it was fabulous. We LOVED the crust – really chewy. And this morning, we had the last of it as toast. That too was brilliant and we think it would work fabulously sliced and grilled on the barbecue and then used as a “plate” for grilled vegetables and meat for those who eat meat.

25 July 2014 12:31 I saw the most amazing decoration on someone else’s bread on one of the bread forums I frequent. (Where WAS it??) The person used a small amount of dough cut and laid overtop of the loaf to look like lattice work. I thought I’d give something like that I try to see if I can get the spiral to work better.

I just mixed the mini biga in preparation for mixing the dough and baking the bread tomorrow.

26 July 2014 17:18 I’m pleased to say that mixing, kneading, rising and shaping went very well today.

When it came time to do the scoring, it seemed wrong to entirely give in to failure. So for one of the loaves, I put it on a lazy susan and using the point of our sharpest knife attempted to slash the spiral, while spinning the lazy susan.

lazy susanlazy susan

Hmmph!! No better than the other time, is it? I was so disheartened by the ragged mess that I didn’t take a photo. (Next time, maybe I should steal one of T’s straight razors.)

But the dough spiral looks great!!

26 July 2014 20:18 The dough spiral looks even better than I expected! That’s clearly the way for scoring challenged people like me to go. :-)

BBB Polenta Bread Here is the BBB August 2014 Polenta Bread recipe:

BBB Radioactive (or not) Polenta Bread
inspiration: Della Fattoria’s Polenta Bread, p.118-119
Artisan Baking Across America: the Breads, the Bakers, the Best Recipes by Maggie Glezer

The afternoon before:
tiny Biga:

  • 9g(9ml) water at 95F ¹
  • 0.25g(1/16tsp) active dry yeast
  • 11g(4tsp) unbleached all-purpose flour

The evening before:

  • 60g(60ml) water at 95F
  • 0.25g(1/16tsp) active dry yeast
  • 20g(4tsp) fermented sourdough all of the Biga ²
  • 100g(2/3c) unbleached all-purpose flour

The morning of:

  • 35g(3Tbsp) cornmeal aka polenta, coarsely ground ³
  • 175g(175ml) cold water


  • 390g(390ml) water at 80F
  • 0.5g(1/8tsp) active dry yeast 4
  • 265g(1.75c) unbleached all-purpose flour
       » 200g(1.6c) unbleached all-purpose flour
       » 60g(0.5c) whole wheat flour
       » 5g(1.5tsp) flax seeds, finely ground
  • 335g(2.25c) unbleached bread flour 5
       » 10g(2tsp) vital wheat gluten
       » 325g(2c + 3Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • all of the starter
  • 18g(1Tbsp + 0.75tsp) salt
  • all of the cooled polenta
  • cornmeal, for garnish

bigastarterpolenta and starterkneading

  1. tiny Biga: In the early afternoon of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the yeast with warm (~96F) water in a smallish bowl until it has dissolved. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the small amount of flour until it is smooth (I kneaded it in my fingers for a few minutes). Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter, out of drafts, to ferment.
  2. starter: In the evening of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the starter yeast with warm water in a medium-sized bowl until it has dissolved. Add the tiny biga that should be bubbling nicely. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the starter amount of flour until you have a smooth lump of dough (I kneaded it in my fingers for a few minutes).
  3. polenta: In the morning of the day you are baking the bread, pour cold water into a small pot on the stove at medium high heat. Add the polenta and using a wooden spoon, cook, stirring constantly until the mixture if thick – about 5 minutes. Apparently, if you have a microwave oven (we don’t), you can put the water and polenta into a microwavable container and cook it at high for 4 minutes, stir it and continue to cook for 2 minutes more. (It seems like it is way easier to use the stove rather than the microwave.) Once the polenta is made, remove it from the pot to a plate or shallow container and put it into the fridge to cool.
  4. mixing: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dough yeast with warm water until it has dissolved.
  5. Add the starter (that should have doubled and be quite bubbly). Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flours, ground flax and salt. It might be pretty sloppy. Or not. It might just be shaggy.
  6. Kneading Lay the cooled polenta on top of the dough. Plunge in with your hands to turn and fold the dough in the bowl, kneading until it’s smooth (5 to 10 minutes). When the dough is smooth, decide to continue your radical behaviour learned from wayward BBBabes and skip the washing and drying the mixing bowl step. Simply cover the bowl with a plate to rest.
  7. After about 20 minutes, turn and fold the dough a few times. Notice that it is significantly smoother. Cover the bowl with a plate and set it aside in the oven with only the light turned on to rise until it has doubled. Don’t worry if it is quite sloppy. If it rises earlier than you expect, simply deflate the dough and allow it to rise again. This will just strengthen the dough.
  8. Shaping When you are ready to shape the bread, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide it into 2 pieces. Trying not to disturb the bubbles too much, shape into two rounds. Liberally spray the tops of the shaped loaves with water. Cover them with cornmeal. (Glezer suggests rolling the sprayed shaped loaves in the cornmeal placed on a plate.) Put each loaves seam-side up in a brotform, tightly woven basket or colander. Cover each one with a mixing bowl and allow them to rise on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) until almost double.
  9. Preheat Put a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 375F.
  10. Baking Turn each loaf out of its container onto a square of parchment paper. Using a very sharp knife (or a razor of lamé if you have one), starting at the center of the loaf and holding the blade almost horizontally, carve a spiral into each loaf. Try not to freak out if the spirals look like vicious circles.
  11. Liberally spray the tops of the loaves with water. Using a peel, slide them onto the hot stone and bake for about 40 minutes, turning them around once half way through baking, to account for uneven oven heat. The crust should be quite dark and the internal temperature should be somewhere between 200F and 210F. Allow the baked bread to cool completely before cutting into it. It’s still baking inside! (Even if you’ve ignored the instructions about using hot water from the tap, please do not ignore this step.) 7


1.) Water I know you’re glazing as soon as you see this part. But I’ll pretend that you’re riveted. I’m pleading. Please do not use water from the hot water tap. Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave. If you are allergic to using a thermometer, you can check the temperature by putting a few drops of water onto your wrist: if it feels warm, it’s too warm; if it feels cool, it’s too cool; if it feels like nothing, then it’s fine. Please note that before the yeast is added, the liquid temperature must be BELOW 120F (49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

2.) Biga If you have an active sourdough, use it in place of the biga and omit adding any active dry yeast.

3.) Polenta Glezer says that yellow corn grits work just as well. (If you do find actual polenta, please do as I say rather than as I do and refrain from buying polenta made from corn grown in Ukraine. It’s probably still a little too soon to be eating produce grown so close to Chernobyl. :lalala:)

4.) Yeast in Dough If you are using your active sourdough, Glezer does not include this extra yeast. I did, because I wanted to ensure that the dough would rise. If you are using your active sourdough, you do not need to include this extra yeast. I did, because I wanted to ensure that the dough would rise. If you are intrepid and have an active sourdough, omit the tiny biga entirely and use 20 g of your sourdough when mixing the starter.

To clarify further, in Glezer’s recipe, it says for the evening before baking to use:

  • 20% “fermented firm sourdough starter refreshed 8 hours before” 
  • 60% water 
  • 100% Unbleached bread flour 

The bread in the original Glezer recipe is leavened with only the fermented levain.

  • 65% water
  • 100% flour
  • 30% fermented levain
  • 3% salt
  • 35% cooled polenta (polenta made with 100% coarse polenta and 500% water)

5.) Bread Flour We can’t get unbleached bread flour here (or rather, I haven’t found it). A reasonable substitute for 1 cup bread flour can be made by using 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten. Or Susan’s (Wild Yeast) formula works too: 3% high-gluten flour + 97% unbleached all purpose. Or you can go with Natashya’s method:

I have [a] book that says 5% for vital wheat gluten, about 2.5 tsp per cup. To tell you the truth, I eyeball it.
– Natashya, BBB email, 8 September 2010

6.) Cornmeal Glezer calls for coarsely ground polenta on the crust of the bread. I was really concerned about causing our teeth to break so chose to use our normal grind cornmeal (aka maize). A more finely ground polenta would work too.

7.) But I LIKE warm bread just out of the oven!! N.B. Of course you will want to serve warm bread. Reheat it after it has cooled completely. (It is still baking when first out of the oven!) To reheat any UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 450F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

  • Bread Baking Babes August 2014 recipe:
    » please see above at blog from OUR kitchen Polenta Bread
  • Other versions of this bread:
    » txfarmer, The Fresh Loaf Polenta Bread “I recently converted a portion of my 100% starter to 60%, just to see the difference in handling and taste. The firm starter has been going for about 3 weeks now, I’d say it’s definitely more sour than my liquid starter. This bread requires to mix the dough very well before adding the cooked polenta, after it’s added, the dough became very wet, sticky and slack.” – txfarmer, 29 March 2010
    » Mily, At Home in the Kitchen Della Fattoria’s Polenta Sourdough “Although it’s categorized as advanced I don’t think it’s difficult to make. If you have already created a few artisan loaves and have a mixer then you are good to go. What draws my attention is the crusted polenta spiraling on top of the loaf” – Mily , 2 March 2010
    » Melissa, The Mighty Muffin: Polenta Bread ( “[T]he spiral shaping was a bit harder than I had thought it would be. I normally use a curved lame, which I did for this, but I would think a straight knife would’ve made the work easier. The dough is tacky, and the polenta on the top makes it that much harder to get a smooth cut. But I still think that it turned out fantastic!” – Melissa, Mighty Muffin, 7 April 2008
  • Information and Tools
    » Gourmet Sleuth: Cooking Conversions Calculator
    » Anahad O’Connor, New York Times: The Claim: Never Drink Hot Water From the Tap
    » Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun: Why you shouldn’t use hot tap water for drinking or cooking
  • recipes from OUR kitchen:
    » other bread recipes
    » more bread recipes

The second attempt at baking turned out very well (although the bread is still a little bit flat) and this time, we waited until it had cooled completely before slicing it.

We ate the scored loaf first – simply because it didn’t look quite as pretty as the one with the spiral. We sliced it, drizzled it with olive oil and grilled the slices on the barbecue, serving grilled meat and vegetables on top. It tasted wonderful!

We put the other loaf into the freezer to bring out when our niece and her Austrian boyfriend stayed for a few days as they drove across Canada.

On the second morning after they arrived, E came into the kitchen to help get breakfast together. She said, “We LOVE your bread. But G really loves it! He says that he hasn’t had bread that good since Austria…”

We had eaten half of the spiral loaf the night before. They were heading out right after breakfast to drive further west. As they were filling up water containers, I asked if they’d like to take the rest of last night’s bread for their lunch.

As E started nodding, G immediately looked up at me, smiled broadly and blurted, “Yes. Please!”

I guess they liked the bread….

I hope that when you taste your Polenta Bread (glow-in-the-dark or not), you feel the same way as our niece’s boyfriend did!

Polenta Bread

Bread Baking Babes Glow-in-the-dark Polenta Bread (BBB August 2014)

As you already know, I am hosting of August 2014’s Bread Baking Babes’ challenge!

And we know you’ll want to make Polenta bread too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make Polenta bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 August 2014.

Here’s how to let us know:



  • leave a comment on this post that you have baked the bread, leaving a link back to your post.

If you don’t have a blog or flickr-like account, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread! Please email me with the details, so your Polenta Bread can be included in the roundup too.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at other BBBabes’ August bread:

edit: Please take a look at the BBBuddies’ Polenta Bread.

Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:

This is how the back garden looked on the first evening that we served the bread.


“Everybody believes what’s on the label” and “The power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated”:
eTalks – The Secrets of Food Marketing (Warning: the speaker is a little bit irritating in her delivery.)


10 responses to “Glow-in-the-dark Polenta Bread (BBB August 2014)

  1. Jamie

    Your diaries are always fun to read… although I always feel your pain I have to admit it is both informative and… entertaining. My loaves are rising as I write this and I am very excited about baking and tasting it. I imagine the wonderful flavor the polenta adds (and I replaced a bit of both flours with some cornflour so we’ll see). A fun bread and a beautiful dough. I loved this challenge and this recipe. An excellent choice! I hope my crust comes out as beautiful as yours (without a baking stone).

    Thank you, Jamie! I can’t wait to see how your bread turns out. I somehow sense that your spiral slashing will be perfect…. And the polenta in the bread is good, isn’t it? -Elizabeth

  2. Lien

    Radio active or not, it’s njet a huge amount of polenta, so I think you’ll survive it. Yes the scoring was a problem with me too. I used cornmeal on top, cause I thought it would be difficult to slice through coarse polenta, but the outer skin on the bread (developed while in the banneton) was quite tough to cut through. So I made rings instead, it kept the shape of the dough more stable too, so it wasn’t tempted to spread out as easily. I love the way you solved it by making this beautiful spiral dough on top!
    I love this bread, fluffy and light. Thanks for picking this recipe!

    I’m so glad you like it!
    How did you make the rings, Lien? With a knife? Because your rings look great! (And it was really tough to cut through the risen loaf, wasn’t it?)

  3. Elle

    I’m heartbroken that I had no oven this month and so could not make the bread, but I plan to make it as soon as the oven is back in place and working.
    Love that you made it twice and created that glorious spiral the second time. So funny to think of it as glow in the dark…perfect for a summer dinner on the porch. :)

    No oven!! Poor you, Elle! As soon as you do have an oven, I hope you try it as one of your first loaves. It’s very good bread (thanks to Maggie Glezer and Della Fattoria!). And do let us know how it turns out! Maybe you will ace the spirals! -Elizabeth

  4. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    When I start reading your baking diary, I always mean to take notes for writing the comment; you always poke my brain in so many directions.
    The Chernobyl connection is fascinating. So much in our history has really long term consequences that fade very quickly.
    The lazy suzan … that’s brilliant! I happen to have one of those … but of course it’s in Michigan ;-) where I haven’t been for 10 months now.
    Olive oil and on the grill, that’s genius too … grill, that’s in Michigan too.
    Great bread Elizabeth!

    Alas, the lazy susan seemed more brilliant than it actually turned out to be, Tanna. I think that I might have to break down and get a lamé if I want my scoring to work.
    And it’s amazing how quickly we allow ourselves to forget about these disasters, isn’t it? It’s the same with Fukushima and the significant amount of radiation that is whirling through the Pacific. I sense that we’re just pretending that everything is back to normal.

    Radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster reached Canada’s west coast last June, far earlier than expected.
    – CBC, Fukushima radiation hit B.C. earlier than expected, 26 February 2014

  5. Katie

    I love your table…. Isn’t summer outdoor dining wonderful? And your spiral bread is very pretty. Do you want to borrow my blacklight?

    It is indeed, Katie! Although, I do find myself getting a tiny bit nervous when I start to hear rustling in the tree above and see little masked faces looking down at us. -Elizabeth
    (Thank you for the offer of the black light. I’m not sure we need it though – I really should have taken a photo of the bread basket uncovered to show why we only needed two candles on the table. ;) )

  6. Cathy (breadexperience)

    Thanks for choosing this bread, Elizabeth. It was delicious! I love the swirls on the bread in the last photo. Great choice!

    Thank you. I was quite pleased with myself for substituting dough swirls rather than poorly executed slashes. And I’m so glad that you liked the bread, Cathy. I’m also really glad that it turns out so well using an active sourdough rather than commercial yeast! -Elizabeth

  7. Carola

    Thousand times thank you Elizabeth, your recipe is a big hit in the family.
    I had great fun baking it and loved its taste.
    Definitely a winner.
    The spiral on your last picture is amazing! Wow!

    xx Carola

    Thank you, Carola! I’m so glad that you and your family like the bread so much. -Elizabeth

  8. Judy

    This bread was so delicious, even if my attempt at technique failed. Story is now posted. I might even try again!

    Yay! Too bad about the collapse though (I HATE it when that happens!) The crumb looks wonderful!! -Elizabeth


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