Last night I pulled out my beat-up old copy of The Italian Baker by Carol Field. I had planned on making her Pane Pugliese and it needs a biga, or starter. It’s one of my most favorite breads. I was pulling the ingredients together when I turned the page and saw a recipe for Pane Siciliano. Something new. I actually had the semolina flour (shock!) and decided to give it a try.
Makes 2 loaves
- 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp malt syrup
- 1 cup water, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups durum flour or semolina for pasta
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 to 3 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil, malt, and 1 cup of water. Mix the flours and salt and whisk in 1 cup at a time into the yeast mixture. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Knead on a floured surface 8 to 10 minutes, occasionally slamming the dough down vigorously to develop the gluten.
Stir the yeast into the 1 1/4 cups warm water in a large mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oil and malt with the paddle; then add the flours and salt and mix until smooth. Change to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until; the dough is firm, compact, and elastic with lots of body, 4 to 5 minutes. Finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface.
First rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough should be springy and blistered, but still soft and velvety.
Shaping and second rise. Punch the dough down, knead it briefly, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Flatten it with your forearm into a square. Rollit into a long, narrow rope, about 20 to 22 inches long. The dough should be so elastic that it could almost be swung and stretched like a jump rope. Cut the dough in half and shape each into a loaf. (The book shows 3 classic shapes and illustrations; Mafalda, Occhi di Santa Lucia, and the baked Corona. I made the Santa Lucia.)
Place the loaves on floured parchment paper, peels sprinkled with corn meal, or oiled baking sheets. Brush the entire surface of each loaf with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds; pat the seeds very gently into the dough. Cover with plastic wrap, and then a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Baking. Thirty minutes before baking heat the oven with baking stones to 425°. Sprinkle the stones with cornmeal just before sliding the loaves onto them. Bake 10 minutes, spraying 3 times with water. Reduce the heat to 400° and bake 25 to 30 minutes longer. Cool on racks.
The final bread came out excellent, but I had to play with the dough a bit.
First off, it was way too dry. I know that there are a bazillion and one factors involved in making bread; the moisture content of the flour, the weather and humidity, yadda yadda yadda, but I had to add almost a half-cup of water to the dough. I finally worked it into a close approximation to what was described “firm, compact, and elastic with lots of body” but it never really had the elasticity I think it should have had from the description. Same with the forming of the dough. It rolled out well, but didn’t have the “so elastic that it could almost be swung and stretched like a jump rope” texture. It had some, but not what was being described.
Nonetheless, it came out great! It had that rich semolina flavor and fine texture.