I never get tired of the little burst of baking euphoria that goes along with pulling a smooth, golden, fully risen loaf of bread from the oven, especially when I've just tried out a new recipe for the first time. I just want to grab somebody and hug them whenever this happens. And I feel it even more so if I've fiddled with the bread recipe to suit my whim (always a risky practice, especially with a yeast recipe, but one that I am irresistibly drawn to repeat).
About this recipe . . .
I adapted this from a recipe I found on The Fresh Loaf --a remarkably helpful blog geared toward home bakers and focused almost entirely on bread. If the minutia of bread baking is what you're into, then you really need to check out The Fresh Loaf. It's a reliable repository of practical answers to every conceivable bread question I think I've ever had, and the community of bakers who contribute comments to this site are always kind and supportive. But I digress . . . back to the recipe.
Credited to artisan baker, author, and founder of Bread Alone Bakery, Daniel Leader, the original recipe required semolina flour exclusively, much more than I had on hand in fact. So, I made my own adjustments in that department, instead using a combo of semolina, bread flour, and unbleached all-purpose flour. I wasn't altogether sure this would work well since semolina is a very high gluten flour and I didn't have a lot of it. I was prepared for trouble, what with my changes, but by the end of the first rise, I felt confident everything would turn out fine. And it did. I also tweaked the mixing method a smidgen, doing what seemed to me to be required as I went along.
The olive oil adds a subtle aroma that's uniquely appealing, and it also obviously lends something special to the bread's beautifully textured crumb. As for the sesame seeds, I made the decision to add them on my own, but as you can see most or all of them fell off when I turned the loaves over to remove them from the pans. That was entirely my own fault: I should have wet the tops of the unbaked loaves with water, or brushed them with an egg wash, and then gently patted down the seeds to help them adhere. But I made the error of oiling the top of the loaves and simply scattering the seeds over that, and clearly, my method didn't work. Live and learn! The bread was just as good, though, despite those wayward sesames.
Made using the straight dough method (the easiest bread mixing method out there, hands down, where all the ingredients are basically assembled right at the start), I had two gorgeous loaves coming out of my oven in less than four hours, from start to finish. When I sliced a loaf of this bread open (it slices like a dream, by the way), I was greeted with the warmest, palest shade of butter yellow.
Eminently suitable for sandwiches or toast, this one is a keeper that I'm sure I'll make again.
Semolina Olive Oil Bread, with Sesame Seeds (or Not!)
Generously grease two bread pans with vegetable shortening.
3 cups (liquid measure) of room temperature water (about 70-75 degrees)
2 teaspoons of instant yeast (If you need to use active dry yeast instead, use 25 percent more than the indicated measurement for instant yeast. Use a little bit of the warm water to proof the active dry yeast before using it in the recipe. Instant yeast does not require proofing--that's one of its best benefits!)
2 and 3/4 cups of semolina flour
2 and 1/2 cups of bread flour
3 and 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of sea salt or coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup (liquid measure) extra-virgin olive oil
Into a large bowl, measure all of the dry ingredients and lightly whisk them together.
Into the large bowl of your mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, pour all of the water and oil. On the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients about a cup at a time and mix until a loose dough forms.
Remove the paddle, scraping it off, and switch to the dough hook; knead the dough on the lowest speed for about five minutes. Conservatively add more flour as needed if the dough is really soft and loose, but keep in mind that if you add too much, it can negatively affect the texture of the baked loaves.
Dust your work surface generously with all-purpose flour, and dump the dough out onto it.
Flour your hands. Knead the dough by hand until it's smooth and elastic, perhaps five more minutes or so.
Place the dough into a large bowl, lightly oiled with olive oil or sprayed with vegetable spray. Turn the dough over in the bowl so it's oiled all over. Cover the bowl with oiled/sprayed plastic wrap, and cover that with a thin dish towel. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until it doubles. Expect this to take at least 90 minutes or so.
Dump the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. (Try to use as little flour on your work surface as you can get away with at this point.) Deflate the dough by pressing on it with your closed fists or the palms of your hands. Divide the dough equally into two parts using a bench knife, a bowl scraper, or a very sharp knife. Pick up one piece of dough and round it gently by tugging downward; you are trying to create surface tension. Do this to the other piece as well.
Cover each ball of dough with the oiled plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 12 minutes. Pick up one of the balls and shape it into a loaf. Be sure to tightly seal any bottom seams by pinching them closed with your fingertips. Place the shaped dough into one of the pans. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Cover the filled pans with the oiled plastic wrap. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees.
Let the dough rise at room temperature until it crowns above the rim of the pan about 1 inch at its highest point. This will probably take an hour or more. When the dough has risen, remove the plastic wrap.
If you're not using sesame seeds, simply brush olive oil on the top of the loaves, and then they'll be ready for the oven. If you'd like to add sesame seeds, brush the top of the loaves lightly with water (or just wet your hands and very gently pat the loaves to wet them), and sprinkle the seeds on top. Gently press the seeds into the dough, being very careful not to deflate the loaves. You can lightly spritz olive oil over that, if you like.
Before inserting your pans into the oven, quickly open the oven door a little bit and, using a mister, spritz some water into the middle of the oven (don't aim for the little oven light!). Bread likes a slightly steamy atmosphere when it first starts to bake.The humidity helps to prevent the loaves from bursting haphazardly when hit with that first big rush of heat.
Bake the loaves on the middle shelf of the oven. Check them after about 20 minutes. If they seem to be browning too quickly, lightly cover them with foil. Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is deeply golden all over. If you're not sure they're done, you can check them by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the center; the internal temperature for a fully baked loaf is typically about 190 to 200 degrees.
Cool the baked loaves on cooling racks, out of their pans, for about an hour before you try slicing them.
(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)
Just click on that slice of brie cheesecake with strawberries, above, to get to the Recipe Index!
Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at email@example.com . . .
. . . Michigan style, with Montmorency cherries. (Yeah, we know pie.)
Learn How to Make Whimsical Tuile Cookies . . .
. . . using your own handmade stencils in any shapes you like! A photo tutorial.
Chocolate Mousse Dream Cake
. . . you won't want to awaken from this dream!
Glazed Black Cocoa Brownies
. . . made with a bit of coconut and a splash of rum!
Fluffy pumpkin muffins . . .
. . . made with coconut and pecans. A wintery treat!
Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk- and Dark-Chocolate Chips, and Honey Roasted Almonds . . .
. . . . they're so lovable.
Need a great Italian bread recipe?
This one has a crust that's fragrant with herbs and garlic . . . it's easy, reliable, and really tasty.
Leave the bagel . . .
. . . take the bialy!
Marble Mint Milano Cake
. . . made with those famous, fabulous cookies! (You know the ones.)
All year long, lazy mornings require . . .
. . . big, warm, blueberry muffins.
Espresso Chocolate Chip Pound Cake . . .
. . . is always in style.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
Pour a nice hot cup of coffee or tea & meet me . . .
Want to visit my FoodGawker gallery? Click on the picture!
Jane's Sweets Supports Micro-loans to Women through Kiva
Hey, Everybody Needs a Little Integrity . . .
I Pledge . . .
. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2016, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!