sesame semolina breads
July 17, 2012 § 16 Comments
Noted Italian baker, cookbook writer and culinary instructor Nick Malgieri’s semolina bread from Baking with Julia seemed to get mixed reviews from the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. Semolina bread happens to be one of the non-whole grain breads I really like, probably because I also love pasta (yes, also the non-whole wheat type which tends to break up when I cook it). With a couple of tweaks, the bread was easy to get together in an afternoon in time for dinner with leftovers for toast the next morning. The original recipe can be found here and here if you don’t have the book. Changes I made to the recipe included:
- reducing the rise time for the sponge from 2 to 1 hour by using instant yeast in place of active dry
- reducing the salt from 2 to 1 teaspoon
- reducing both the bulk rise and shaped loaf proof times to an hour or less
- preheating the oven to 500°F, then dropping it to 425ºF for baking (with steam)
- reducing the bake time to just over 25 minutes (BTW at altitude, there’s no way to get to 210°F internal temperature without completely drying the loaf; remember water turns to steam and disappears at 200°F at a mile high)
Of course some of these changes are inter-related. Since salt slows yeast activity, the rise and proof times were shortened since I used a lot less salt. I think I actually reduced the salt a little too much. I used kosher salt, so a teaspoon of kosher is LESS than a teaspoon of fine grain salt (think, a bucket of gravel weighs less than the same bucket of sand, because there is a lot more air space between the larger pieces of gravel/Kosher salt). This could also account for some of the perceived saltiness of this recipe, besides different taste preferences.
I raised the baking temperature to get better oven rise (“oven spring”) and color on the loaves, and to keep the bread’s crumb moist. Breads can sometimes dry out from longer bake times needed to brown the crust at lower temperatures. And I always bake breads on a well heated stone (500°F) with some water to steam the oven, which also helps with oven spring and crust color.
The sponge was bubbly, fragrant and well-risen after an hour so I added the rest of the ingredients to make the dough.
The final dough quickly came together and I covered it to rise for about an hour.
The dough was slightly over risen after just an hour, so I gently rounded it to give the gluten a little more strength. I covered it with the bowl to protect it from drying while it rested for just 5-10 minutes.
I had mixed a double batch, so I divided the dough in half. I gently stretched and then folded the half into thirds, like a letter. I then rolled and gently pressed the dough together from top to bottom, gave the loaf a final roll on the board and tucked the ends in towards the bottom seam.
Here’s the shaped loaf before I coated it with raw sesame seeds. To do this, I dampened a kitchen towel and laid it on a sheet pan along with a generous amount of seeds. I rolled the top side of the loaf on the wet towel, and then on the bed of seeds. You could also spritz the top of the loaf with water from a sprayer.
Here are the shaped loaves after they’ve been rolled in seeds, ready to proof on the parchment-lined sheet pan.
I placed the pan with the loaves into a large plastic bag and trapped some air inside so they proofed without touching the plastic. Meanwhile I preheated the oven with a baking stone to 500°F for at least a half hour. Definitely needed the A/C on for the bake!
Here are the finished burnished loaves just out of the oven. The seeds made it a little harder to score the tops before baking, and if I scored a little deeper, the loaves could open up a little more. But I was pretty happy with the result of a simple tasty bread, good by itself, and made even better with farmstead chèvre and jam made from local seasonal fruit.