I would really prefer not to bake bread at all. I love to bake bread. Perhaps there is a conflict here? This is the thing. Baking really good breads of the kind I prefer for everyday use is difficult, and better done by persons of skill and practice, who have bread ovens to work with. I would happily buy all my bread if I could get the sort of thing I like near my home, without too much trouble. I have already gone on at some length about how much trouble that is.
It is a nonetheless a great pleasure to make breads of special kinds on occasion, and I always enjoy doing that, given enough time. Yeast, flour, salt-handling these elemental ingredients is a time honored therapeutic exercise. The smell of bread baking competes with the smell of roasting meat or poultry for most intoxicating home aroma. What's not to like?
I resist developing the need for home baked bread on a regular basis, because it is a demanding practice, and uses a lot of time which could be spent on other things-including other cooking. And I do have a full time job, which can also interfere with cooking, reading, traveling, and so on. However, I think I may be developing a yen for this loaf that's a little scary.
After greedily consuming (over 2 weeks, but still), my first two round Sicilian-style breads, I just had to make a semolina batard (fatter, shorter baguette) or filone (same, with pointy ends). For one thing, I wanted to see how the flavor would be with less yeast and a longer rise. For another, I thought that this sort of bread would be perfect for bruscetta-except that my round bread slices were inappropriate shapes. Most importantly, however, my last loaf was gone, and, hard though it may be to believe, I really hadn't had my fill of semolina bread when that happened. This is, no doubt, related to the impulse which sometimes causes me to eat the same thing for dinner several days in a row. Or longer.
Hence, too, this change about of the recipe. The only difference in ingredients was the addition of a teaspoon of malt, and reducing the total yeast to 1 tsp. However, I started the bread night before baking, with a little amateur biga. This was nice and bubbly and ripe the next morning, when I combined it with the remaining ingredients. I proceeded as before, except I shaped the dough into a batard, rather than a round, and slit it before baking. (Just in case anyone wants to try this version, I will add the complete recipe-as revised-at this post's end. It occurs to me that reading these directions, unless actually in the mood to make this bread, could be unspeakably boring.)
Despite the decrease in the yeast, the bread rose amazingly fast again, and blew up quite a bit in an hour on both risings. Baked, it turned out to be noticeably bigger than either of the others. Who knew? Though I actually have a rectangular reed banneton, I didn't use it, because I thought it would be too big. This bread is plenty big enough to have filled it, however. Perhaps I will use it next time, as it could be cute with the beehive-y pattern the basket reeds create.
No huge surprise-this bread tastes better than the others. In fact I would say, immodestly, that it is sensationally good. Oh, and the crust is snappy as hell-I really love it, and I'm afraid I'm going to be making it a lot, in the absence of some sort of intervention. Help!
I think I'll see if I can find me some unhulled sesame seeds for next time. I should probably note here that I am inordinately fond of sesame seeds-if you don't care for them, you might not love the bread as much as I do-they are an important part of the flavor.
I have written before of my fondness for bruschetta as a showcase for bread, as well as a delivery system for other goodies. Bruschetta begins with the grilling of bread slices, which are then generally rubbed with a slice of cut garlic. Good bread, of a sturdy nature and flavor is a prerequisite. A drizzle of very nice olive oil is usually applied next. Almost any tasty topping you can imagine is delightful.
This is one kind of bruschetta I made with this loaf:
Rapini and White Bean Spread Bruschetta: This one makes a light meal unto itself. I wouldn't serve it as an appetizer-it is more of a lunch.
4 slices hearty bread, grilled, with garlic rub and drizzle of olive oil
Cooked or canned white beans preferably cannelini 1 cup
rapini 1/3 lb.
olive oil 2 tbsp
garlic clove finely cut -one
pinch aleppo pepper flakes
pepper freshly ground
Mash room temperature beans with salt, pepper and a dot of the vinegar. Parboil rapini, drain, chop fairly finely, then saute with most of the olive oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes. Spread beans on the toasts. Divide rapini among the four toasts. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, and top with a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. You can best eat these with a knife and fork. I am planing on some of Sam's Chicken Liver Spread, to finish off this loaf.
Here endeth this post, except for:
Addendum: Details, Revised Semolina Bread Recipe
The night before you bake mix:
1/2 cup semolina flour(finest, silkiest that you can find-or "gold durum" flour, if available. If it seems coarse, grind it up a bit in your blender. It should be gold, not white or gray)
1/2 cup King Arthur's
Unbleached All Purpose Flour*
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp instant (not quick rising) dry yeast
Cover and let sit over night.
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 1/2 cups King Arthur's Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 cup water
1 tsp malt
1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
tray ice cubes
Put semolina flour and 1 cup of the AP flour in bowl of stand mixer. Add oil and water to biga and pour biga into mixer bowl. Using paddle attachment, combine until just mixed. Cover bowl and let stand 15 minutes. (important-do not omit this break!) Add malt, additional yeast, and salt. With the dough hook, knead about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky. If it is too wet, add more of the flour. It should clean the sides and bottom of the bowl as it whips around.
Place dough in lightly oiled bowl. If it is very sticky to handle, flour your hands. Cover and let rise until doubled. This may not take more than an hour. Shape into desired form- round or long. If you are free form shaping, place the loaf on a sheet of parchment on a bread peel, or on the bottom of a turned-over sheet pan. Handle lightly where possible, to avoid bursting all the lovely air bubbles. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of your bread sparingly with water. Sprinkle generously with the seeds, pressing them in a bit . Cover loosely and let rise about 1 hour more.
Meanwhile preheat your oven very high. If you have an ordinary stove, crank it up as high as it will go.
It is best to have an oven stone or tiles heating up in there. If you don't have either, you will need to bake the bread on your sheet pan.
When the bread is ready to go- slide it (with parchment) onto the baking stone and close the oven door. Get 4 ice cubes, open the oven, and toss them in, so there is a burst of steam-closing the door right away. Turn oven down to 425F, and bake 15 minutes. Open door, and slide parchment out from bread. Turn bread 180 degrees. continue to bake until deeply gold, and sounding hollow when rapped on the bottom. This took me a total of 50 minutes altogether for the batard shape.It will vary with your chosen shape, and of course, your oven.
*If you do not use KA Unbleached all-purpose flour, you should substitute a mix of 50% ordinary all-purpose, and 50% bread flour for it. Shaping instructions are not included, as that is a Whole Big Thing.
Lots of books have pretty good picture-instructions on this. And then you practice. If you haven't the time for that,but would like to make some bread Right Now, I think a free form ball would bake up very nicely.
I'm sure you could make this bread hand kneading it too, but I haven't tried that, so I don't feel up to giving directions. It is a bit of a sticky dough, but not so sticky that hand kneading is out of the question.