Week 40: Pane Siciliano

ITALY: Finally, an opportunity to use semolina flour – the sandy flour made from durum wheat which is what’s commonly used for pasta (although pasta is usually made from “fancy durum” which is a finer grind). The sweet, nutty flavor of semolina combined with toasty sesame seeds is really delicious — and the fancy “S” shape makes for a very festive loaf indeed! Italians typically baked this on December 13th, to celebrate the bravery of St. Lucia, and the shape represents her eyes, because she was blinded following her faith.

STEP 1: Make the pre-ferment (aka sponge, poolish, biga)

For more flavor, start this the day before, and store it in the fridge. Take it out a couple of hours before moving on to the next step so that it has time to come to room temperature.

  • 90 g semolina flour
  • 90 g bread flour
  • 3/4 cup water (warmed to 100 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  1. Mix the flours, yeast, sugar and water together with the handle of a wooden spoon until there are no bits of dried flour hanging about. Scrape the sides so it’s all together.
  2. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 60 ~ 90 minutes, so it’s bubbley, and has risen a bit, but not so long that it started to collapse.

STEP 2: Make and knead dough

  • 135 g semolina flour
  • 135 g bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 7 g olive oil
  • Pre-ferment from above
  1. Measure dry ingredients ino the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk to combine
  2. Add teh olive oil and preferemt
  3. With the dough hook attachment, knead until it comes together and is smooth, a little damp but not sticky. This should take about 5~6 minutes, set at #2. If it’s not coming together add a tiny bit of flour – one tablespoon at a time! Same goes for water, if it’s too dry, just a tablespoon of water at a time. A little goes a long way!

STEP 3: First rise

  1. Place dough in a very lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 60 ~ 90 minutes

STEP 4: Shape and 2nd rise

  1. Turn dough out onto lightly oiled coutertop and divide into two equal pieces
  2. Shape each half into an 18″ rope, then coil into an “S” shape
  3. Place the loaves on baking sheet, cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. I use a see-through bag so I can check on them, raising it above the loaves with a couple of drinking glasses.
  4. Preheat over to 350

Topping

  • 1 egg white, whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Sesame seeds
  1. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the sesame or flax seeds.
  2. Turn overn down to 325 and bake loaves for 20~30 minutes until golden brown.

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