Semolina Sesame Braid

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    1

    large braided loaf, about 16 inches 40 cm ) long

Appears in

The sweetness of semolina and the nutty flavor of sesame seeds combine to make this a delicious bread. To make the dough, you’ll need fine-textured semolina, referred to as semolina flour. It’s light yellow in color and resembles finely milled cornmeal. Semolina is made from a type of wheat, Triticum durum, similar to the one used for making ordinary flour, but it is a different species of the same genus. It is characteristically very high in the proteins that form gluten, so it’s necessary to use only a portion of it in a bread dough to avoid making the dough excessively tough and elastic. Most semolina is used in manufacturing dry pasta such as spaghetti.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • ¾ cup semolina flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • cups warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 jelly-roll pan dusted with cornmeal

Method

  1. Combine the flour, semolina flour, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir well to combine.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water and add to the Hour mixture. Use a large rubber spatula to mix the liquid into the flour, continuing to mix until it forms a rough dough with no dry spots.
  3. Place the bowl on the mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Start the mixer again on low to medium speed and mix the dough until it is elastic, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper to fold the dough over on itself several times to make it smoother and more elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over so that the top is oiled. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  6. After the dough has risen, scrape it from the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Form the dough into a rough rectangle without deflating it too much. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.
  7. Roll each piece of dough under the palms of your hands to form a cylinder about 16 inches (40 cm) long. Place the 3 cylinders of dough next to one another and, starting from the middle, alternately cross the strands of dough over each other to form a braid. Pinch the ends together and turn them under at the end. Turn the loaf around and repeat the braiding from the middle outward to the other end. Slide both hands under the loaf, one at each narrow end, and lift the braid to the prepared pan.
  8. Brush water all over the outside of the loaf and evenly sprinkle the moistened areas with the sesame seeds. Cover the braid with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.
  9. About 20 minutes before the braid is completely risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  10. Bake the braid until it is well risen, deep golden, and feels firm when pressed with a fingertip, 30 to 40 minutes. Slide the braid onto a rack to cool.

Serving

A perfect accompaniment to a meal, semolina bread also makes excellent toast. Or slice the bread very thinly (this is easier if the bread is a day or so old) and paint the slices with melted butter or good olive oil. Bake them on a jelly-roll pan at 300°F (150°C) until they are crisp and golden—this goes well with cheeses, pâtés, or soups.

Storage

Loosely cover with plastic wrap the day it is made, or wrap tightly and freeze for longer storage. Defrost the bread and reheat it at 350°F (180°C) for about 10 minutes, and cool it before serving.

Variations

Shape the bread as a bâtard or 2 small boules instead of braiding it. Add 2 teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds (see Fennel Fig & Almond Bread) and 1 cup golden raisins to the dough right before completing the machine mixing in step 4. Omit the sesame seeds and sprinkle the outside of each loaf with additional semolina flour after moistening.