Two weeks ago, I made a semolina bread that was quick, easy, and good, but not quite good enough. I was surprised that the distinctive semolina taste didn't seem as distinctive as in other breads that use a combination of flour. I wanted to see if I could improve a perfectly good bread so that it would be even better. I thought about doing a pre-ferment, but I wanted it still to be a simple bread that I could make in one day.
I decided to add some white bread flour and a small amount of whole wheat pastry flour, just for fun. And then, because I had sourdough starter, I cut down on the yeast amount and added some of that.
This is not just your ordinary sourdough starter, by the way. This came to me, through a few twists and turns, from the refrigerator of Rose Levy Beranbaum herself. Yes, I have sourdough starter from the Queen of Bread. I have fed it and coddled it, but I hadn't yet put it in bread, so this was its maiden voyage.
If you don't have sourdough starter, then you could just up the yeast amount to the original one tablespoon, and no one would be the wiser.
The semolina flour, plus just the little bit of whole wheat pastry flour that I added, gave the dough a nice golden color.
I wish that I could say it was some brilliant flash of insight that made me add the whole wheat pastry flour. What really happened, though, is I was looking through my shelf of flours and saw the pastry flour. I looked for a "use by" date but couldn't find one, although I knew that I had bought it a few years ago I figured that I might as well use a little more before I tossed it, and so I did. Although you wouldn't ordinarily use pastry flour for bread, I thought its softness would be counterbalanced by the bread flour.
The sourdough may have been more active than I thought because, even though I put only about 1/4 cup in the dough, the bread rose faster and higher than I was expecting, and it made a bigger loaf.
I liked this bread a lot. I preferred both the texture and the ever-so-slightly tangy taste to the original recipe. But that could be just because I wanted to like it more since I'd spent some time figuring out how to improve it. When I asked Jim which one he preferred, he got the deer-in-the-headlights look that means he thinks there is going to be no right answer to this question. "Uh, maybe....about the same?" I looked dissatisfied. He tried again: "I guess I like this one a little better." "Really? Why?" He took another bite, pretending he was deep in thought, and I decided to let him off the hook.
It was a nice accompaniment to the salad made from the things I'd gathered at the Farmers' Market that morning: lettuce, beets, yellow cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. And the next night, it served as a base for wonderful BLT's, with first-of-the-season tomatoes.
Now I've started my quest for the best semolina bread in the world, and I'll let you know if I find it. Or maybe I already have.
GUSSIED-UP SEMOLINA BREAD
--Adapted from King Arthur's Semolina Bread recipe
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sourdough starter
Mix all ingredients in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
With the dough hook, knead the bread on medium speed for three to five minutes, or until smooth. If kneading by hand, knead for eight to ten minutes. Spray a bowl with nonstick cooking spray, set the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.
Turn dough onto lightly floured counter. Shape into rectangle, and fold, using a business-letter fold. Shape it into a loaf. Place it into a greased 5 x 9-inch bread pan. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 40 minutes, or until bread is a light golden brown and tests done. Turn the loaf out and let it cool on a rack. Let cool thoroughly before slicing. Makes 1 large loaf.