The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tom Cat bakery

Franko's picture


A few weeks back I went looking to find a source for Fancy or Extra Fancy Durum flour here in B.C. or Western Canada but drew a complete blank with all my usual local retailers. Durum Atta flour for chapatti and other Indian baking is readily available but the x-fancy is nowhere to be least for now. Fortunately breadsong  was able to give me a hand and put me in touch with one of her contacts at Giusto's in San Francisco who was quite happy to fill my 1 bag order. The shipping cost was fairly steep, but now at least I had 25lbs of beautiful, finely milled durum flour that I could use while I try to source something a little closer to home. One of the several breads that I wanted the flour for is a recipe from Maggie Glezer's 'Artisan Baking' called Tom Cat's Semolina Filone. David Snyder as well as many others on this forum have posted on it, but it was David's post of his bake of this bread that really inspired me to give it a try. Link to David’s post below:

I won't go into a step by step of the procedure since David has already covered that thoroughly in his post, with our methods and experiences with the dough being almost identical. The one notable difference being that I didn't find I needed to add any extra flour because of the dough being “gloppy” during the initial mixing. This may be because I was using a blend of Canadian AP and Bread flour, likely with a higher gluten content than the KA-AP that David used.

This is a really nice dough to work with and an easy mix by hand for the quantities given in Glezer's formula. After a 3 hour bulk ferment the dough is soft, supple, and very extensible with it's 33% prefermented flour from the poolish allowing for easy molding. Very similar to a baguette dough I thought, and something I'll try molding this dough as in future mixes. There will certainly be future mixes since this is a great tasting bread in all respects. I love toasted sesame seeds, so any bread covered in them is going to taste wonderful to me, but the crumb and crust just on their own work perfectly together, creating a good crunch from the crust with, to borrow one of David's terms, a nutty flavour. I didn't notice the nut flavour so much in the crumb as he did, rather I found a very slight acidity highlighting the mixed grain flavours. I know that several folks on this forum have noted the lack of flavour that durum flour has but whatever contribution it makes overall to this formula surely must be positive. The texture of the crumb is almost feathery soft but has good chew somehow as well, which surprised me. Again, possibly a factor of the flour combination used in this mix, and not something I'd want to change in future mixes. This bread being a natural for open faced sandwiches with fresh tomato and cheese or dry salami and pepperoncini with a little EVOO drizzled over, that's exactly what I had for a very enjoyable lunch this afternoon.


dmsnyder's picture

Tom Cat's Semolina Filone

Tom Cat's Semolina Filone

Tom Cat's Semolina Filone Crumb

Tom Cat's Semolina Filone Crumb

Tom Cat's Semolina Filone

Instant yeast     Disolve 1/4 tsp in 1 cup of 110F water. Use 1/4 cup of the resulting suspension.
Water               135 gms (in addition to the above 1/4 cup)
Flour                 150 gms of King Arthur AP (or 75 gms lower-gluten AP and 75 gms Bread Flour)

Durum Flour           250 gms
AP Flour                 50 gms
Water                    205 gms
Instant Yeast         1/4 tsp
Poolish                  All of the above
Salt                      9 gms
Sesame seeds       About 2 cups

The night before baking, mix the poolish and ferment 8 hours, covered tightly.

The day of baking, combine the flours and water, mix and autolyse, covered, for 15-60 minutes. Mix the yeast with the poolish and add to the autolysed dough for 5 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of a stand mixer, according to Glezer. (But it didn't, even with 3-4 T of added AP flour.) Sprinkle the salt on the dough and mix for another 2 minutes. The dough should be sticky but not "gloppy." (The dough was what I'd call "gloppy," even with mixing another 10 minutes at Speed 3 on my KitchenAid. I decided to proceed anyway.)

Scrape the dough into a bowl 3 times its volume, cover and ferment for 2-3 hours, folding every 20 minutes for the first hour. (The dough started coming together better after a short time and was still sticky but smooth and puffy after 2 hours in a 75F kitchen.) Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare your steaming apparatus of choice. Scrape the dough onto your bench and preform it into a boule. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes to relax the dough, then form it into a batard.

Roll the loaf in seseme seeds and place it, seam side up, in a linen or parchment couche. If using a parchment couch you will bake on, place the batard seam side down.) Cover it well and allow it to expand until quite puffy. (Glezer says this should take 30-60 minutes. My dough was very puffy, and I shaped it very gently to retain the bubbles. I let it proof for 20 minutes only before proceeding.)

Roll the batard onto parchment (If using a linen couche). Spray with water and score with one cut from end to end. (I cut holding the knife at and angle to get a nice "ear" and "grigne.")

Transfer the batard to the oven and bake with steam for 15 minutes, then continue to bake another 30 minutes or so until the bread is well-cooked. (Golden-brown color, hollow thump on the bottom and internal temperature of 205F.

Cool completely before slicing.

I have made 3 other semolina breads, but this was the first time I used fine-ground Durum Flour. The recipe is Tom Cat's Semolina Filone from Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Breads."

I used all King Arthur AP flour, as Glezer says this has the desired gluten level for this formula. I found the dough to be much wetter than I expected. I did add extra flour, as she says one might have to, but it remained a very wet dough. I was concerned it might be quite impossible to form a real batard, but, after the stretch and folds and 2 hours total fermentation, the dough behaved much better than I anticipated. It did have to be handled very gently, but I'm learning to do that.

I was also surprised how well this soft, puffy, wet dough took my cut,and the oven spring and bloom were phenomenal.

I think the result was a quite attractive loaf, and the crumb was even more open than I expected - a real "rustic"-type crumb. The texture and taste of this bread are both outstanding. The crust is crunchy with a prominant hit of toasted sesame seeds. The crumb is very soft and tender with a cool, creamy mouth feel. it has a definite semolina flavor that is most often described as "nutty." I don't know what kind of nut it's supposed to taste like, but it tastes really good.

I have been a little disappointed in the taste and texture of the other semolina breads I've made. I've not made any of them more than once. Maybe the durum flour makes the difference. Maybe it's Tom Cat's recipe. Maybe my skills in handling dough have advanced. Whatever. I'll be making this one again, for sure!


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