I’ve heard a lot of good things about Pane Siciliano. It seems to be one of the more popular BBA breads. (Alas it is the last bread before sourdoughs start, and as I haven’t had much luck with that, there might be some disobedience here as I skip out of order a bit. I have tried my own sourdough starter a few times and I guess that the wild yeast in these parts aren’t much for my attempts at domestication).
But digressing–the Pane Siciliano is a bit different than other breads in that it uses semolina flour. There are two types of semolina you can use–regular and fancy/extra fancy. Surprisingly it was a bit difficult to find either one (I’m talking to you, my nearby Whole Foods), until I realized that my Hodgson Mills pasta flour from Stop and Shop (which, ahem, has not been used for pasta despite good intentions and the existence of a pasta machine stashed somewhere on the upper shelves of the kitchen) is actually a blend of semolina–the coarser and finer grinds.
Except for perhaps the sourdough breads, I think this is the only bread (and certainly the only bread so far) that takes more than two days to make. The third day really isn’t much other than baking it, but you’ve got to find the room in your fridge for the overnight rise on day two.
I don’t think my bread turned out quite as it should–it’s supposed to have a “beautiful blistered crust” and “large irregular holes.” My bread was fine, but rather dense and certainly not a blistered crust (which I imagine crackles deliciously as you bite in). As usual I am blaming this on not enough hydration, but perhaps there is some other reason for this? I certainly let it rise long enough–I shaped early Saturday AM and baked it off Sunday morning. (In fact, I wonder if I could have baked it Saturday night–it was well over 8 hours by that point which I think of as the “equivalent” of overnight. However, how could I have opted not to have freshly baked bread in the morning, the warm aroma filling the kitchen on a January morning?)
Maybe it’s because I didn’t do it right, but this almost made me think of a good option for a “vegan” challah–no eggs, no dairy. Must be the extra-robust flavor and color lent by the semolina as well that little bit of special Greek honey we have. Also, the reason the challah reference popped into my head? I bet this would make tasty challah bread.
Finally, while I don’t think the bread turned out quite right, I did manage the shaping better than I thought. I had to let the lengths of dough rest a bit as I pulled them long enough to form, but other than that there’s no trick to it! Here’s the pre-rise photo:
Followed by my finished loaves.
And one more of the underside–also just as pretty!