Over the Thanksgiving break, after stuffing myself like a turkey, I planned to bake some bread. The first loaf I baked was Amy Scherber's signature semolina bread with fennel, pine nuts and golden raisins. At work we offer it to our guests in their bread baskets, and often we slather something good on the moist, toothy and fragrant rolls in the kitchen for ourselves!
Years ago, I had just completed my classes in bread baking at FCI. I wanted to get my feet wet (or rather my hands in some dough), and figuring that I could handle any loaf with my new certificate and *percentages down like a science, yeah right!) I decided to do a stage or two at Amy's. She kindly allowed me to come in and shape breads one Saturday at her bakery in Chelsea market. The bakers were like elves around the bench; some cutting and weighing loaves as other slapped various doughs into batards and other shapes without a blink of the eye. I was given the task of making seeded twists, a back breaking exercise. I still remember how my muscles ached at the end of the shift. In those moments, I realized baking is perhaps the most physical of jobs in the culinary field, if not any other. Amy was giving a tour to some reporters and happened to stop by where I was working and corrected my shaping method.
Professor, I've gotten better since. Anyway, the Semolina bread with fennel, pine nuts & golden raisin loaf has been one of my favorites from Amy's extensive line, originally the dough formula uses pre-fermented dough. For some reason this formula didn't make it in to her book. Instead I found it in an old Food Arts article and converted it to sourdough.
Amy Scherber's Semolina bread with fennel, pine nuts & golden raisins
6 Small Loaves: (requires 2 days advanced preparation):
1. Make your sourdough build, I happened to make 80% hydration for this levain to stay as true to the pre-fermented dough version in the article.
Dough: 1 sm. bulb fennel (283g trimmed) 325 grams levain 340g cool water 50 grams cornmeal 500 grams durum flour 16 grams kosher salt 1 tsp. crushed fennel seed 125 grams golden raisins, soaked in cool water 1 to 2 tsp. all-purpose flour 85 grams pine nuts, toasted
1. Slice fennel paper thin; blanch in lightly salted boiling water 3 to 4 minutes; drain; chop; reserve.
2. Place levain and water in mixing bowl; use paddle attachment to beat at low speed 1 minute.
3. Add cornmeal, durum flour, salt and fennel seeds; mix 2 minutes, or until dough gathers; let rest 5 minutes.
4. Change to dough hook; mix until dough is smooth and silky (about 7 minutes).
5. Transfer dough to lightly floured tabletop; flatten slightly.
6. Toss raisins in all purpose flour; press into dough along with pine nuts and fennel.
7. Fold dough into thirds; knead until particles are evenly distributed.
8. Place on lightly floured sheet pan; cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 24 hours.
9. Place dough on floured table; divide into 6 pieces; shape into balls; place in pan; cover; allow to rise at room temperature (1 to 1'1. hours). ( I let mine go almost two hours.)
10. Deflate each loaf; roll each into a cylinder (be careful not to puncture dough with nuts); place on floured towel; cover; allow to rise until almost double (about 2 or 3 hours).
11. Heat oven to 450 F.
12. Place dough on sheet pan sprinkled with additional cornmeal; slash top of each loaf 3 times diagonally with razor. ( I made a pan loaf).
13. Reduce oven to 400 F; bake until loaves sound hollow when tapped (about 35 minutes).
14. Allow to cool and rest before slicing. Scale-up: Can be scaled up in direct proportion.