Sicilian Bread

READY IN: 60hrs 30mins
YIELD: 3 loaves




  • For the pre-ferment:
  • Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  • Add 3/4 cup water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (you can mix it with the paddle attachment -- I think it is easier to do it by hand). Adjust the flour or water as needed; the dough shouldn't be too sticky or stiff.
  • Flour your work surface and transfer the dough. Knead for 4-6 minutes (or mix with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, "tacky but not sticky.".
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl and roll it around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for one hour, or until it swells to 1 1/2 times its original size.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl, knead lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to three days or freeze in an air-tight plastic bag for up to three months.
  • Bread:
  • Remove the pre-ferment from the icebox and cut into 10 small pieces (I use kitchen shears). Let it sit an hour, covered with plastic wrap, to take off the chill.
  • Stir together the bread flour, semolina flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add the pre-ferment pieces, oil, honey, and 1 1/4 cups water. Stir until the dough forms a ball, or use the paddle attachment at low speed. Add water in dribbles as necessary to achieve a soft and pliable dough.
  • Lightly flour your work surface and knead your dough (or use a dough hook at low speed), adding flour as needed to achieve a soft but not sticky dough, for about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil a large bowl, and roll the dough around in the bowl to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • At this point I refrigerate the dough overnight. Mr. Reinhart, instead, ferments the dough at room temperature for 2 hours or until it doubles, divides the dough gently in three pieces, shapes the dough (see below), taking care not to degas it too much, places the dough on a baking pan (or pans) lined with parchment, sprinkles with sesame seeds (see below), covers with plastic wrap, and refrigerates overnight. As explained in the preamble, in my hands the dough over-rose in the refrigerator, lost its shape, and wouldn't rise in the oven. And thus I divide, shape and bake the loaves the next day as explained below. It gives me more control of the proofing process.
  • The next morning take the dough from the refrigerator (it will have grown) and divide it gently into 3 pieces. Gently shape as you wish, taking care to degas as little as possible. To achieve the S shape shown in the photograph, extend each dough piece to about 24 inches. Working from each end simultaneously, coil the dough (in opposite directions) towards the center. Place the shaped doughs on parchment-lined pans, mist with water, sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired, mist with vegetable oil spray, and cover with plastic wrap. Proof the dough for an hour or two; it is ready for the oven when it stays dimpled when poked. The loaves should be about twice as large as when first shaped, but DON'T let them over-rise.
  • Preheat the oven to 500°F (my oven is too rickety to get that hot; I have to use the convection option). Uncover the doughs and place in the oven; Pour 1 cup of water in the steam pan. Mr. Reinhart also sprays the oven walls with water three times at 30 second intervals, and then reduces the heat to 450°F.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes and then rotate the pans 180 degrees. Gently separate the loaves if they are touching. Continue baking for 10-15 minutes to achieve a rich golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be about 200-205°F.
  • Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 45 minutes.
  • To freeze, when cooled, wrap each loaf in a freezer bag and close with a wire twist.