pane siciliano

Year of Bread: Pane Siciliano (Semolina Bread)

I’m a little obsessed with semolina right now. It’s been steadily making its way into my regular kitchen rotation over the past few months. David Leibovitz’s fresh pasta dough recipe with a healthy dose of semolina was a complete revelation in my pasta-making endeavors. Discovering semolina-based gnocchi alla Romana made a huge dent in my previous understanding of Italian food. And of course, semolina makes a great coating for baking surfaces when baking bread.

pane siciliano

I know I say it every few weeks about a new bread recipe, but Pane Siciliano might just be my new favorite. It’s simple and clean-tasting, but with a complex, interesting flavor. It had a decently long shelf life for a homemade, relatively lean bread. The last remnants on my 3-loaf batch ended up as a small batch of roasted garlic croutons, which I had vague plans to use as a soup topping. They ended up as an afternoon snack. 10/10 would snack again.

pane siciliano


Pane Siciliano

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, yields 3 medium-sized loaves


  • 16oz  pâte fermentée
  • 8oz bread flour
  • 8oz semolina flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 10-12 oz water, lukewarm
  • More semolina flour for dusting
  • Optional: Sesame seeds for topping (I love sesame seeds, but in my experience more end up on the cutting board/plate than in my mouth, so I usually omit these.)
  1. Day 1: Prep the pâte fermentéeSee my post on French bread for instructions!
  2. Day 2: Bring pâte fermentée to room temperature for about an hour before making dough. Cut it into 8-10 pieces and leave covered while warming up.
  3. Mix the dough: Combine the flours, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl, then work in the pâte fermentée pieces. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and 10 oz water, then drizzle over the flour-pâte mixture until ingredients come together into a loose ball. Add remaining water if dough is too dry.
  4. Knead the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and pliable. It should pass the windowpane test.
  5. Let rise dough at room temperature for 2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
  6. Shape loaves: Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, careful to degas as little as possible. Shape as for baguettes into 24-inch lengths, then coil ends in to form an S shape. Place shaped loaves on a pan dusted with semolina flour, then mist with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  7. Let loaves rise again for 90 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500°F. Remember to place a steam pan in the bottom of the oven. If you’d like to bake them the next day and extend the dough’s maturation (recommended by Reinhart), you can place them in the fridge before rising. Then next day, let them rise for at least 2 hours before baking.
  8. Bake the loaves: Immediately before baking, mist loaves with water and sprinkle on sesame seeds. Place pan in oven with 1/2 cup of hot water in the steam pan. Mist the oven walls with water in 30 second intervals 3 times. Lower heat to 450°F for 15 minutes, then rotate pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Finished loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom.
  9. Let loaves rest for at least an hour before slicing and eating.


pain de campagne

Pain de Campagne (In Epi Format!)

Anybody who’s ever gone into the Ferry Building in San Francisco will recognize the shape of this bread as one of the more popular ones at Acme Baking Co. It’s meant to look like a sheaf of wheat (clever clever), but I like it because it breaks apart into easy portions. Pain de campagne (or “country bread”) is a solid bread, straightforwardly simple and perfect for dipping in olive oil, slathering in butter, or sopping up sauces.

pain de campagne dough

Reinhart’s recipe is ever so slightly enriched with a little olive oil, so it doesn’t dry out as quickly as French bread. It has a touch of rye flour to make the flavor profile a little more interesting and complex. You can shape it practically any way you want, from simple loaves to rings to this fun epi. Pain de Campagne is a fun variation for when you want to make a loaf of bread that’s more interesting than plain-Jeanne French bread, but still want something versatile and accessible to everyone at the table. Except for your gluten-intolerant friends. Sorry, guys.

pain de campagne epi

Pain de Campagne

  • 3 cups pâte fermentée*
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1/3 cup rye flour**
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • Semolina flour for dusting

*Make pâte fermentée at least the night (or up to three days) before you plan to bake the bread. For the recipe, check out my post on French Bread.

**Allergic to rye? You can substitute whole-wheat flour instead.

  1. Prepare the starter: Dechill the pâte fermentée before making the dough. Cut it into 8-10 pieces and cover, then sit for at least an hour.
  2. Make the dough: Stir together the dry ingredients, then knead in the pâte fermentée. Add water and stir until everything comes together into a coarse ball. Add a bit of water or flour if the dough feels too dry or wet — it should be soft and pliable, but not sticky
  3. Kneading: Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead for 8-10 minutes. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81F when it’s done. Return to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled.
  5. Shaping the loaves: Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface, trying to deflate it as much as possible. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces (use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut it cleanly and avoid degassing). Shape the dough into boules, baguettes or epis.
    1. To shape epis: shape into a baguette and place the dough on a sheet pan, covered in parchment that has been dusted in semolina flour. Then use a sharp pair of scissors to make angled cuts into the bread, alternating sides, without cutting all the way through. Fan the sections out into the “sheaf of wheat” shape. Mine were not as gorgeous as some bakeries, but it out worked okay.
  6. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour. It will rise to 1.5x its original size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500F.
  7. Transfer the loaves to the oven, leaving them on the sheet pan if shaped into epis. Then pour the hot half cup of water into the steam pan and shut the oven. After 30 seconds, open the door and mist the walls of the oven with water (or sprinkle some in with your hand). Repeat twice more, then turn the oven down to 450°F.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn pan and continue to bake for 10-20 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing (or in this case, tearing apart) and eating.


pain a l'ancienne

Year of Bread: Pain a l’Ancienne

It’s commonly said that cooking is an art and baking is a science. And that’s pretty true; baked goods are a lot less forgiving when it comes to temperature, ingredient ratios and even minor tweaks to key ingredients. I’ve had many baking flops in which “I’ll just use this instead” ends in cookies that melt together, bread loaves that don’t rise, and cakes that taste awful. This bread takes the science side of bread to it’s logical extreme, with great results.

Bread Science!

The basic concepts of how bread works are pretty simple. Leavened bread relies on two things: gluten and yeast. Wheat flour has a lot of gluten in it, which is “developed” when you knead it; the long strands of gluten get jumbled up into stretchy webs of a sort, which is what gives the bread its crusty outside, chewy insides, and the elasticity it needs to rise. Yeast, the other primary ingredient in leavened bread, feeds on the sugars in bread and produces CO2 (yeast farts!). These CO2 bubbles get trapped in the glutinous dough, which stretches and forms air pockets (kind of like a balloon. If you let it rise for long enough this process will keep going until the bubbles get big enough that they burst through the gluten web and the dough deflates. When you bake bread, you essentially freeze the rising action by solidifying the structure of the bread and killing the yeast.

Pain a l’Ancienne relies on an exaggerated version of this process — along with slow fermentation practices, to produce more flavorful, crusty bread. The dough is relatively wet, which provides a great environment for long, stretchy gluten molecules to form.  It starts with ice water, which keeps the yeast from “waking up” while you hydrate the flour, and continues with a night in the fridge to keep temperatures low. Very slowly, the yeast start doing their thing, at which point the starches in the flour have broken down into easy to eat (for yeast) sugars. In a nutshell: in theory, you can get the maximum amount of flavor with this method.fermenting dough

My Loaves

Basically, this bread has all the floppiness of ciabatta, but with the attempted shaping of a baguette. It wasn’t easy to work with at all, and I ended up with three very deflated-looking dough blobs. Not exactly appetizing. To put it nicely, they baked up looking extremely rustic. However…

They tasted great! The crumb was moist and creamy, and they had a nice crusty exterior. The flavor was well-developed and wheaty, much like a traditional baguette. And much like a baguette, they don’t last long. They’re awesome on the first two days, but after that they’re best for feeding ducks at the pond.

I’m not sure if I’ll make this Pain a l’Ancienne again. It was really fussy to work with, and while the results were delicious, I wouldn’t say that the pain-in-the-butt process of making them was worth it compared to other recipes that I like just as much. It was a fun exploration in the science behind bread, and I’d recommend every ambitious bread baker try it…once!sad bread dough

…No Recipe?

Because I didn’t love this recipe– and because I didn’t make any changes to the original — I’m not posting the recipe for Pain a l’Anciennce. Buuuut I’ll be back next week with more recipes and some fun experiments in the kitchen. 🙂




multigrain bread

Year of Bread: Everyday Multigrain Bread

The kind of bread I want to eat every day is grainy, flavorful, but neutral — something that I can slice and eat by itself, or toast, or make a sandwich. The kind of bread you’d get at the store off the shelf. But better.

This is that kind of bread.

Like the Anadama from back at the beginning of my Year of Bread, this multigrain bread starts with a cornmeal soaker. It’s not a preferment in the technical sense (no baker’s yeast), but it does help with developing flavor and softening the whole grains to make the final product better. I used a truly multigrain mix of cornmeal, quinoa, oat and rye flakes, and wheat germ. The original recipe called for wheat bran, but I made a substitution since I had a hard time finding wheat bran (and like the taste and texture of wheat germ better).

Multigrain breads usually end up being a hodgepodge of whatever’s in the cupboard, but I kind of like that about them. You could add a sprinkling of wheat bran, oats or even sunflower seeds to the top of this bread, but in general my experience has been that such things just end up falling off anyway, and this bread has enough flavor and texture that it doesn’t need any further embellishment.

multigrain bread


Everyday Multigrain Bread

Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Yields one 2 lb loaf. 



  • 3 tbsp rolled oats, or a combination of oat and rye flakes
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp wheat germ (or wheat bran)
  • 1 tbsp quinoa
  • 1/4 cup water, room temperature


  • 3 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 3 tbsp cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water, room temperature
  1. Prep the soaker: The night before you want to make your bread, combine the dry soaker ingredients in a small bowl, then cover with water. Stir with a spoon to combine– you might want to add just a few teaspoons more water to make sure that everything is hydrated.
  2. Mix the dough: The next day, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the hydrated soaker and the cooked brown rice and stir to combine, then add the honey, milk and water. The dough will be very sticky at first, so keep stirring it in the bowl and add flour as needed until it comes together — if you turn it out for kneading too soon, it will just stick to everything. After a few minutes of mixing the dough should firm up a bit and you can turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead by hand for 12-15 minutes.
  3. Ferment the dough: Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 90 minutes; the dough should double in size.
  4. Shape the loaf: This bread does really well in a loaf pan! Grease your loaf pan to prep, then carefully turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Gently press it into a rectangle, then roll up, pressing the seam of the loaf as you go to form a tight surface, until the dough is a neatly shaped log. Place in the loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for another 90 minutes; the dough will crest fully above the lip of the pan.
  5. Bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 350° when the bread is getting close to fully risen. When the oven is ready, place the pan in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake for about 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° and continue baking for 20-30 minutes. The loaf will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped from the bottom when it’s done.
  6. Immediately remove the bread from the loaf pan and transfer to a rack to cool. Let cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
marble rye bread slice

Year of Bread: Marble Rye

Seinfeld fans will remember that the much-coveted loaf of marble rye was the source of much anxiety and borderline elder abuse in the episode “The Rye,” but you don’t have to go to New York to have some of your own– this recipe for marble rye from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice isn’t too hard to make and is delicious.

Don’t Overwork the Dough

Now that I’ve been working with rye flour for a few weeks, I’ve learned some interesting stuff about it as an alternative to plain ol’ wheat flour. Rye flour has some unique properties, most importantly that it doesn’t have as much gluten as wheat flour, so it needs to be treated a little differently when making bread dough. The intensive kneading we do with wheat flour dough is meant to maximize gluten development, but because rye flour has less gluten, it won’t develop those long gluten strands to the same extent. In fact, rye flour can become gummy if it’s overworked, so it’s important to not overknead the dough.

As a result of its less-efficient gluten development, rye dough tends to be less stretchy than wheat dough, and it does a poor job of forming air bubbles as bread rises. Rye bread will generally be denser, with smaller holes than a wheat bread. It also doesn’t benefit as much from long fermentation and long rises as much as wheat flour. This recipe has a combination of high-gluten wheat and rye flours, so this marble rye isn’t as dense as many 100% rye bread formulas, and you’ll have a little more flexibility when it comes to working with the dough.

marble rye dough balls

Balancing Act

The only real challenge with this bread is that you’re using two different doughs — a dark rye, which has an extra ingredient for darker coloring, and light rye. If you end up with two doughs of different consistencies, they might not bake at the same rate– which would mean a loaf with some parts overcooked and some parts undercooked.

This isn’t the hardest task in the world, but it is important to check that the feel of each dough portion is (more or less) similar. You might have to add a little extra flour or water to one (or both) of the doughs to get them to the right consistency. As long as you’re aware of this as you’re preparing each portion, it’s nothing to stress out over.

marble rye complete

Marble Rye Bread

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Yields 1 large loaf. 


Light Rye

  • 3/4 c white rye flour*
  • 1 1/2 c unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast**
  • 1/2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 5-6 ounces of water, room temperature

Dark Rye

  • 3/4 c white rye flour*
  • 1 1/2 c unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast**
  • 1/2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 5-6 ounces of water, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder or coffee powder dissolved in 2 tbsp water
    • or 1/2 tbsp liquid caramel coloring

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water until frothy


*Finding white rye flour can be surprisingly challenging. You can substitute dark rye flour with a portion replaced with regular bread flour to somewhat the same effect; for this recipe swap 1/4 cup of dark rye flour for wheat flour.

**If you’re worried, as many new bakers are, about your yeast not rising, be sure that you use yeast from the same batch/package for each dough segment. That way if it doesn’t rise well, they’ll flop equally. 🙂

To ensure that the rising time for each dough section is correct, I like to premix the dry ingredients for each section before I start mixing in the wet ingredients. 

  1. Make the Light Rye Dough –  Combine the dry ingredients for the “light rye” in a large mixing bowl, then add the molasses, shortening, and 5 ounces of water. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, adding the extra water as needed. Transfer to a floured counter and knead for 4-6 minutes by hand. The dough should feel supple and pliable, and shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Make the Dark Rye Dough – As with light rye, combine the dry ingredients from the “dark rye” section, then add wet ingredients. Stir until a ball forms, adding water or flour to adjust the consistency. Aim to match the consistency of the light rye dough. Transfer to a floured counter and knead for 4-6 minutes by hand, then transfer to an oiled bowl.
  3. Ferment Doughs – Let both doughs rise for about 90 minutes, or until they are doubled in size.
  4. Shape the loaf – For a swirl effect, turn one of the doughs out onto a lightly floured counter and press into a rectangle, then repeat with the second, making the inside dough slightly smaller. Roll them into a spiral log. For a truly “marbled” loaf, cut each dough into 6 evenly-sized pieces and press them into a pile. Regardless of which method you choose, form the log of dough into a tight batard. Cover the loaf with an oiled piece of plastic wrap on a baking sheet and let rise for 60-90 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Bake the loaf – When the loaf is ready to go in the oven, gently brush the egg wash over the entire surface of the loaf, then place the loaf in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, turning once halfway through for even baking. The loaves should make a hollow sound when tapped from the bottom.
  6. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving.