Semolina Wheat Bread
Baking bread is one of those things that is really hard to find time to do when you’re in grad school. I am very rarely home for more than two hours at a time, and even the famed No-Knead bread requires some pretty tricky timing maneuvers. So, since I’m on spring break this week and have all kinds of time, instead of buying a fresh loaf of bread for my morning toast-and-peanut-butter breakfasts, I decided to bake myself up a loaf of something tasty. Well, something hopefully tasty. My skills with all things dough-related tend to vary widely, but yesterday I was up for a gamble. And thankfully, despite the fact that the dough was a pain in the arse and the bottom of the loaf stuck to the pan and tore clean off despite having oiled said pan, this bread is something of a triumph.
I first got the idea of using semolina flour bread from Panera, actually. When I was in San Diego at Christmas, I went to Panera for the first time so my mom and I could buy bread for dinner. I was immediately intrigued by their semolina loaf, so we bought it, and were not disappointed. The texture was perfectly grainy and the flavor was just a little different, and a lot delicious. Ever since then, semolina bread has been in the back of my mind, but the aforementioned grad school responsibilities kept me from semolina experimentation. But isn’t that what spring break is for?
I searched The Fresh Loaf, my first resource for all my bread baking questions and found an easy looking recipe for semolina bread. I wanted to add some whole wheat flour in there, as well, and I wanted to use my extra special bread baking pot. I also used active dry yeast instead of instant, so I went ahead and changed the recipe up a bit, but it still turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. The only thing that sucked is that the dough was SO STICKY it was making me crazy! It stuck to everything: my hands, the bowl, the counter, the extra special bread baking pot. I have issues with sticky dough, as this is often my biggest problem making pizza, too. Does anyone out there know what to do about sticky dough? I ended up adding probably oven half a cup of extra flour to attempt to smooth this dough out and making it kneadable, but it didn’t really help that much. Sigh. Oh well, I’m willing to forget its clinginess because it really makes some lovely toast, and it goes perfectly with peanut butter.
Semolina Wheat Bread
- 1 1/2 c. tepid water
- a bit less than 1 T. active dry yeast
- 1 T. granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 c. semolina flour
- 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour (I actually ended up using a combination of white and whole wheat, because the last time I baked I accidentally mixed the two together in our flour canister. Ooops.)
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
In a large mixing bowl, mix the water and yeast together and let it sit for about five minutes, so the yeast can reactivate. It’ll get a little foamy (how foamy depends on how old your yeast is) and start to smell like a brewery. Once the yeast is mostly dissolved, add the sugar, and perhaps stir it up again. Then mix in the flours, olive oil, and salt, and stir it all together until the flour is wholly incorporated and you have a sticky, rough ball in the bottom of the bowl.
Flour the counter well (really well) and turn the dough out onto it for kneading time. You’ll probably have to add more flour as you go, but you want to knead it for about ten minutes, or until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic and hopefully not sticking to everything in sight. Clean out your mixing bowl, oil it well, and put the dough back into it. Cover it up with plastic wrap or a lid, and set it aside to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is. You want it to double in size.
Once it’s done that, take whatever you’re planning to cook it in and oil it up. I like to use a heavy pot with a lid. The lid helps steam the dough and give it that crusty crust that makes bread awesome. I’m sure a loaf pan would have been fine, too. Punch the dough down (you’re basically just deflating it), and transfer the dough to the cooking pan, seam side down. Cover it up, and let it rise again for about an hour or an hour and a half. It should double again.
Preheat the oven to 375F, and if you have time, let the oven preheat for awhile so it’s really nice and hot. Then put the bread in the oven and cook it for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the bread to be a little browned, and to sound hollow when you tap it.
Let it cool completely before you try to cut it. I probably should have let it cool before I tried to take it out of the pan, as that might have prevented some of the sticking, but I thought it would be better if it cooled on a baking rack. Whatever, so it’s a little raggedy looking on the bottom. My bread doesn’t have to win any beauty contests, damn it! It just has to taste good! And this stuff does. It’s dense with a nice, heavy crumb. The crust could have been crustier, but that’s ok with me. And it has that same great texture I admired so much in the Panera bread. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if I can just work out that stickiness issue, I think we have a winner.