My most recent foray into the Modern Baker Challenge was the Semolina Sesame Braid featured on page 82 of The Modern Baker. I approached this recipe with a bit of trepidation. I’m not a huge fan of using semolina flour in bread. It’s great for pasta, which is what it is generally used for. But I find it too gritty for baking. And several of the bakers who have made this recipe (including Sara, the official blogger for this bread) have reported that the dough is too wet to work with, especially when it comes to braiding. But I have vowed to make every recipe in the book, so I forged ahead.
I began by mixing the ingredients — AP and semolina flours, salt, yeast, and water — in my Kitchen Aid mixer.
As with the other breads in this section of the book, this recipe utilizes minimal mixing and autolyse to develop the dough.
As you can see, this dough was really slack. In fact, based on the weight of the AP and semolina flours, I calculated the hydration of this dough at 95% – way too wet to shape, let alone braid. When I reread Sara’s post, I realized that she added extra flour, a lot of extra flour. Unfortunately, by the time I read this, I had already mixed the dough.
I set the dough aside to ferment and decided to develop it by doing a few stretch-and-folds at 20-minute intervals. During the first one, I worked a bit of additional flour into the dough. This helped a bit, as did the extra stretch-and-folds, but the dough was still very slack.
At this point, I didn’t want to try to work any more flour into the dough, but I did liberally flour both the work surface and the top of the dough. This enabled me to divide the dough into three pieces, stretch them out, and braid them.
I sprayed the top of the dough with water, sprinkled it with sesame seeds, and set it aside to proof for an hour.
I baked the loaf for about 35 minutes in a 400-degree oven, until it was golden brown and firm to the touch.
After the bread cooled, I sliced it and ate it with some homemade butter.
Final verdict: it was better than I expected, and the sesame seeds gave it a nice, nutty flavor. It’s still not one of my favorite breads; and I doubt I will make it again. But then, I have yet to find a semolina bread that’s worth repeating.