Pane Siciliano (Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread)
Prep time: 4 hours or overnight (for the cresciuta) + approx 4 hours (for the proofing) | Baking time: 30 mins
For the Cresciuta (Biga/ Pate Fermentee):
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water * see notes
- 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (I used instant yeast) * see notes
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (maida)
For the Dough:
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (I used instant yeast)
- 1 cup lukewarm water (110° to 115°F)
- 2 tsp honey
- All the prepared Cresciuta
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups fine semolina or durum semolina flour * see notes
- 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- A little water for brushing on the bread
- 1/8 cup sesame seeds (white or black)
1. First make the Cresciuta. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl and let it froth, it could take about 10 mins. Once frothy, stir in the flour with a fork and loosely cover the bowl. This mixture should be a little pasty/stringy. Leave it in a slightly warm place for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
2. The next morning, mix the dough for the bread. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water mixed with the honey. Let it stand for 10 minutes till it is frothy. Once frothy add the cresciuta and mix well. Reserve 1/2 cup and add 2 cups of the semolina flour, the gluten (if using), salt and olive oil and mix it well to form a dough. Dust the remaining 1/2 cup of the flour in parts until the dough is less sticky – it will be a little soft.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to coat well, then loosely cover and let the dough rise till it doubles in volume for about 1-1/2 hours.
4. Gently deflate the dough with your fingers and then roll it out into a ‘rope’ that is about 30” long. Place the rope of dough on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased baking parchment and curl the dough back and forth (S shape) leaving itself a 6 or 7 inch tail. Roll the tail a little thinner than the rest of the body so that it looks like it’s tapering off. Fold the tail over the shaped loaf.
5. Loosely cover and let the shaped dough rise for 2 hours till almost double in size.
6. Once the dough has doubled lightly brush the top with water and then sprinkle the sesame seeds and press them in lightly with your fingers.
7. Pre-heat your oven to 190 C (375F) with a baking tray placed upside down in it. Place the baking tray with the dough on the hot tray and bake for about 30 minutes until the bread is brown and done, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove and completely on a wire rack before slicing.
1. Always use good quality and new (check packaging date and expiry) yeast. If the yeast is old, it will not froth as it should and there is no point baking your bread with it. It is better to discard and start again. If however despite this your yeast does not froth or you are living in cold weather/central AC try placing the bowl of the yeast mixture in a larger bowl of hot water. I noticed that it will help the lukewarm water in which the yeast has been dissolved to maintain its temperature and aid the frothing. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon honey to the mixture when you make the Cresiuta as it will aid the frothing.
2. I always like to use instant yeast which is similar to active dried yeast but has finer granules and need not be dissolved in water, yet I did that for better results.
3. Since I didn’t find readymade semolina flour I bought the finest semolina I could find (sooji rawa) and ground it to a fine texture in the dry grinding jar of my mixie. If you are following this method make sure not to overload your mixie jar – fill it upto half its capacity and grind the semolina for best results. 2 cups of sooji rawa will yield you approx 2-1/4 cups of semolina flour as the volume increases once ground. You will need just about this amount, but if you feel that the dough is still sticky/gooey (sticks like paste to your hand) then grind some extra semolina and dust the flour. The dough is supposed to be soft and slightly sticky (but not paste like)