Modern Baker Challenge: Semolina Sesame Braid

Those who have been following the Modern Baker Challenge know that we are working our way through Nick Malgieri’s Modern Baker.  Currently we are in the second chapter, yeast-risen breads (a little easier on the sugar than chapter one, quick breads).  I’ve been making a lot of bread for a while now–in fact, it was via the BBA Challenge (namely, gaaarp and Andrea) that I learned of the Modern Baker Challenge. 

Note:  They finished up BBA a while ago, I’m still plugging along–heaven forbid I let the fact that I haven’t completed one challenge stop me from taking another on! 

But for that reason (too many recipes, too little time), I convinced the other two clever sisters to split the challenge with me.  I volunteered for Semolina Sesame Bread because I figured of the three of us, I’m the most likely to have extra semolina on hand.  Plus I love the golden hue of semolina bread and the rounded out flavor it imparts.

As Malgieri describes in his introduction, he minimizes kneading by allowing dough to rest and autolyze. (Autolyze being the process by which resting dough will naturally form gluten strands, without you having to knead to help the process along) .  It is amazing (after so much bread making) to leave a rough dough in the mixer and then come back to a dough made up of a long network of gluten strands. 

On the other hand, I ended up needing to add a lot more flour (or should have added a lot less water) to get the desired texture.  I think this is an adjustment that I’ll need to make throughout this chapter (as I’ve tried the pain de seigle with disastrous foccacia-esque results–there’s a reason there’s no blog post on that one yet).  Unfortunately Malgieri does not provide as detailed a description of how the dough should feel as I’m used to, but logic dictates it can’t be too flaccid a dough if you are going to need to braid it eventually.  I’m sure the flour you use affects things; I always use King Arthur. Or perhaps it was humid that day, I just don’t recall.

After all this breadmaking, my technique of forming loaves, or rolling out dough, or what not, still leaves much to be desired. I ended up having to pull out my three strands of dough for the final braiding.  (You are supposed to roll under your hands, but this doesn’t work for me.  I don’t know why).  This is probably why my braid ended up so uneven, something that really shows up once the loaf is allowed to rise.  At least I already know how to braid…

By the way, when did sesame seeds get so expensive?

Tasty.  But–I don’t think I’d make this bread again.  It’s not to say it wasn’t good, but rather that to my mind there wasn’t anything exceptional about it.  I’ll use up my semolina flour on Pane Siciliano and hopefully someday making my own pasta!



7 thoughts on “Modern Baker Challenge: Semolina Sesame Braid

  1. Sara, that’s a beautiful loaf. Your braiding looks great. I haven’t made this one yet, and to be honest, I haven’t had much luck with semolina bread. But I’m anxious to try it.

  2. Don’t buy sesame seeds in the spice aisle. Buy them in the ethnic food or better yet buy them at the Asian grocer, I found them for 1/3 the price at the Asian grocer

  3. The crumb looks really nice! And yes, sesame seeds have become quite expensive here, too. I don’t go to an Asian store very often, but when I do I always grab some sesame seeds because they are way cheaper there than in our grocerie store.

  4. Sara, I think your braid looks beautiful. I also miss the detailed descriptions of what the dough should look and feel like at each step!

  5. Not a fan of semolina bread, but you make it look so good…was thinking about skipping this one, but now I think I will go for it…thanks for the tips. And thanks to the comments for the tips on where to buy sesame seeds!

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