Here it is...the final piece to round out the dinner party menu. In case you missed the other parts of the menu, check out the links...
Italian Semolina Bread (see below)
There was nary a crumb left on anyone's plate, and everyone helped themselves to seconds, so I'll call that a successful dinner! Even better was the fact that nothing on the menu was too difficult or time-consuming. If you weren't into bread-baking, you could pick up an artisan loaf from your local market and save yourself the trouble of making it yourself. But if you know about Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, you'll know that you can make the dough a few days ahead and bake it up a few hours before your party. It doesn't get much fresher than that! The authors of that book have come out with a sequel called Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It explains how to make whole grain and gluten-free breads the "5 minute" way. I'll be adding that book to my Christmas wish-list! You will need to use a pizza stone to get the best results.
Italian Semolina Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe can be doubled or halved.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast (1 ½ packets)
1 ½ tablespoons salt
3 cups durum semolina flour
3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sesame seeds for top crust, approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons
Cornmeal for the pizza peel
Cornstarch wash (see below)
Cornstarch Wash: Using a fork, blend ½ teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of water to form a paste. Add ½ cup water and whisk with the fork. Microwave or boil until mixture appears glassy, about 30 to 60 seconds on high. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks; discard if it has an off smell.
Mixing and Storing the dough:
Mix the yeast and salt with the lukewarm water in your 5-quart bowl electric mixer bowl. Mix in the flours without kneading with the dough hook of your heavy-duty stand mixer until the mixture is uniform. The dough should be wet. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.
On Baking Day:
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball to form an oval-shaped free-form loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before baking time:
Preheat the oven to 450° F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread. Just before baking, paint the surface with cornstarch wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and slash the surface diagonally, using a serrated bread knife. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustment in baking time. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.