I have made Pane Siciliano or Semolina Bread many, many times before, because I love its nutty flavor and beautifully golden interior crumb. A few months ago I was planning for my next session of baking classes and was trying to think of recipes that were not your everyday Italian bread recipes. This bread came immediately to my mind for a couple reasons. The first being that it is incredibly delicious and utilizes flour other than just bread flour. The second reason that I thought it would be a great class recipes is that it has a unique shape all its own. The distinctive S-shape coated in a jacket of sesame seeds is always impressive looking. This particular recipe has been borrowed from a great bread baking blog, bread experience. She utilized aspects of both Jeffrey Hammelman’s and Peter Reinhart’s recipes for the same bread. I have made both recipes in the past, but I loved the combination of the two. I had the best results I have had yet, so this will now be my go to Pane Siciliano recipe. Well, that is until I see another one that I will no doubt have to try!
1 1/2 cups (6.4 oz, 181 g) Semolina flour
1 1/2 cups (6.4 oz, 181 g) Bread flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (10 oz, 283 g) lukewarm water (90 degrees to 100 degrees F)
1 1/4 teaspoons (.13 oz, 4 g) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 1/8 cups (9.6 oz, 272 g) cups Semolina flour
2 1/8 cups (9.6 oz, 272 g) cups Bread flour
1 1/2 to 1 5/8 cups (12 oz, 340 g) water
1 tablespoon (.6 oz, 17 g) salt
3 tablespoons (1.6 oz, 45 g) olive oil
All of the sponge
- Mix the semolina flour, bread flour, water, yeast, and sugar in the mixer until evenly incorporated. The sponge should be fairly loose. The sponge ripens in a short time so you need to use warm water to bring the temperature to 78 to 80 degrees F. Let the sponge ripen for 1 1/4 hours. It should be on the verge of collapse at this point.
- Mix all of the ingredients, including the sponge in a stand mixer or by hand until all of the ingredients have been incorporated. The dough should be a medium consistency, with good dough strength and gluten development. It will pass a windowpane test when it has been fully kneaded. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it ferment for 1 1/2 hours at 75-80 degrees.
- Fold the dough after 45 minutes of bulk fermentation.
- Gently divide the dough into three pieces that weigh slightly over 1-pound.
- Gently pat the dough into a rectangle. Without degassing the piece of dough, fold the bottom third of dough, letter style, up to the center and press to seal, creating surface tension on the outer edge. Fold the remaining dough over the top and use the edge of your hand to seal the seam closed. This helps creat more surface tension, giving you a stronger loaf of bread. Set the loaves aside to rest for further shaping. Working from the center of the loaf and moving to the outside edges, gently but firmly rock and roll out the dough to extend each piece to about 24 inches in length taking care to degas the dough as little as possible. If at any point your dough starts to tear, put it aside and let it rest for a few minutes before you continue stretching it. Working from each end simultaneously, coil the dough toward the center, forming an S shape.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Place two loaves on one pan and one on the other pan. Mist the loaves with water and sprinkle sesame seeds on the top of each loaf. Then mist the tops with vegetable spray oil and place the pans in a food-grade plastic bag or loosely cover with plastic wrap.
- Place the pans in the refrigerator overnight or if you want to bake them the same day leave them out on the counter until they double in bulk. About 1-1 ½ hours. If you did refrigerate them, allow them to warm up on the counter while your oven preheats. I will usually just take one pan out of the refrigerator and leave the second in. Otherwise the second pan will tend to over rise on the counter. I find that because these loaves aren’t very large and because they proof so well in the refrigerator it isn’t necessary to let them warm up fully to room temperature before baking. The benefit of retarding these loaves overnight is that they will have the most beautifully blistered crust and they have a more complex flavor profile.
- Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a baking stone on the middle rack and a steam pan underneath. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. You can also just bake this bread on the sheet pan with a steam pan underneath, but I don’t think the results are nearly as good.
- Carefully place the loaves directly onto the baking stone (still on the parchment paper). Then even more carefully pour 1/2 cup of water into the steam pan and close the door. Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for about 15 minutes. If the loaves are touching, gently separate them.
- Rotate the loaves for even baking and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the loaves are a rich golden brown all over. If there are still light or white sections of the dough, extend the baking time for a few extra minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.