Semolina Bread with a Soaker and Fennel Seed

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Dough Yield: About


    loaves at 1.5 lb each

Appears in


By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Durum Wheat has More Protein than any other kind of wheat; the quality of the protein for bread making, however, is not as good as the protein in hard winter or hard spring wheat. Durum has a tendency to break down in the mixer if even slightly overmixed. It is advisable, therefore, to slightly undermix the dough, and make folds on the bench if it is necessary to increase dough strength. Durum is typically milled into semolina, which is quite coarse and sandy textured, or into durum flour, which has more of a floury feel. Semolina tends to have somewhat of a puncturing effect on the developing gluten network of the dough as it mixes, unlike the softer durum flour. For bread making (and when making pasta too, for that matter), I find that durum is incorporated more easily into the dough and makes a nicer finished loaf. The soaker in the present formula gives a deeper body to the bread, as well as better moisture retention, so the loaf stays fresher a little longer. The fennel seeds contribute a distinct flavor that complements the other ingredients in the dough. A light toasting of the seeds adds even more flavor.


Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Durum Flour 12 lb 6 kg 1 lb, 3.2 oz 60%
Bread Flour 8 lb 4 kg 12.8 oz 40%
Millet 1.6 lb .8 kg 2.6 oz 8%
Wheat Flakes 1.6 lb .8 kg 2.6 oz 8%
Coarse Cornmeal .8 lb .4 kg 1.3 oz 4%
Fennel Seeds .3 lb .15 kg .5 oz 1.5 %
Water 16.4 lb 8.2 kg 1 lb, 10.2 oz 82%
Salt .44 lb .22 kg .7 oz 2.2 %
Yeast .36 lb, fresh .18 kg, fresh .19 oz, instant dry 1.8 %
Total Yield 41.5 lb 20.75 kg 4 lb, 2.1 oz 207.5 %


Millet 1.6 lb .8 kg 2.6 oz (½ cup) 40%
Wheat Flakes 1.6 lb .8 kg 2.6 oz ( cup) 40%
Coarse Cornmeal .8 lb .4 kg 1.3 oz (¼ cup) 20%
Water, Hot 5 lb 2.5 kg 8 oz (1 cup) 125%
Total 9 lb 4.5 kg 14.5 oz

Final Dough

Durum Flour 12 lb 6 kg 1 lb, 3.2 oz ( cups)
Bread Flour 8 lb 4 kg 12.8 oz (2⅞ cups)
Fennel Seeds .3 lb .15 kg .5 oz (2 T)
Water 11.4 lb 5.7 kg 1 lb, 2.2 oz ( cups)
Salt .44 lb .22 kg .7 oz ( tsp)
Yeast .36 lb, fresh .18 kg, fresh .19 oz, instant dry ( tsp)
Soaker 9 lb 4.5 kg 14.5 oz (all of above)
Total 41.5 lb 20.75 kg 4 lb, 2.1 oz


  1. SOAKER: Prepare a hot soaker by stirring the millet, wheat flakes, and cornmeal into the soaker water. Cover the bowl with plastic to prevent moisture loss. In particularly hot weather, some or all of the dough salt can be added to the grains to deter enzymatic activity.
  2. MIXING: Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl, including the soaker and the fennel seeds. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes in order to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. The dough should have a medium consistency. Turn the mixer to second speed and mix for about 2½ minutes more, until the gluten network has been fairly well developed. Keep a close eye on the dough as it mixes, and be careful not to overmix (if the dough goes from matte to shiny and from firm to sticky, it has been overmixed). Desired dough temperature: 76°F.
  3. BULK FERMENTATION: 2 hours (or overnight retarding).
  4. FOLDING: Fold the dough once, after 1 hour.
  5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 1.5-pound pieces (or make rolls with smaller pieces). Preshape lightly into rounds and place on a lightly floured work surface, seams up. Cover the rounds with plastic. When the dough has relaxed sufficiently (10 to 20 minutes), shape it into tight round or oval loaves. Place the loaves in floured bannetons and cover with baker’s linen and plastic. Fennel seeds can be added to the tops of the loaves by first misting the top surface of the bread (or pressing the top into a damp cloth) and then sprinkling on the seeds. Be sparing, though; the seeds have a potent flavor and will dominate if used in excess.
  6. FINAL FERMENTATION: About 1 hour at 76°F.
  7. BAKING: With normal steam, 460°F. Loaves scaled at 1.5 pounds will take approximately 40 minutes to bake, with round loaves taking slightly longer than oblong ones.