Pane Siciliano is a simple semolina bread crusted with sesame seeds. It goes very well with soup.
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. 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.
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. If you do not have it, leave it out. I have not used it in my recipe.
We Knead To Bake #24 : Pane Siciliano (Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread)
(Adapted from Ciao Italia - http://www.ciaoitalia.com/seasons/19/1919/sicilian-bread
For the Cresciuta (Biga/ Pate Fermentee):
Lukewarm water .... 1/4 cup
Active dry yeast ..... 1/4 tsp
All-purpose flour .... 1/4 cup
For the Dough:
Active dry yeast ..... 1/2 tsp
Lukewarm water (110° to 115°F) ... 1 cup
Honey ..... 2 tsp
All the prepared Cresciuta
Fine durum semolina flour ... 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups
Vital wheat gluten ... 1/2 tsp ( I skipped it )
Salt ... 1 tsp
Olive oil ... 1 tbsp
A little water for brushing on the bread
Sesame seeds ... 1/8 cup
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, , Dissolve the yeast in the warm water mixed with the honey. Let it stand for 10 minutes till it is frothy.
Add the cresciuta and mix well.
Mix together 2 cups of the semolina, gluten and salt and add it to the bowl with the olive oil. Mix well and then add as much more semolina as is necessary until you have a smooth ball of dough
Add additional flour a little at a time and blend well
Now you have a soft and smooth ball of dough that is just short of sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to coat well, then loosely cover and let the dough rise.
This should take about 1 1/2 hours. Now the dough is risen to double its quantity.
Deflate the dough, and knead it lightly.
Roll it out into a “rope” that is about 30” long.
Place baking parchment on your baking tray, grease it lightly, and then gently lift up the rope of dough and place it on the baking tray. Curl the dough back and forth on itself leaving a 6 or 7 inch tail. Fold the tail over the shaped loaf. Do not tuck it under the loaf.
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.
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 one small to medium sized loaf .
This video of Mary Ann Esposito making the Pane Siciliano with Peter Reinhart is quite helpful - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX44EtUr19o
Linking this to :
My Diverse Kitchen - We Knead To Bake #24 : Pane Siciliano (Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread)