A few years ago my great friend Linda Lange introduced me to an exceptionally tasty and great texture sesame semolina bread from a Wilmington DE bakery named The Black Lab®. It was so good I silently vowed to learn how to make it. Recently Janet and I found a bakery in Milford NH named The Good Loaf® that made the identical product. My, was it good! But I didn’t like the price so I went looking for a really good recipe. I wanted to make this stuff myself!
This recipe is from the Internet and we just tried it with our modifications with great success. It is the same type of artisan bread as the great sesame semolina batard we bought recently at a local bakery. But for $6 per loaf at the bakery, or $7.84 per loaf at the supermarket, I figured we could enjoy the bread and save a lot of money by making it at home. Thus, this was a new quest for perfection, very new for me, as I had no useful prior knowledge of bread making. Janet and I are thrilled with the results. And the cost is about $1.30 per loaf.
In this recipe we get to see two types of unit conversions that demonstrate the value of the kitchen scale discussed earlier in this book in the "Equipment and Planning" section. First we convert grams of water to ounces, which as a liquid measure is 28 grams per ounce. Then we convert a dry weight of salt from grams to a volume and weight equivalent in teaspoons, and that works out to about 7.5 grams per teaspoon. Finally we use a dry measure for flour, in which we convert from grams to pounds and then to volume, in which 151 grams of flour is 1/3 of a pound (454 grams is one pound), which turns out to be one cup.
The general idea is that recipes from around the world will typically be shown with ingredient amounts/units of measure as commonly used in the country of origin for recipes. Thus we have to perform conversions to our way of using weights and measures. The kitchen scale is typically designed to measure weight in both the English and Metric systems, so it is invaluable to the home chef.
Sponge: (This is what you make first.)
A sponge is a wet combination of flour, water and yeast that after eight hours of fermentation is combined with other bread ingredients to make very superior bread in taste and texture.
Dissolve a 1/4 oz. package of active dried yeast or instant yeast in 1 cup of 110ºF water. Use 1/4 cup of the resulting suspension for the sponge.
è (The extra ¾ cup of yeast mixture can be used with some flour and sugar to create a starter for other types of bread. Simply cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. If it isn’t used within a few days it will sour, which is fine if you want to make a sourdough bread. Remember to keep feeding it a teaspoon of flour every few days to keep it active.)
Water: 135 gm … which is divided by 28 to get ounces, or, 4 and ¾ ounces of water.
Flour: 150 gm of Bread flour plus 2 tbsp. high gluten flour. There is 454 grams in one pound, so the conversion yields about 1/3 lb. of Bread flour, which as a volume measurement is one cup.
Durum Flour, 250 gm (Semolina) which is 1 2/3 cups
High Gluten Flour, 50 gm which is 1/3 cup
Water, 205 gm which is a bit more than 7/8 cup
Active dried yeast or instant yeast, 1/4 oz.
Sponge from above
Salt, 9 gm, which is 1 ¼ tsp.
Sesame seeds, 1 cup
We purchased our Semolina and high gluten flours at excellent prices at Fisher’s Country Store® in Cessna PA. Ditto sesame seeds. They have and ship food products you might have difficulty finding in your supermarket, and certainly for better prices. Enough said. Use the Internet.
The night before baking, mix the sponge and ferment it for 8 hours in a warm place, as in a 75ºF room, covered tightly. We shortened this process by using a 100ºF proofing oven for 4 hours, so unlike the given recipe we were able to bake the same day.
The day of baking, combine the dough flours and water, mix and rest, covered, for 15-60 minutes. That procedure is called autolyzing, and it softens and moistens the flour(s) so that later required kneading time can be shorter, which will result in softer bread that has risen well. To save time, this can be done while the sponge is in its last hour of fermenting.
Mix the yeast listed for the dough recipe with the sponge and add that mixture to the rested dough. Mix for 5 minutes in the electric mixer with a dough hook. The dough should clean the sides of a stand mixer and the mixture should be uniform and glutinous, though it will not be that way when you first start mixing.
Sprinkle the salt on the dough and mix for another 2 minutes. The dough should be sticky but not "gloppy." The dough may be gloppy, so you can mix for up to 2 minutes more, but then go with it, however it comes out. Over mixing/kneading will hurt bread quality.
Scrape the dough into a bowl 3 times its volume (or leave it in the mixing bowl!), cover the bowl and let it ferment for 2 to 3 hours, folding the dough over on itself about six times, every 20 minutes for the first hour. (The dough will start coming together after a short time and it will still be sticky but smooth and puffy after 2 hours in a 75º F kitchen.) We used a 100ºF proofing oven and got great results. Note that you will need to dust your hands lightly with flour to handle the sticky dough for folding. Do not intentionally put flour onto the dough to make it easy to handle or the finished bread will be tough due to excess flour.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF and prepare your steaming apparatus of choice. You can use a 9"x13"x2" oblong glass baking dish on a rack under the bread rack with about one inch of boiling water in the dish just before you put the bread into the oven.
Scrape the dough onto your counter onto parchment paper. Pre-form the dough into two balls with flat bottoms. Let them rest for 20-30 minutes to relax the dough, covered, then form them into batards (slightly elongated fat loaves) or regular loaves as we did.
Roll the loaves in sesame seeds and place them, seam side down, on the parchment paper. Cover them well and allow them to expand until quite puffy. This might take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. Again, a proofing oven is a great way to accelerate the rising process. Do note, however, that we keep our house temperature at 70ºF, not 75ºF, so the proofing oven is also compensating for that environmental variable.
Spray the loaves lightly with water mist from a hand held spray bottle and score them on the top with one cut from end to end, about ¾ inch deep. Hold the knife at an angle to create what is called a nice "ear" along the top of the length of the finished baked bread.
Transfer the batards to the oven by sliding the parchment paper holding the batards onto a baking stone that has been preheated in the oven, or by sliding the parchment paper onto a flat cookie sheet (one without sides). Bake the bread with steam for 15 minutes then continue to bake it up to another 30 minutes (without steam) until the bread is done baking. It should be golden-brown in color, and provide a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. The internal temperature should be 205º F.
Cool the batards completely on a cooling rack before slicing.
è Janet offered a very helpful suggestion, for the next time we bake this bread. She said the loaves will rise best if we confine them by putting the parchment paper into glass loaf pans, and then the dough onto the parchment paper during the final rising. That will result in a taller loaf, as otherwise the soft dough rises as much sideways as vertically if the dough is not contained in some shaped container. When it is time to bake the bread the loaf pans are eliminated and the parchment flattened for placement of it and the risen dough into the oven.
Thanks, Janet … that is a great idea.