Pane Siciliano is an Italian, well, OK, Sicilian, recipe that is based on using Semolina flour, the same flour used to make pasta. We used the coarse grind, and the results were delightful. Next time, we'll use an egg wash to help the sesame seeds stick better and to provide more sheen to the loaf.
This recipe is modified from a recipe in "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. As usual, we modified it to be a sourdough recipe.
This recipe is for 3 loaves, and will take 3 days to complete.
3 cups thick starter (see below)
1 3/4 cups semolina flour
1 3/4 cups high gluten or bread flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP honey
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (90 to 100F)
Start by making the thick starter. This is, more or less, a sourdough version of pate fermente, which is a slightly aged dough. The aging gives the bread more, and better, taste. Start by mixing:
1 cup active 100% hydration sourdough starter,
3 tbsp Water
1/4 cup Bread flour,
1 1/8 cups All Purpose Flour, and
1/4 tsp Salt
Mix well, knead, and then cover and allow to rise until almost doubled. Put container in the refrigerator at least overnight, or as long as 3 days.
When you are ready to begin making the Pane Siciliano, remove the thick starter from the refrigerator, cut it into smallish pieces, cover them again, and let them warm for 1 to 2 hours.
Mix the warmed thick starter pieces with the 1 1/4 cups of water and mix until smooth. Add 1 1/4 tsp salt, 2 TBSP olive oil, and 1 TBSP honey. Then add 1 3/4 cups semolina flour and 1 3/4 cups high gluten or bread flour. Knead well. If the dough won't come together, you may add as much as 1/4 additional cup of water.
Cover the dough, set aside for several hours, until the dough is just about doubled.
Try not to deflate the dough as you cut it into 3 roughly equal sized pieces, form them into baguettes, and then coil them into the distinctive shape of this bread. To do this, grab each end of the baguette with a hand. Start coiling the dough from the outside to the center, coiling in opposite directions with each hand.
Spray/mist the dough with water, sprinkle with (optional) sesame seeds. Then spray/mist the dough with oil. Put the loaves on a baking sheet, loosely cover with clingwrap or Saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, pull the loaves out of the refrigerator. If they are done, the loaves won't spring back when poked gently. If the loaves spring back, let them continue to rise at room temperature until when poked they retain a dimple. This took about 2 hours here. About an hour before the rise is done, pre-heat the oven to 500F, with a pan on the bottom of the oven. Oven stones or tiles are not needed for this recipe.
To take this bread up another notch in flavor, when you pull it out of the refrigerator, spray it with water and then sprinkle sesame seeds on it - there is something really wonderful about toasted sesame seeds, and it really works well with the semolina!
When the oven is hot and the dough is ready, slide the trays in. Pour a cup of hot water into the pan on the bottom of the oven.
Then spray the oven with a plant mister full of water and close the oven door. Thirty seconds later, open the oven door and mist the oven again. Repeat this two more times, then turn the oven down to 450F and let the bread bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, turn the bread around 180 degrees so it can brown evenly, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. When the bread is nice shade of brown, pull it out of the oven, let it cool, and enjoy!