Pane Siciliano: One Sexy Bread


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The same thing always happens when I’ve been on my weeks-long trips for book research in Singapore.

When I’m away, I find myself overcome with intense longing for something in my Brooklyn home. By the time I return, it’s all I can do to keep myself from running toward it (cue slow-motion romantic comedy music here) and getting it all hot and, well, hot.

My family home in Singapore doesn’t have an oven, you see — so when I’m away from my trusty hunk of stainless steel, a major itch to bake starts taking over.

When I returned this time, I was determined to jump back into the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, where bakers around the world are making a bread each week from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.”

On the docket that week was pane Siciliano, a beautiful, golden Italian bread formed in a voluptuous “S” shape.

It seemed like just the thing to scratch my itch.

This bread and I — we did not get off on the right foot.

In fact, we almost didn’t become acquainted when I came across the following in the recipe: “Days to make: 3.”

Three days?

Seriously?

My love for Sicily and all things Italian, however, nudged me along.

On Day One, I made a pate fermentee, which is a pretty handy pre-ferment to know how to make — its purpose is to improve the flavor of the bread. By extending the fermentation process, the flavor intensifies. This is what makes baguettes so delicious. 

After mixing together two kinds of flour, salt, yeast and water, I let that pate fermentee sit and ferment overnight.

Day Two was when the excitement began. I cut the chilled pate fermentee into 10 pieces …

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… let it sit for a while and then mixed it together with semolina and high-gluten flour, salt, yeast, honey, olive oil and water.

After some kneading, it then had to rest and ferment for two hours so the dough could rise.

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Which, it did.

This dough was truly a monster.

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Then I shaped the dough into long rolls, baguette-style, and curled them up into bulbous “S” shapes, sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

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After letting that rest in the fridge overnight, on Day Three, the bread was ready for the oven.

What emerged from the oven almost brought tears to my eyes.

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The smell that enveloped my apartment was unbelievable, too.

As for the taste? After much admiration, I reluctantly cut into a lovely “S” — the bread had a slightly nutty flavor and the crunchy crust together with the soft, holey interior, were just delicious.

It also turned out to be an excellent accompaniment for cheese and prosciutto.

Was it worth the three days? Absolutely.

And, it also prepped me for the next bread on the list: Panettone.

Days it takes to make that? Seven.

Stay tuned …

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Check out other Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge bakers’ pane Siciliano:

Carolyn‘s at Two Skinny Jenkins

Daniel‘s at Ährelich Gesagt

Janice‘s at Round The Table

Joelen‘s at What’s Cookin’, Chicago?

Kelly‘s at Something Shiny

Paul‘s at The Yumarama Artisan Bread Blog

Yeastspotting also has a few pictures of amateur bakers’ stabs at pane Siciliano.

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