The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Semolina w/fennel seeds, golden raisins and pine nuts,

alfanso's picture

Semolina w/fennel seeds, golden raisins and pine nuts,


Friends paid a visit last week from the other side of the peninsula.  And I baked them some bread.  Jim is the extraordinarily talented chef of his own small restaurant and does indeed like my bread, so I was pleased to provide him and Donna with two favorites.  The remaining batards sent home with them.

 In conversation, Donna expressed her enjoyment for one particular item from Amy’s Bread – Amy’s being one of the better known bakeries in NYC, that little burg from whence we all started.  It was a 1992 creation of Amy’s – a semolina studded with raisins, fennel seeds and pine nuts.  Donna suggested that I try my hand at it.   She forwarded the above link to the formula to me.  It employs a ~79% biga. And with a little searching I found Susan’s, of Wild Yeast, version of a similar, quite similar, bread using a levain.  A semolina with fennel, currants and pine nuts. So it was time to investigate, and make one to send along with my wife to her Tuesday night taiko practice for all those hungry drummers who now well know my bread.

The levain is a two stage 100% white flour build. Mixed yesterday and baked this morning.  This bread also asks for olive oil and IDY, two items I tend not to use in my own baking of levain breads, but so be it.  And as usual, I had to, just had to, tinker with the formula to make it my own version of the Susan/Amy creations.

 Using Susan’s formula as my template, I abided by her 1100g total dough weight as well as most of the other ingredient percentages.  But went off the rails on a number of instances.  Some of her formula ingredients are not completely stated. And here are the differences:

  •  The Levain build doesn’t specify what kind of flour to use, so I made the assumption that it was an AP, but instead I used Bread Flour.  Also used for the Final Dough mix.  I decided on Bread Flour over AP as I like to bolster my durum with the stronger white flour. 
  • The formula calls for “semolina” and while taking that at face value, I decided to use semola rimaccinata instead. 
  • While abiding by the white flour and semola percentages, I upped the water content from 64% to 65% while lowering the Olive Oil from 4% to 2% - plenty if you ask me.  According to Mr. Hamelman, oils are considered to be part of the hydration, and therefore my take on this clocks in at 67% total hydration.
  • Being a cautious chap, as well as deciding on a long overnight retard, I opted to just about halve the IDY down to 0.35%.

 Now, as I mix just about everything with French Folds rather than by machine, I add the ingredients differently than the original, autolysing just the flour and water.  Then pinch and fold each of the following separately – IDY, levain and finally the salt.

The dough rests for 5 minutes halfway through the French folds, and it was at that post-rest point that I returned the dough to the mixing bowl and incorporated the oil, turning a somewhat stiff dough into something luxuriously silky by the time the 2nd half of the French Folds completed.

Being that this was a hand mix, I added the fruit, spice and nuts during the first of two letter folds.  The original calls for no folds during the bulk rise.

And then retarded the bulk dough in my usual way, removing it after x hours to divide, shape and then return to retard on a couche for the overnight nap.

Baked cold from retard and abided by Susan’s baking instructions.

Just for fun, I made two fat baguettes/long batards, each weighing in at ~550g.  And as you can see, I provided ample space between scores.  But that didn’t matter to the yeast.  Their growth in the oven during steaming was explosive, and the batards blew right through most of my scoring.

 And now with this behind me, I think that I’ll make one to bring to our gracious Thanksgiving hosts, along with a Vermont SD as companion.

This being the 10th anniversary of Susan posting the formula on her Wild Yeast website - happy birthday bread.  And thank you Donna and Susan!

Coming off the couche, and scored awaiting the oven.  You can see the ample spacing between scores.


Steam released and doughs rotated.

Fresh out of the oven. The oven spring was surprisingly BIG.

Sliced up and ready to ship off to taiko practice with the wife.

long batards, 2 x 550g


Semolina Bread with Fennel, Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts    
Susan, Wild-Yeast        
     Total Flour    
 Total Dough Weight (g) 1100 Prefermented18.00%   
 Total Formula   Levain  Final Dough 
 Ingredients%Grams %Grams IngredientsGrams
 Total Flour100.00%537.6 100.00%96.8 Final Flour440.9
 Bread Flour59.00%317.2 100%96.8 Bread Flour220.4
 Durum41.00%220.4 0%  Durum220.4
 Water65.00%349.5 100%96.8 Water252.7
 Salt2.05%11.0    Salt11.0
 IDY0.35%1.9    IDY1.9
 Olive Oil2.00%10.8    Olive Oil10.8
 Whole Fennel Seeds1.70%9.1    Fennel Seeds9.1
 Golden Raisins, Hydrated20.50%110.2    Golden Raisins110.2
 Pine Nuts, Toasted13.00%69.9    Pine Nuts69.9
 Starter3.60%19.4 20%19.4   
 Corn Meal Crust (opt.)        
 Totals204.60%1100.0 220%212.9  1100.0
     2 stage liquid levain build 
Yield: 1100 g (4 short baguettes)   Stage 1    
Mix: 15 minutes   Bread Flour48.4   
First fermentation: 1.5 hours   Water48.4   
Divide/rest/shape: 30 minutes   Starter19.4   
Proof: 1.25 hours   Stage 2    
Bake: 35 minutes   Bread Flour48.4   


leslieruf's picture

it looks so very very good.  it is just begging to be eaten!

The dough is not sweetened at all? just the sweetness that comes from the raisins?  The dough would be nice to shape at that hydration too.

great bake alfanso



alfanso's picture

Just the hydrated raisins do the trick.  Aside from "being over" the hunt for a big open crumb, I'm also only modestly interested in high hydration doughs as well.  When they come do around on the Roulette Wheel of what to bake next, then okay as far as that goes.  

These high 60s to low 70% doughs are really easy to handle and shape.  I can thank Mr. Hamelman for that as his breads frequently are in the upper 60% hydration range - at least those that I've tackled so far.

I'm uncertain whether the toasted pine nuts really add much other than some chew and their Houdini-like ability to slip out of a too-thinly sliced piece of the bread.

This might not be the type of bread a corner bakery would often do because of the cost of the pine nuts.  Those costs have to be passed on to the consumer and between that and the raisins, makes this a high priced loaf in competition with the typical FWSY breads lining the remainder of the shelves.  However, however however - for us little folks at home it is indeed a treat.

Thank you, alan 

leslieruf's picture

about the hydration. I think around 70% is ideal. I do however want to be able to handle a higher hydration dough comfortably.  Hamelman's recipe's are as you say in this range and I am now understanding the reasoning behind some of his methods (taken me long enough, but hey I am getting there). Bread is one of my favourite books.

I will definitely try this recipe at some point.



alfanso's picture

Semolina Bread with Fennel, Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts, By Susan, Wild-Yeast, Nov. 2007


Day 1 – mix levain – 15 minutes (overnight – 7-12 hours for stage 1)

Day 2 – Autolyse Mix, Ferment – 2.5-3 hours plus Divide & Shape – 30 minutes (overnight – 12-18 hours)

Day 3 – Bake – 1.5-2 hours

 Formula on BBGA worksheet.


 This is a 2 stage levain build.

 Day 1

  1. Mix levain, refrigerate if not ready to use.
  • Stage 1 (7-12 hours).
  • Stage 2 (4-6 hours).

Day 2

  1. Soak golden raisins in water.  Reserve water for autolyse.
  2. Mix flours, water and reserved water in bowl.  Autolyse at least 30 min.  Dough will be quite dry.
  3. Add IDY, levain then salt.  Pinch & fold for each ingredient.
  4. 300 French Folds.  150, 5 min rest, add oil, 150.  Dough will be stiff until oil is added, then become silky.
  5. Transfer dough to covered, lightly oiled container. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/4 hours.
  6. Letter folds at 30 & 60 min.  Add fennel, raisins and pine nuts on first letter fold.  It will seem as though there is too much.
  7. Retard for a few hours before shaping.
  8. Divide &  pre-shape, cover with towel or 10-15 minutes.  Shape and couche seam side down.  Will require very little flour on couche.  Plastic bag over couche and back to retard.
  9. OR Proof inside plastic bag at room temperature until the diameter of the baguettes has increased by approximately 50%, about 1 hour min.
  10. Retard for 12-18 hours, total.
  11. Preheat oven with baking stone, 460dF about 1 hour in advance of bake
  12. Steam oven with Sylvia’s Streaming towel 15 minutes before bake.
  13. Load scored dough from oven peel and steam lava rocks w/ 2 cups near boiling water.
  14. Bake at 440dF.  Steam for 8-12 min, release steam, rotate dough. Bake ~17 min more. 
  15. Loaves should be medium golden brown. Vent oven for final 5 min of total baking time.
  16. Continue venting for 5-10 min more with oven off.
  17. Place loaves on wire rack to cool.
leslieruf's picture

many thanks Alan


Danni3ll3's picture

What did your friends think of it? I think it would be delicious!

alfanso's picture

with one saying it was the most flavorful so far.  Well, she came home empty handed, following my instructions to divest of all of it at her practice.  That is, unless she dished a few remaining slices into the trash can so as not to enlist my wrath!

Had some as my morning toast.  I've now dropped down 10 pounds, closing in on my fighting weight, in these past 6 weeks, and can start to slide a few slices here and there into my own gullet again.

BTW here's what your "local" taiko group looks like.  Here's what my wife's former group looks like 1 2

thanks, alan

dabrownman's picture

but a great tasting work of art that is healthy, hearty and just lovely.  Perfect for Thanksgiving when sonething special is needed!  Well dine and happy baking for eh Holidays DB.

alfanso's picture

of these big fat bags.  So for Thanksgiving I'll be baking 4 at approximately the same size, ~550g for these and ~600g for the Vermonts.  Likely only take 2 with us as my wife also baked a killer pumpkin cheesecake to take.

Happy and safe holiday, alan

isand66's picture

So nice to see you roaming off the reservation with this one.  Looks like it was nice and tasty.  I'm surprised that you count the oil as part of the hydration.  I've always read the exact opposite and personally I've never felt oil did affect the hydration.

Happy Baking and have a great Turkey Day!


alfanso's picture

with occasional exceptions, but don't get your hopes too high, this is an exception and not the rule going forward ;-( .

As far as the oil counting toward the overall hydration: I wouldn't know better - ain't hip enough or smart enough still about this stuff.  So I went to the expert.  And right there in plain print Mr. Hamelman states:

"Natural oils, such as olive, soy and canola, are liquid at room temperature.  When used in bread doughs, these oils are liquefiers, and as such their weight is included with that of the water when computing dough hydration." 

I didn't know it before, but I do now.  And so the dude abides!  Thanks, alan

isand66's picture

Well he certainly knows more than me.  I wonder if anyone has actually done any scientific studies on the matter.  Anyway, have a great Thanksgiving.  I'm about to put some cherry, cranberry, pecan porridge rolls in the oven.  It's always a challenge to bake when away from home.  Hopefully these will turn out as expected.



alfanso's picture

as NOT liquids (and they aren't from where I sit) so go figure.  Anyway, he is certainly one large voice in a field of large voices.  Maybe there is no right or wrong answer, but if I have to place a stick in the sand about whether or not, then it is not a bad voice to listen to.

Good luck in someone else's oven.  Indeed, may always be dicey.  If it fails, just place it in bowls and call it a sophisticated bread pudding!  And Happy Thanksgiving.


Floydm's picture

Wow, looks fantastic.

alfanso's picture

for a first time using these types of ingredients and baking at a lower than typical temperature.  And of course the positive feedback sure was nice.

 BTW, If I have it right, you are in Vancouver, BC.  When we first moved to PDX i13 years ago, before my wife was a member of that taiko group, we saw Vancouver Taiko play as guests in our new city.  They were incredibly talented, so if you have never seen them, it would be worth a look-see.  Of course this was in early 2004, so the constituency of the group may be quite different now.

Thanks, alan 

Floydm's picture

Yeah, we are in Vancouver BC now after 20 years in Portland.

We saw an all female taiko group at an event in Vancouver this summer. They were good.  I'm not sure if that is the same group or not though.

alfanso's picture

Surprised that there are about 10 groups in the immediate neighborhood near you.  Didn't have a clue.  Just checked and this is the one if you have a hankering - .  A small group led by Bonnie Soon, Boyd Grealy and Jason Overy.  

isand66's picture

So nice to see you roaming off the reservation with this one.  Looks like it was nice and tasty.  I'm surprised that you count the oil as part of the hydration.  I've always read the exact opposite and personally I've never felt oil did affect the hydration.

Happy Baking and have a great Turkey Day!


sadkitchenkid's picture

so much bread envy right now! When I saw this, I had just finished mixing a semolina dough with fennel and sunflower seeds. Now I wish I'd seen this first. Bookmarked!

alfanso's picture

come out of your oven, you shouldn't have much envy.  Your creations are noteworthy.

thanks, alan