Semolina, Sesame and Fennel Bread: A Team Canada specialty with a unique and nutty flavour.

Tracey Muzzolini
June 12, 2008
Written by Tracey Muzzolini
There’s nothing sexier than a perfectly shaped and scored, seeded bâtard.
This bread has a delicious, nutty crust, a beautiful golden interior, and, with the addition of the fennel seeds, a wonderfully unique flavour. This Italian-style bread was one of four formulas I developed as a member of Team Canada, to be used in the Louis Lesaffre Cup’s Baguette and Specialty Breads category. The category required the competitor to make traditional baguettes, half of which are decorative, along with four other specialty breads, all in specific quantities and weights. When designing breads for this competition, it was obviously important to consider the specific criteria on which the breads would be judged, but it was just as crucial to provide a range of breads that were interesting to look at and offered unusual flavours. My strategy was to use a variety of preferments, which would create different flavour profiles, create shapes that were interesting, and use flours that were diverse. I also had to keep in mind that the breads needed to not only be “sexy,” they also need to be representative of Canada.

I wanted to create a bread using rye flour, so I designed “British Columbia Apple Cider Bread.” This bread features both hard and soft cider from B.C., a rye sourdough, and a whole wheat sponge.

I decided it was important to include a multigrain bread, hence the “Honey, Mustard, Pinenut, and Flax Bread.” The result is delicious and rustic looking, and features golden flax and mustard seed from Saskatchewan. The pinenuts offer a tasty flavour surprise at the end.

For obvious reasons, the “Maple Leaf Granola Bread” was specifically designed to represent Canada using custom-made maple leaf moulds and leaf cutters. I used an abundance of maple syrup in the bread, as well as granola made up of flakes of spelt, Kamut wheat, oats and barley. The maple leaf is an icon of Canada, maple syrup is our national treasure, and the grains are grown in the breadbasket of our country.

The fourth formula I used for the Louis Lesaffre Cup was the “Sesame, Semolina and Fennel Bread.” Not only is my family heritage Italian, but there’s an abundance of Italians and Italian culture in Canadian cities like Toronto and Edmonton. We also produce a vast amount of durum wheat in Canada, so this bread seemed more than justifiable to me as part of my bread collection for Team Canada. The combination of semolina, sesame seeds and fennel makes for a really flavourful bread. Once the flavours were in place, my next task was to design the shape. I experimented with some more time-consuming and interesting shapes, but ultimately decided on something more clean and classic. There’s nothing sexier than a perfectly shaped and scored, seeded bâtard, so I went with this shape and hoped my blade would slice cleanly through the seeds to produce a crisp and clean gringe. The classic ring shape was suggested to me by my friend and mentor. It looked great – and hey, it was fun to shape part of the bread with my elbow!

Designing breads with an interesting mix of flavours and shapes is only half the battle. The other half is performing well in a different bakery, with different flours, and tight time constraints, all under the eye of watchful judges. Trust me, it’s much easier to create beautiful breads in the comfort of one’s own bakery, with one’s own flour, mixer and oven. Try it in a strange place and see what happens. It can be a very humbling experience, but also a great learning one. The simple truth about competitive baking is that is makes you a better baker.

That aside, the Semolina, Sesame and Fennel Bread could be a tasty addition to your bread line or your dinner table. With a nice glass of Sangiovese, a hunk of Piave Vecchio cheese and a few slices of the bread, you’ll be ready to say, “La vita e bella!”


Ingredients - Total   
White flour  54 1.430
 46  1.218
Olive oil
 9  0.238
Fennel  2  0.053
 Sesame seed  12  0.318
Dry yeast  0.30  0.008
White starter  0.81  0.021
White sponge - Ingredients    
White flour  100 0.215
Water 67 0.144
Salt  0.5  0.001
Dry yeast
 0.1  0.000
Liquid levain - Ingredients 

White flour
100 0.215
Water 100
White starter
Final dough - Ingredients
White flour 100
Semolina 100.2 1.218
Water 118.7 1.218
Olive oil 19.6 0.238
4.4 0.053
Sesame seed 26.1 0.318
Salt 4.3
Dry yeast 0.64 0.008
White starter 0.0
White sponge
29.6 0.360
Liquid levain
37.1 0.451


Liquid levain process:
  1. Levain can be mixed by hand or in a vertical mixer with a paddle, depending on the quantity.
  2. Place water, flour, salt and starter into a vessel and mix ingredients until well incorporated.
  3. Adjust the temperature of the water so that final temperature of the levain is 72-74 F.
  4. Cover vessel and ferment for 12-15 hours at 73 F.

Sponge process:
  1. Sponge can be mixed by hand or by a vertical mixer with hook attachment depending on the quantity. 
  2. Place flour, water, salt and yeast into a vessel and mix ingredients until well incorporated.
  3. Adjust the temperature of the water so that final temperature of the poolish is 72-74 F.
  4. Cover vessel and ferment for 12-15 hours at 73 F.

Mixing process:
  1. Place preferments, flour, semolina, olive oil, salt and yeast into the bowl of a spiral or vertical mixer.
  2. Prepare water and temperature so that the final dough temperature is 75-77 F.
  3. Add water and mix on first speed for five minutes, then second speed for about three minutes. The goal is to have an improved mix so that the crumb structure is open.
  4. At the end of mixing, add the sesame seeds and fennel seeds and mix on first  speed for about three minutes, until seeds are incorporated.
  5. Bulk ferment dough for two hours, with one stretch and fold after one hour.

Dividing, shaping, proofing and baking:
  1. Divide dough into 360g pieces and preshape into loose rectangles; cover and rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Shape dough pieces into long bâtards and proof for approximately 45 minutes at 74 F.
  3. To make rings, preshape dough into tight balls and let rest for 15 minutes. Place flour onto centre of ball and push elbow into dough to make a hole through the centre of the dough. Pick up the ring and roll vertically through your thumb and your fingers to make the hole larger. When you have the desired ring size, dip top into sesame seeds and place seed side up on a couche. Proof approximately 45 minutes at 74 F.
  4. When the breads are ready to bake, place on loading device and score bâtards lengthwise across the top. Score rings in a circle around the top, or in four places across the top.
  5. Bake semolina breads with steam for about 25 minutes at 440 F.

semolina2 Tracey Muzzolini is co-owner of Christie’s Mayfair Bakery in Saskatoon, Sask., with her brother Blair. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 306-244-0506.

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