Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pane Siciliano

Sunday, May 20, 2007
When I first saw pictures of this bread in The Bread-Baker's Apprentice, I knew I had to try it. The beautiful S-shape and the deep brown crust sprinkled with sesame seeds just called to me. I'm so glad it did--it's one of the most delicious breads I've ever made. As a testament to the irrestible nature of this bread, I baked three loaves this weekend. On Sunday evening, there is one-half of a piece left. (I did give one loaf away, but still...).
The directions say this is a three-day process. Day 1: Make the pate fermentee. Day 2: Mix, shape, and let rise in the refrigerator. Day 3: Bake.
The pate fermentee was easy--just a mixture of bread flour, durum flour, salt, water, and yeast. (The recipe calls for semolina flour, but Rose likes durum flour better, and I think she's right).
The second day was the fun part. The pate fermentee is mixed with more bread and durum flours, more salt, water, and yeast, plus olive oil and honey. After this rises for a few hours, it's shaped. You cut the dough in thirds, roll and stretch each part into a long, thin 24-inch cylinder. Then you wind each side up toward the center, going in opposite directions. Spray with water, sprinkle withs sesame seeds, then spray with oil, and place on parchment-papered baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Now, I honestly did not believe that this was going to work. The glossy photos of this bread looked so beautiful, so professional, that I figured mine would be a sad, clumsy approximation. But they were doing so well in their unbaked state that I couldn't resist baking one yesterday, even though Peter Reinhart says they have to stay refrigerated at least overnight to develop their full flavor.

I was so pleased when I saw this that I didn't even care if it was lacking its full flavor potential. We had it for dinner, with spicy grilled shrimp and steamed asparagus. It was such a low-fat dinner that we felt no guilt at all as we ate piece after piece of bread. The crust was perfect, and the bread itself had such depth of flavor that it didn't need butter or olive oil. (Although they didn't hurt it).

Reinhart has a different method for oven-steaming than Rose does. Instead of using ice cubes, he recommends pouring very hot water into a pre-heated pan. That was scary. I had boiled the water about a half-hour before I needed it, so it was quite hot. When I poured it into the pan, which had been pre-heated to 500, it snapped, sizzled, and jumped all over the oven. It did make a lovely crust, but it also scared the bejesus out of me, so I rejected that method.
Today, when I made the second and third loaves, I put room temperature water into the preheated pan. That was much less frightening, although it probably didn't make as much steam. These two loaves also came out looking quite photogenic. I told Jim and Sarah that the second and third loaves, which had been in the refrigerator an extra 24 hours, should have a noticeably more developed flavor, so we were all forced to do taste tests. The verdict: loaves two and three were possibly better--in an extremely subtle way--than loaf one. But loaf one was so good that you should feel free to make this bread if you have only two days to putter around the kitchen.

This Sicilian bread is highly satisfactory to make and beautiful to present. It kept making me wish that I had the tiniest bit of Italian ancestry--I had such an urge to pass this off as a recipe from my great-grandmother. In fact, I was trying to sound like an Italian grandmother in the kitchen in hopes of somehow giving off an aura of authenticity, but I ended up sounding like Carmela Soprano. Fortunately, that didn't hurt the bread.


Melinda said...

Where have your beautiful pictures gone to now?

breadbasketcase said...

What? Can't you see them? This @#$%^& blog!

Doughadear said...

The Pane Siciliano is beautifully shaped and looks so delicious! I’ve been eyeing that recipe since I got the book and now I can’t wait to make it.

Melinda said...

Still not showing up, Marie.

Anonymous said...

I too am not getting the photos. They were there when you first put the blog entry up. But now they are just ? marks where photos had been before. And it is Only this entry. Isn't that weird?


Anonymous said...

FYI I'm using Safari (I'm on a mac). I tried Firefox. But the pixs for this entry are still missing. So I guess it's not a browser issue.


Ian said...

Hello Marie,
I am Melinda's husband, aka IT support :-). Looking at the source that your blog page delivers, it appears that the links to the photos are broken - in that they do not point to any images. As an example, the first link (directly after "plastic wrap and refrigerate.") is:

(all on one line).
but if you just paste that into a browser and attempt go to it there is no image (Google says /s400 doesn't exist).
Hope this helps.

Melinda said...

Did you get that? I don't get that.
(Looks like a load of rubbish to me.)
I asked if he might know what the problem was. Any help?

evil cake lady said...

when I first saw this post I saw the photos and your bread looked gorgeous!! I love that S shape!

I didn't leave a comment then b/c I couldn't find a link to the comments. Now, I can leave a comment and there are no photos.

Crazy blogger!!

In terms of you current photo problem, I bet if you just re-uploaded them you would get a nice new link that wasn't broken, like Melinda's IT husband said.

May I suggest using a third party photo hosting website, like flickr? Once I started using them, I stopped having photo upload problems with blogger. Just sayin.

I've heard good thing about Peter Rheinhart's book, and now after seeing your bread and reading about it, I am more intrigued...

jini said...

i saw the bread pictures before they were snatched away by the evil blog monster and they were a thing a beauty! i had the same thing happen when i posted a bunch of baby fox pictures on a blog. they were there one day and the next day all but 3 were gone, and now all the pictures are missing. i suspect they are floating in space and will reappear on someone else's blog. :)

Anonymous said...


I too saw your pictures originally (beautiful) but now I have the red x's (boo).

Wanted to add a little to your pane siciliano story. I baked the same recipe this week and used semolina flour (rather than the finer durum you used). I too baked two the day of shaping, and left one to rest overnight in the fridge as PR recommends. I was thinking maybe the semolina, being coarser, would take longer to hydrate than the durum and there would be a miraculous difference between the two. Nope. Found the same as you guys. Not worth the extra wait in my book for some tasty bread. The color was slightly yellower (warmer looking) and maybe a little difference in taste with the overnight fermentation, but very very slight. Perhaps this reveals a naive and provincial palate!
Also a question. I tried my hand at RLB's method for establishing a sourdough starter. This time it worked. I think your recommendations of patience and no swearing were what pushed me to success this time (actually I think it was a warmer kitchen, I tried last time in Feb. and got impatient and discouraged and I think I quit too soon). Anyway, now I have a "liquid starter" bubbling away in my fridge. RLB makes a compelling case for converting it to a stiff starter, whereas PR's recipe calls for a liquid starter (I think). Have you converted your's to a stiff one or are you following PR's recipe? I compared the two recipes (PR and RLB) and PR's seemed much more streamlined, and I didn't feel like I needed Microsoft Project to plot out the timeline of all the steps (sorry RLB). Your thoughts? thanks
chris in RI

Jim said...

I hope the pictures are back - they are on my screen. Thanks for all the suggestions - I re-loaded them and they look OK from here.

The problem happened when I was trying to correct the missing comment option by re-publishing the post: since that didn't work , I deleted the re-published post and blogger deleted the pictures even though the original post still needed them. I didn't find out that had happened until the morning that we were leaving for vacation in Vancouver and Alaska so I didn't have time to work on it. We got back this evening, and of course, one of the priority tasks was to fix the BBC blog.
BTW, I have no idea what I did to fix the comment option - I hope it doesn't disappear again.

Melinda said...

The little beauties are back in full colour.
Hope vacation was restful.

breadbasketcase said...

Do try them!

Jim fixed the "comment" section on the blog, but apparently lost the pictures in the process. It's more or less repaired now.

Jim, my tech support person, might have understood your email, but I didn't (although I wouldn't go so far as to call it rubbish). I believe it was helpful to my IT assistant.

I resisted getting the Peter Reinhart book because it seemed somehow disloyal to Rose, but I guess it's all part of the same bread universe. Thanks for the hints--this is the first time I've had trouble uploading photos with Blogger, but if it fails again, I'll try your suggestions.

Congratulations on having your own personal Rhode Island starter. I think the warmer weather probably had more to do with your success than the not swearing. I've turned mine into a stiffer starter, just because I like to work with it better. I saw a sourdough demonstration where the guy turned his bowl of starter upside down, and it didn't even move. Mine is not that stiff.

The Vancouver part was fun but not especially restful. The cruise part was so restful I felt like a slug.