Semolina Sandwich Loaf
After an extended process of settling back in the Northeast and a long pause in baking bread, I am back, excited to try new recipes and to warm my own kitchen with many fresh loaves. I recently moved into my own apartment after three years of living in college dormitories. Having my own kitchen, making conscious decisions about the source and quality of my food, hosting my friends and loved ones for long, slow meals, and being blessed with my own oven, I am incredibly content with my current situation. As I enter my final school year at the university, I hope to incorporate baking into my weekly routine so that I am never in want of good quality bread.
The first loaf from my oven came out today. I decided upon a sandwich pan loaf, appropriate for school and packing sandwiches for lunch between classes. It is a unique recipe that I found in Daniel Leader’s Local Breads. The bread is made from a straight dough and only semolina flour, yielding a gorgeously golden, high-rising loaf. Over a delicious Sunday breakfast of buckwheat pancakes, fresh fruit, & yoghurt I read Leader’s introduction to his chapter on breads from the Altamura region of Italy. If you have a copy of the book I strongly urge you to read it. It speaks to the importance of local traditions and the unique flavors and breads that arise from them. In Altamura in the province of Puglia wheat has been grown in the same fields since the time of the Romans, the same ovens have been baking bread for hundreds of years, & the sourdough starters or madre acida made only with semolina flour have been passed down for generations using methods started in the Middle Ages or earlier. The result of this passion for continuing a local tradition is an exquisite variety of semolina loaves. I am eager to try many of the other recipes that Leader provides as I have fallen in love with the earthy & subtle flavor of semolina.
Leader provides some good tips that I will pass on. Firstly, make sure that your have high quality semolina flour. It should be finely ground and is sometimes labeled as “fancy” or “extra fancy” durum flour. When you rub it between your fingers it should feel similar to powder & should not have a trace of grit to it. Also, since semolina flour is ground from only the endosperm of the wheat berry has a high gliadin & glutenin content. When combined with water these two proteins form gluten, which in turn provides structure and integrity to bread. As a result, loaves made with semolina flour rise superbly in the oven and have an evenly spaced crumb. With that said, semolina doughs must be kneaded for a longer time to ensure that all of the gluten is fully developed. If kneading by hand, as I did, Leader suggests kneading for up to eighteen minutes. I continually checked the level of gluten using the windowpane test to determine when to stop kneading.
The intense wheaty & rich olive oil aroma of this bread combined with a deep golden crust and tender light crumb make this perfect for sandwiches or eating with just a dab of butter. I’m already brainstorming the delicious lunches that I will have on this bread. I’m thinking the first slice will be topped with late summer tomatoes, sprinkled with coarse sea salt & basil, and decadently drizzled with olive oil.
Semolina Sandwich Loaf (Pane in cassetta di Altamura)
Yield: 1 sandwich loaf (885 g)
300 g water
5 g instant yeast
500 g fine semolina (durum) flour
15 g granulated sugar
50 g extra-virgin olive oil
10 g sea salt
Pour the water into a large bowl. Add the yeast, flour, sugar, olive oil, & salt. Stir until a rough dough forms. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer the dough to an oiled contained. Let ferment at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaf pan with vegetable oil. On an oiled work surface, shape the dough into a pan loaf. Place the loaf into the pan, seam side down, and then cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let the loaf rise at room temperature until it rises to just above the rim of the pan, 1 to 1.5 hours.
About 20 minutes before the loaf is finished proofing, preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle position.
Place the loaf in the oven. Bake until the loaf pulls away from the sides of the pan and the crust turns a deep golden brown, 35-45 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the oven. Loosen the loaf from the pan by banging the edges of the pan, invert it onto a wire rack, and then flip it right side up. Cool the bread completely before cutting into.
Make sure to check out other yeasty creations this week at the Wild Yeast Blog YeastSpotting.