Joe made his insanely delicious shrimp penne with vodka sauce for dinner not long ago and I wanted to make some really good bread to go with it. I started browsing through my recipes and chose this recipe made with semolina flour. When I checked my ingredient inventory, I found that there was just enough semolina flour hiding behind the farro and the cornmeal, so I made this easy but impressive golden Italian semolina bread that is molto delizioso with the shrimp and vodka sauce.
I first discovered semolina flour a couple of years ago after we bought the pasta attachment set for our KitchenAid stand mixer. At first we just used all-purpose flour for the pasta, but my research uncovered some recipes that used semolina flour. At that time, I had to tour a lot of large and small stores looking for semolina flour before I finally tracked it down at a tiny Italian specialty shop hidden in a somewhat run-down Clearwater strip mall. Hoo-boy, the search was worth it because semolina makes such beautiful silky fresh pasta! Semolina is a high-protein flour made from durum wheat that can be used for yeast breads, porridge, cakes, and fresh pasta. Not long after trying it in pasta, I started making bread recipes with semolina flour and was surprised and delighted with the light texture and great flavor that it gives the bread. Fortunately, semolina flour is pretty easy to find these days.
This is the semolina bread dough immediately after I mixed it. There are no eggs in this recipe, that sunny yellow is the natural color of the semolina flour.
This particular recipe has diastatic malt powder as an optional ingredient and I’m betting that it’s something you’ve never heard of. It’s made from sprouted barley and is used in yeast breads in small quantities for a higher rise, lighter texture, and better browning which are all a result of enzymes that free up naturally occurring sugars in the flour. I looked for diastatic malt powder for several years but couldn’t find it anywhere in stores in Minnesota or Florida, then I finally found it here at a good price. Some stores sell non-diastatic malt liquid or powder, but that’s an entirely different ingredient used for flavor and color; I keep it on hand for making bagels and pretzels.
For a long time, I wanted to get a baking stone for making pizza and artisan breads, but I could never find one that I felt was of sufficiently high quality at a price I felt comfortable paying. One day, I happened to find these Dough-Joe baking stones on Amazon and after reading the reviews, I decided that I had finally found the product that was perfect for us. The stones come in a set of 5 and are each 9″ by 6″, and 3/4″ thick.
One of the features that I like best about the Dough-Joe stones is that they store with a small footprint. Other baking stones are either too small to use for larger pizza or multiple loaves, or else they’re a large size that’s awkard to store. Many are too thin to hold heat properly and are easily broken. But the Dough-Joe stones are thick but easy to move and store. We’ve had them for a little over two years and couldn’t be happier with them. They’re great for pizza, but I also use them whenever I make breads that aren’t baked in a pan.
For pizza, we put the stones on the oven rack, crank the oven up to it’s highest heat (550°F), and preheat it for 45 to 60 minutes. Pizza bakes in about 8 minutes with a crust that is a beautiful golden brown and crispy. For breads like this recipe, I preheat the oven for about 30 minutes to whatever temperature the recipe specifies.
I store the baking stones nestled between the waffle iron and the blender on the ledge in our kitchen.
Here’s what they look like in the oven. I shape the bread or pizza and I place it on parchment on top of a pizza peel to rise, then use the peel to slide the dough and parchment into and out of the oven.
After my bread dough’s bulk proof, I turned it out onto my lightly oiled work surface, divided it in half, pre-shaped it into two long rolls, and let them rest for 10 minutes so the gluten would relax.
Then I did the final shaping, making one portion into a baguette and the other into what’s called a lunetta in Italian and placed them on our pizza peel.
A closeup of the lunetta shows that it’s made like the letter “S”.
And here are the two loaves after they’ve risen and are ready to bake; like the bulk proof, this only took about 30 minutes because of the diastatic malt. Notice how the loaves are now almost touching.
See that dark shadow at the center of the photo below? That’s where I did the finger poke test to see if the dough was ready to go into the oven. I poked my finger into the dough about 1/2″ and the deoression started to fill in slowly, which meant the loaves were ready to bake. If the dough had immediately popped right back out, it would need a bit more time to finish rising.
I gently brushed the loaves with beaten egg white and sprinkled them heavily with white sesame seeds.
The baked lunetta is beautifully browned and cooling.
Try this recipe for easy but impressive golden Italian semolina bread the next time you want something special to accompany your homemade soup or pasta dish.
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Thanks, and buon appetito!
- 2-1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
- 1-1/4 cups (10 fluid oz) lukewarm water (110°F)
- 2 1/2 cups (14-1/2 oz, 411 grams) semolina flour
- 1 cup (4-1/4 oz, 120 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
- Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix well.
- Knead to make a smooth, fairly stiff dough, 6 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer using the dough hook.
- Shape the dough into a ball and let it rise in a lightly oiled container unill it's nearly doubled in bulk.
- Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half.
- Shape each half into an 18" long rope, then coil one end to the center and coil the other end in the opposite direction to make an "S" shape.
- Place the loaves on parchment or a ightly greased baking sheet, then grease waxed paper or plastic wrap and gently cover the loaves.
- If using a baking stone, preheat the oven to 350°F for at least 30 minutes.
- Let the loaves rise untill they're puffy and when you gently press a finger about 1/2" into the dough, the depression fills in slowly; if it pops right back out, the dough needs to continue rising a bit longer.
- Gently brush the loaves with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
- Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, till they're golden brown and have reached 200°F when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the middle of the loaf.
- Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack.
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