The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Spicy and Savoury Semolina Levain for Bruschetta

Franko's picture

A Spicy and Savoury Semolina Levain for Bruschetta

Semolina Levain with Roasted Garlic, Black pepper and Provolone

Incorporating black pepper into a bread is something I've wanted to try for a while now, finally deciding last week to have a go at it. What I wanted was a bread for grilling to use for bruschetta, with black pepper, roasted garlic and cheese meant to provide a bit more zing than your standard white Italian of French loaf offers. Using Jeffrey Hamelman's recipe for Semolina Levain from "Bread" as my starting point I took my best guess as to what percentages of pepper, garlic and cheese to add to his formula to achieve the flavour I was looking for. In the end I think I came pretty close, although next time I'll cut back on the black pepper just a touch and use either a sharp, dry aged Provolone or Pecorino Romano for a more assertive cheese flavour.

NOTE: Formula below and in the link have been adjusted accordingly.

After the loaf had cooled down and the first slice tasted, I was slightly disappointed with the flavour since neither the cheese or roasted garlic came through as much as I'd hoped for, although there was no mistaking the presence of the black pepper, every so often hitting a pocket of it that definitely got my taste buds attention. Fortunately my disappointment didn't last long once I'd fired up the BBQ and grilled a few slices (brushed with olive oil) over a bed of hot coals.

The subdued garlic and cheese flavour from my previous cold tasting were now right up there with the black pepper, creating a very good balance of flavour with the durum and wheat flours of Hamelman's base formula. Without the high ratio of durum flour used in the mix I think the flavour and crumb texture would not have been as good as one made with standard wheat flour. Durum flour has such a unique and subtle flavour to it and the crumb seems to retain moisture better than standard wheat flour, possibly why the flavours released as well as they did once the bread had been heated. Just a theory, but something I've noticed with high ratio durum doughs I've made in the past. At any rate, the grilled slices were perfectly suited to pairing with the fresh taste of chopped tomatoes and basil from our garden that I made for the bruschetta topping. My best recommendation for using this bread is to either toast, grill, or fry it in some fashion to really let the flavours come to their best. Served warm to dip in EVOO, mixed with egg and cheese for a savoury [Strata] or simply to make croûtons with, just a few of the possibilities that come to mind for enjoying this bread at it's best.


Extra fancy durum flour can sometimes be difficult to find and costly, depending upon where you live. Durum Atta Flour could be substituted for X Fancy Durum, or even a 100% hydration, coarse semolina soaker used at a 20-40% ratio would likely make a good substitute to use in this formula.


The very best of the Summer to all,


 Link to working spreadsheet [here]

Procedure for Semolina Levain with Roasted Garlic, Black Pepper and Provolone


Roasted Garlic Paste:

Make the roasted garlic paste the day before the final mix and keep covered in the refrigerator. Two heads of garlic should be adequate for a single loaf of 1.150K. Roast the garlic at 325F in an oven proof dish with a 1/4 C of water, covered in foil for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft. Cut in half and squeeze the paste through a strainer or run through a food mill to ensure that the paste is smooth.

NOTE: This a method for garlic paste that I've been using since first reading of it in Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book "Charcuterie" [ ] The addition of water produces a braised paste that has fewer of the bitter flavours encountered in a typical roasted garlic preperation. 


Mix all the ingredients for the levain to a temperature of 70-71F/21C and let sit for 12-15 hours. 

Final Dough:

Scale out the black peppercorns and roast at 350F/176C for 15-20 minutes. The peppercorns should have mild to medium aroma to them. Allow to cool, then crush with a mortar and pestle or a heavy pan. Cut half the cheese into 1/4" dice, shred the remaining cheese and toss all of it with the crushed black pepper. 

Add the water to the Semolina flour and All purpose and autolyse for 40 minutes.

Add the levain and combine with the flours thoroughly, then add the salt and garlic paste and knead to a medium development. 

Allow the dough to relax for 5 minutes then gently stretch it out to a disk. 

Spread the cheese and pepper mix evenly over the dough. Fold the sides of the dough disk to the center then fold the dough in half and slowly knead the cheese/ peppercorn mix into to the dough using wet hands, until thoroughly combined. DDT of 76-78F/24-25C 

Bulk ferment at 76-78F/24-25C for 90-120 minutes, giving the dough 2 stretch and folds at 45 and 90 minutes. 

When bulk fermentation is complete round the dough lightly, dust with flour and cover with a cloth or plastic, resting for 15 minutes before shaping. 

Shape as desired and begin the final proof at 76-78F/24-25C for 75-90 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when pressed with a finger.


Bake with steam in a 475F/246C oven with the vents blocked for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes vent the oven and remove the steaming apparatus. After 20 minutes rotate the loaf for even colouring and continue baking for a further 15-25 minutes. Check the colouring during this time and if necessary adjust the oven temperature to prevent the loaf from over browning. Baking times will vary depending on the weight of the loaf but a 1 to 1.5K should take between 35-45 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 210F/98.8C. At this point remove the loaf from the oven, wrap in cloth and cool on a rack for 8-10 hours before slicing.


NOTE: Use the bread toasted, grilled, or fried for best flavour.



wally's picture

Was doing a drive-by Franko, and came across the pic of the bread and the stream in the background.  Just beautiful.  As well as the crumb shot further along.  Very interesting combination of flavors and definitely worth revisiting and tweaking.  One suggestion re: pepper.  We used to make a focaccia flavored with rosemary, black pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  I found it easiest to incorporate evenly by mixing the spices into the flour (I'd use my hands and sometimes a big whisk to do the job).  No clumps of too much flavor.

Hope life is treating you well.  Your baking obviously is.


dabrownman's picture

on bread for bruschetta!  You bake came out just right.  Nice dark crust and beautifully  open and glossy crumb.

We are have bruschetta tonight on our semolina, basil, carmelized onion and bacon buns left over from hamburgers last night.  Will slice and brush on mojo di ajo grill them, put a thin layer of pesto on the base and then the tomato, grilled red onion, basil, kalamata olives, balsamic vinegar and EVOO with grated parm for the topper.  Thank you for posting your recipe - it has my mouth watering already! 

Very nice baking as usual Franko.

Franko's picture

Thanks dabrownman,

For a first mix of the bread I'm fairly happy with the results but a little tweaking for the second mix wouldn't hurt either. The combo you have in mind for tonight's dinner sounds excellent!

Many thanks for your comments and compliments da-man.


Franko's picture

Hi Larry,

Thanks for driving by and stopping to comment, always great to hear from you!

Your suggestion of mixing the pepper with the flour is likely a good one, although I've always been leery of mixing strong spices with yeast doughs until the yeast has had some time to establish itself in the mix. I remember early on in my career mixing up a huge dough for hot-cross buns that I just dumped everything into (except the fruit) at once. The spices pretty much killed the yeast and the dough was ruined. That nasty experience has stuck with me ever since, so I tend to play it safe now when it comes to strong spices and yeast doughs. 

Cheers Larry!


wally's picture

Certain spices - cinnamon and cocoa are two that come to mind - will really play havoc with your yeast, but black pepper, nah.  Never had issues with our focaccia.

Oh, yeah, one more: I had apple issues with some apple-walnut bread I made.  Repeatedly, so I figured for some reason apples and yeast aren't copasetic.


breadsong's picture

Hi Franko :^)
Your photos, and your bread, bring out so many of the best things of summer: being by the water,
fresh tomatoes and basil, and grilling!
Your bread must be so perfect as a foundation for your beautiful bruschetta.

This loaf of yours is so gorgeous - just look at that crumb!
:^) breadsong


Franko's picture

Hi breadsong,

The new water feature we had installed recently definitely adds to our backyards beauty. Using it as a backdrop for a photo was an opportunity too good to pass up, so I'm glad you like the way it turned out. Thanks so much for your generous compliments on the bread as well. The bread does make a very tasty base for bruschetta, and with the crop of tomatoes we'll have this year I expect I'll be making it at least a couple of more times over the next few weeks.

Thanks again breadsong and all the best,


Floydm's picture

Super nice, Franko.


Franko's picture

Thanks Floyd!

Always a pleasure to hear from a fellow B.C.'er. Oh by the way, a Happy 1st B.C. Day to you, Dorota and the kids! With many more to come I hope.


SylviaH's picture

The stream and bread photo is lovely as is the lovely crumb and bruschetta photos.  Very nicely written formula too!  The 4th photo hasn't downloaded for me..but I will come back later for sure to veiw.  Mike's rushing me out for the hot to cook today :)  sure wish I was at your house for dinner!  

The roasted black pepper, cheeses, garlic all sound so delicious.   Bruschetta sounds perfect for your lovely italian bread.  Roasted, toasted,!  Just amazing how it makes everything burst with even more flavor.  Do try a bruschetta on your lovely bread with grilled fruit and basalmic glaze, cheese and even some herbs..just devine.

Happy summertime baking and eating :)



Franko's picture

Hi Sylvia,

Thanks so much!

It's been blazing hot here on the South Coast of B.C. for the last few days so I can only imagine what it must be like in SD for you. I remember one of your posts I think where you mention the fruit, cheese and balsamic combo and it does sound wonderful. I'll have to remember that next time I'm making bruschetta...which should be fairly soon!

Happy summertime eating.. and staying cool to you as well Sylvia!



varda's picture

What a treat.  -Varda

Franko's picture

A treat is was Varda, more so than I'd really expected, but tough to go too far wrong with the flavours used.

Thanks Varda!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)    I'm catching your wave.

Franko's picture

Thanks Mini!

With the new backyard creek we have an endless supply of waves to share now.  :^) 

JeremyCherfas's picture

... though perhaps not for bruschetta as the bread is quite dense, look out for Dan Lepard's black pepper rye. A really wonderful bread, especailly toasted with peanut butter.

Franko's picture

I have Lepard's "Handmade Loaf" but it only has pancakes with black pepper which sound rather good as well, but I'll have to keep an eye out for his BP rye bread. Thanks for letting me know about it!


jarkkolaine's picture

...and I love the first photo :) Great job!


Franko's picture

Hi Jarkko,

Glad you liked the bread and the creek-side shot as well. Many thanks!



All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... and one of the cutest crumbs to boot.  Have bookmarked this very firmly.  Got to love those colours .....

Bravo Franko!

All at Sea

Franko's picture

Thanks All at Sea!

Glad you enjoyed the bread enough to bookmark it. Can't think of a nicer compliment to receive than that, but "one of the cutest crumbs" runs a close second. :^)

Best Wishes,


isand66's picture

Just perfect crust and crumb Franko!

As far as I'm concerned there is not much I love more than some grilled bread with EVO and some fresh cheese and tomatoes!

I'm traveling right now in China...hopefully upon my return my garden tomatoes should be nice and ripe so I can give your bread a try!

Thanks for reminding me of what I'm missing :)

Love the stream big of a backyard do you have?



Franko's picture

Hi Ian,

If the weather on Long Island is anything like we're having here on Vancouver Island you should have a fine crop of tomatoes awaiting you. Our backyard is big, somewhere between 1500 & 2000 sq ft. roughly if I count the side yard as well. One of the many benefits of the stream is there's less of it to mow now... TG! Appreciate your compliments on the bread and hope you give it try at some point.Have a safe trip home Ian and all the best.


dmsnyder's picture

And you caught me hungry for dinner!

We think about bruschetta all Winter when there are no good tomatoes and then forget about it in the Summer. Thanks for the reminder. We have a great basil crop this year, too.


Franko's picture

Thanks David,

Every summer when we have our first tomatoes from the garden I'm reminded of what a tomato is actually supposed to taste like. After months of eating the dismal things from the supermarket, re-discovering the true flavour of a perfectly ripe tomato is one of the season's highlights for me. The year before last we dehydrated a bucket full of cherry tomatoes that we used throughout the winter in various ways. One was as a pesto, using the tomatoes as the base, along with fresh basil, pine nuts and olive oil. Spread on slices of grilled bread it's a pretty close 2nd to the fresh topped version and much better than using the fresh available in the winter months.


ananda's picture

Lovely crumb on this bread Franko,

I missed your post as we have been soaking up the heat in Greece.

All good wishes


Franko's picture

Hi Andy,

Thanks for finding this post and of course for your compliments on the crumb. Hope you and Alison had a super time in Greece.