Pane Siciliano (Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread) - We Knead To Bake # 4

This month we baked  Pane Siciliano - Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread for Aparna's We Knead To Bake.

On the 13th of December, feasts are held in Sicily and around the world celebrating the bravery of Santa Lucia. One way is by baking a special bread which is known as Pan Siciliano. What is unusual about this bread is that it is baked with semolina ( what we know in India as rava/ sooji). In Sicily (and Italy), the semolina they use for this bread is a specific grind of durum wheat called “semola di grano duro rimacinato” or just “rimacinato”, which translates as 'ground again'. This refers to semolina which is ground once more to break the coarser grain into finer flour.

If you can find rimancinato, then go ahead and use that. Otherwise use the finest grind semolina you can find.In India, there’s variety of semolina that is very fine (still grainy) that’s used for making laddoos, halwa and batters. Otherwise, just run the semolina you have in the chutney jar of your mixer-grinder or coffee grinder till it’s fine.I did just that!

Though there are a lot of recipes for making this bread in a shorter time, traditionally, this bread is made with a pre-ferment which the Sicilians/ Italians call “cresciuta”. This produces a more flavourful loaf of bread and isn’t all that much more work. This recipe calls for gluten which improves the texture of the loaf. I left this one out as I could not find it here.

The Pane Siciliano is generally shaped into one of two shapes – the “Occhi di Santa Lucia” meaning the “Eyes of St.Lucia” or the “Mafalda” meaning “Snake”. I chose the “mafalda” because I had earlier baked St. Lucia rolls in the “occhi” shape, and I had never tried shaping my bread into a snake!

I made the  Occhi di Santa Lucia or a scroll shaped loaf of bread,

[This video of Mary Ann Esposito making the Pane Siciliano with Peter Reinhart is quite helpful -]

Pane Siciliano (Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread)
(Adapted from Ciao Italia -  )

For the Cresciuta (Biga/ Pate Fermentee): 

1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the Dough: 

All the prepared Cresciuta 
2 to 2 1/2 cups fine durum semolina flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 cup lukewarm water (110° to 115°F)
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten - optional.I did not use.
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil

A little water for brushing on the bread
1/8 cup sesame seeds


First make the Cresciuta:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl and stand it aside for about 10 minutes till it is frothy. Stir in the flour with a fork and loosely cover the bowl. This mixture should be a little wet/ stringy.  Leave it in a slightly warm place for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. 

 The next morning, mix the dough for the bread. In a large bowl take 2 cups of semolina ,yeast ,honey,cresciuta.,oil

Add water and mix to form a dough. Add additional flour a little at a time and knead well until you have a soft and smooth ball of dough that is just short of sticky.I used just a handful extra semolina.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to coat well, then loosely cover and let the dough rise till about double in volume. This should take about 1 1/2 hours.Deflate the dough

Divide into 4 pieces.Roll  each  into a “rope” and shape as shown in the pics.

Transfer to a baking tray.Loosely cover and let the shaped dough rise for 2 hours till almost double in size. Lightly brush the top of the dough with water and then sprinkle the sesame seeds over this pressing them in lightly with your fingers. And that is Lil Dude helping me :)

Pre-heat your oven to 190C (375F) with an baking tray placed upside down in it. Place your 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.Cool on a rack completely before slicing.

This recipe makes 4 small 'loaves'. 

Bon Appetit...

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