If you love those crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside loaves of sesame semolina bread from Panera, it’s so easy and satisfying to bake your own. I recently discovered the techinique of baking bread in a Dutch oven, which obviates the need to add a baking pan filled with water to your oven’s lower shelf, or to spritz your loaf periodically to encourage a loely rise and crust.
This recipe makes one very large boule – once cooled, it should be sliced from the middle outward, keeping the cut sides facing one another to preserve freshness. don’t wrap in plastic…it will destroy all that lovely crustiness on the outside, reducing it to an insipid softness. Instead, wrap it in foil and keep in a breadbox or in a safe place on your kitchen counter where cats can’t break into it.
SESAME SEMOLINA BOULE
This is a remarkably easy loaf even for beginning bread-bakers, and the result is even better than those sesame semolina loaves you get at Panera. Using a Dutch oven to replicate a baking cloche, and eliminating the need to spray the inside of your oven with water, this turns out a perfectly risen, loaf that looks like this.
3 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 Tbsp SAF Instant Yeast, or other quick-acting yeast
1-1/2 Tbsp Kosher salt
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour
3-1/4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
4-5 Tbsp sesame seeds, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornmeal 1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp water
1 5-quart mixing bowl
1 large cast iron Dutch oven (I use a 7-quart)
1 sturdy wooden spoon or silicone spatula
1 cooling rack
In a large 5-quart mixing bowl, combine the water yeast and salt, and stir until dissolved. Then gradually add the flours, ½ cup or so of each at a time, stirring with a large wooden spoon or sturdy silicone spatula after each addition. When all flours have been added, add in about 3 tbsp of the sesame seeds and the olive oil, lightly wet your hands, and use them to completely combine all the dough into a large, soft mass. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel (not terrycloth) and allow to rise about 90 minutes, punching it down at about 30 minute intervals. This dough rises fast – you have to tame it!
After 90 minutes the dough should just about reach the top of your container. Pour it out onto a lightly floured surface, turning it to coat with the flour, and shape into a large boule. Place it on a large sheet of parchment paper that’s been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal, place it in its parchment sling back into the 5-quart bowl, and allow to rest about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450 with the Dutch oven in it.
After 30 minutes, lightly brush the loaf with the egg wash and then sprinkle liberally with remaining sesame seeds. Cut three ½” deep slashes across the top, and then using the parchment as a sling, gently place it, still in its sling, into your hot Dutch oven. Cover, reduce oven temperature to 400, and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove lid and continue baking for 25 minutes. Remove loaf and allow to cool on a rack at least one hour before slicing. I like to slice from the middle, pushing the cut sides of the loaf together to help keep it fresh.