While looking for a bit of history about Pané Siciliano, I came upon this quote, “Per noi, il pane è sacro”( For us, bread is sacred). A profound statement and so true of the Sicilians feelings regarding this festive bread served on December 13th, a day celebrating the intervention of Saint Lucia during the famine of 1582. Legend has it that on that December day, ships filled with grain miraculously appeared in the harbor. Starving, the people had no time to grind the grain into flour, but boiled the grains immediately. From that day forward, no wheat flour was used on that day. Source.
This Pané Siciliano recipe uses semolina flour exclusively, except for the biga, although I have seen recipes with some bread flour. By using all semolina, a crusty coarse grain bread is achieved, perfect for sandwiches and toast. Sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the bread before baking adds a delicious nutty flavor. Pané Siciliano is the bread pick of the month for We Knead to Bake, a monthly bread baking group on Facebook. Coming off of a busy holiday season admin, Aparna-My Diverse Kitchen thought this bread recipe would be easy and perfect to serve with a warming soup or a salad.
This video of Mary Ann Esposito making the Pané Siciliano with Peter Reinhart is very helpful in making and shaping the dough.
(Sicilian Sesame Seeded Semolina Bread)
Adapted from Ciao Italia
For the Cresciuta (Biga-Pate Fermentee)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the Dough
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (110° to 115°F)
2 teaspoons honey
All of the biga
2-2 1/2 cups fine semolina or durum semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
A little water for brushing on the bread
1/8 cup sesame seeds
First make the biga by dissolving yeast in the warm water in a small bowl. Let stand for about 10 minutes until frothy. Stir in the flour with a fork and loosely cover the bowl. Let stand in a warm place at least 4 hours or overnight.
Next day, mix the dough for the bread. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor, dissolve the yeast in the warm water mixed with honey. Let stand for about 10 minutes until frothy. Add all of the biga and mix well. 2 cups semolina, gluten, salt and olive oil. Mix well and add as much semolina as needed so you have a smooth ball of dough.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then loosely cover and let rise until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. When doubled, deflate and roll out into a rope about 30-inches long. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Curl the dough back and forth into a backwards S-shape, leaving a 6-7-inch tail. Fold the tail over the shaped loaf.
Loosely cover the shaped dough and let rise for 2 hours until almost doubled. Lightly brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds, pressing down lightly with your fingers.
Pre-heat your oven to 375°F with a baking tray placed upside down in it. Place the baking sheet with the dough onto the upside down baking tray in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes until bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack until completely cooled before slicing. Makes 1 medium-sized loaf.
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