Pane Siciliano

001-Pane_Siciliano-headerOur second Italian bread in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Pane Siciliano is recipe #23 in the BBA Challenge. New in the process is the use of semolina flour, a flour made of durum wheat which is often used in making pasta. It is a slightly gritty flour and has that distinct yellow cast to it you can see in your standard spaghetti and which adds not just colour but extra aroma and flavour, says Mr Reinhart. This is an enriched bread, having the addition of a little olive oil and honey.

I’m looking forward to the final product to see how this works out.

Once again, we use a Pâte Fermentée as part of the ingredients.


What we have here: water (90-100ºF), bread flour and semolina flour, our prepared Pâte Fermentée, salt, instant yeast, olive oil, honey (I’ll pour that into the oil cup to make pouring out easier) and sesame seed for final topping. Once the Pâte Fermentée has warmed up in about an hour, we’ll be ready to go (I’ll make sure to use warm water then).

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First step is to mix up the dry ingredients, then we add the oil and honey, finally adding the now warmed pâte and 1 1/4 c of the water (we hold back the last 1/4 cup for adjustment if needed).

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This is then mixed with the paddle tool until the dough forms a rough ball. There was no need for any extra water as all the flour absorbed into the dough ball easily.

We then switch off to the dough hook and knead for about 6 to 8 minutes (10 minutes if done by hand) until the dough is supple and no longer sticky. The dough had reached required temp and was able to achieve windowpane.

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At the end of the 6 minutes, I turned out the kneaded dough but found it just a little too sticky still, so I kneaded it by hand another minute or so, adding a sprinkling of flour, probably no more than a tablespoon of extra bread flour.

The dough is then placed into a oiled container, covered, the volume noted and left to double at room temp for about 2 hours. Because our kitchen has been a bit on the cool side of late, I expect it will be a little more than the 2 hours suggested.

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Once the dough had finally doubled, about 2:45 hours later, the ball is turned out onto a lightly floured counter where it is then divided into 3 similar pieces. The ball ended up weighing about 1270 grams, so each piece was made about 420-ish.

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With gentle handling so as to not degass the chunks of dough more than needed, each piece is stretched carefully to about 24″ (60 cm) then formed into a baguette. First, it is flattened slightly, then an indent is made in the center and the dough is then folded over along the dent and the edge is sealed. A quick, gentle roll is done to round up the shape and our baguette shape is done.

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One end of the baguette is then curled, the other is curled the other way until you have the desired “S” shape. Once all three loaves are shaped, they are placed on a parchment sheet (I’m reusing one from the last bake) sprinkled with a little semolina. And now we have…

61-_Pane_Siciliano-Dilema Solution

…a dilemma!

Because these loaves are going to double in size, I want to give them plenty of space on the sheet and there’s no problem baking two sheets at once. However, there is definitely a problem refrigerating two sheets – there simply isn’t enough room in the refrigerator for that. So the solution: Slice the parchment so each loaf has lots of spare space and place them all on one pan with the extra parchment making a sort of “wall” between the bread; if they do expand and begin to press together, they won’t stick to each other (we hope)  and I can still separate them and put the middle one on it’s own sheet when they get baked tomorrow.

Next, a quick spray of water and sprinkling of sesame seed. I decided to use some black sesame seeds for the last one, just because I can.

These loaves are then sprayed with a little oil spray, loosely covered with cling film so they can expand, then the whole thing got popped into a garbage bag (to avoid any drying problems) and tucked into the refrigerator until tomorrow.

So now we wait one sleep…

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And here we are the next day after allowing the dough to warm up. Hmmm… I can’t really tell, is that “doubled”? It looks decidedly larger… It had about 2 hours sitting on the counter. Well,off it goes into the oven at 500º, with steam, then reduced to 450º and baked for about 30-35 minutes.


Lovely looking loaves, and they smell GREAT!

But… something bothers me, something is off…


I compare the photos of the bread in the book vs the bread that just came out of the oven and, unless Peter Reinhart uses considerably much smaller sesame seeds, my bread is seriously undersized. Here’s a comparison pic where the sesame seeds are made about the same size and it sure seems like the book’s bread is much, much bigger.

I had hoped there would be plenty of oven spring when they went in and they did get a little bigger but clearly they’ve missed the mark. So this is yet another bread that didn’t seem to increase in size as expected. I think I seriously need to consider the yeast, perhaps build some sort of proofing box so the kitchen temp doesn’t affect the proofing too much.

OK, let’s have a look at the crumb…


As I cut the bread, the aroma was quite wonderful. The crumb is tighter than the one shown in the book’s photo (inset). The size of these slices is on the diminutive side, obviously something in the proofing failed. The taste is very nice, the crust (fresh from the oven) is crispy and not too thick or thin. Once it’s been bagged for a day or so, I think it will retain good flavour even if it loses the crunch.

Over all, a nice, middle of the road bread, neither too “artisan” crusty nor too “sliced white” soft and flavourless. Well, definitely not that, actually. This goes into the “Do again” pile but we’ll pay more attention to the proofing. We have three somewhat small loaves to get through for now and they do look pretty.

Side note: I suspect the loaves in the book were hit with some form of glaze, they’re much shinier than the ones on the counter.

Next up: Panetone. Gotta go hunt up some dried fruit.

21 Replies to “Pane Siciliano”

  1. Nice looking loaves. And great write-up. I’m looking forward to making these in a week or so. And I’m really excited about Panetone! I bought molds and fruit from KAF, so I’m all set.

    1. Thanks Phyl! Do jump on that Panetone soon, woncha? I hate being “first” and not have anyone else’s experience to go by!
      (Yes, I am shoving you into the line of fire!)

  2. The loaves are beautiful. I love the color of the crust. I actually finished this one last Friday but I can’t find the time for the write-up. 🙂

  3. Go Paul go. I really enjoy learning from your write ups. The breads look delicious. Hard to tell if they doubled in size, but I enjoy your flickering before after shots. I considered skipping the Panetone, it would be my first skip, but I have come this far. We gave away the cranberry filled bread and were just talking about who we could give this one to.

    1. Gave it away??! O dear… that was one of the tastiest breads! I’m assuming your household isn’t keen on dried or candied fruit then? Well, I’m certain you’d have no problem handing off the loaves to willing recipients, then. I think I’ll be making mine in a couple or three 6″ cake pans… just for easier sharing. With just two of us to eat it, it’s sometimes difficult to get through some larger batches.

  4. Great post! I am just about to start this bread today, and I’m glad i have your example to follow. I have been frustrated many times by how short my bread falls from the pictures in the book. Do you think a light egg wash before baking would help?

    1. Carolyn, I think either an egg wash or cornstarch glaze would have a nice visual effect. Although I think (not 100% sure) the egg wash would darken a fair bit where the cornstarch just adds shine.

  5. Great shaping. Looks just like the ones in the book, though, yeah, they are a bit small. Still, I love the crust color as well as how you were able to keep the loaves from unraveling.

  6. Size doesn’t matter!! You are getting quite skilled in your baguette shaping. The final loaves are just perfect in their shape. I’m impressed.

    However, I’m a little concerned you’re going hard core on us now… a proofing box?? How are the rest of us going to compete with that?

  7. How did you do that before and after effect with the photos? At first I just thought I drank too much coffee this morning and my eyes were a bit jumpy, but then I realized what it was. Very cool!

  8. Paul, I made this bread on my “pre-blogging-days” – probably a year or so ago. I remember having a very tight crumb too, compared to the one in the book

    of course, in those days I did not take notes, and now I wonder what could have been the problem.

    I intend to make this recipe on Saturday, will follow all your advice, I guess I’ll make just half the recipe, though. There is only so much bread we can eat!

  9. All right, Paul. You’re on. My Pane Siciliano is in the fridge, to be baked tomorrow (Saturday). And I’m going to start the preferment for Panetone tonight or tomorrow.

  10. Wow, beautiful! Your baguette shaping is enviable. *jealous* 🙂 I definitely need practice. I’m baking mine now after having the shaped loaves in the fridge for almost 24 hours. We’ll see what that does to it!

  11. Hi,
    I just made this bread today and had the same problem that there wasn’t room for 2 pans in the refrigerator. I had all 3 of them on one pan and of course they way more than doubled and sticked together!!! I wish I had read your post before because that baking-paper-wall-idea is GREAT. I’m going to re-make this bread and apply your idea! Thanks.

  12. When I post about my experience with the Pane Siciliano I’d like to refer to your parchment paper solution by showing pictures in my post. Would that be ok? Of course, I would mention your blog and that these are your pictures.

  13. The glaze you are talking about comes from using hi tech ovens with steams. The breads get blasted (and I mean BLASTED with steam). When you try to create your own at home its just not the same intensity. I have made the breads myself and I get rave reviews on the taste , but you are right – the holes do not look the same as Peter’s and I suspect it has to do with the steam oven.

  14. Re: crumb texture
    It’s my understanding that the wetter the dough, the looser the crumb. The dough in the book may have been more hydrated than yours. I use 60% hydration ratio which gives me a nice tight crumb. Your bread may not be rising as much if you over proof it. The yeast may be running out of food. Also the picture in the book may not be representative of the actual recipe. I get good results with my recipes by pouring boiling water into an empty pan right after I place the loaves in the oven. That floods the oven with steam and gives me a nice crust. Gotta wear steam proof gloves though and be careful. Live steam is dangerous. I’ ve made the Sullivan Street no knead bread recipe which is about 75% hydrated which gives a very open crumb, sort of like the nooks and crannies of an English muffin. The dough is wet and you have to resist the temptation to add more flour to handle it. Tricky to handle; however, it does turn out just like the video if you follow his technique. Takes a day to rise but very little hands on time. Great tasting bread.

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