I found it in the fridge, sad and alone, flesh soft and wrinkly. Ah, grammar. Of course, I am talking about the sweet pepper I found and not myself. As a baking bricoleur or “found object” bread artist, I like baking with bits of things I find laying around the kitchen. Today, it was a sad, lonely, wrinkled sweet pepper.
This is a photo from the internet. Clearly this pepper is happy, social, and full of youthful energy. It is not a photo of the pepper I used. Honestly, I forgot to take a picture of until it was too late…
The last bread I made using peppers I found laying around turned out pretty good, so I was feeling confident that this bread would have a nice flavor – and I love the smoothness semolina imparts to the finished loaf. The only thing I wasn’t certain about was the biga. Once I figured out that a biga is essentially a little dough-ball version of the kind of sponges I am used to making, I felt better. The instructions to dissolve the biga in water left me wondering why I didn’t just mix it like a batter though. I must investigate bigas more thoroughly.
Softening the yeast.
A small ball of biga. See how subtle I am at getting the Blue Bowl Breads logo in the shot. That is because I am a branding fool, baby.
Here’s what my Mom had to say about semlina bread and bigas: “This additional step allows more time for flavor to develop. Italian semolina flour is ground finer than American brands. If you have access to a mill, have the flour ground very fine, otherwise, regular semolina flour will work (the texture of the loaf will be more coarse, but it won’t affect the taste).”
Before you read on, please note that the biga takes 8 to 12 hours to ripen.
What the biga becomes.
Add that sad, lonely, wrinkled sweet pepper.
Shape some fancy pants coils and braids.
Eat em up, yum!
This is a smooth, subtly sweet, suggestively savory loaf (suitable for sandwiches and soups).
Sweet Pepper Semolina Bread
This bread is made like some Italian breads, with a sponge known as a biga. Here's what my Mom had to say about semlina bread and bigas: "This additional step allows more time for flavor to develop. Italian semolina flour is ground finer than American brands. If you have access to a mill, have the flour ground very fine, otherwise, regular semolina flour will work (the texture of the loaf will be more coarse, but it won’t affect the taste)."
Note that the sponge takes 8 to 12 hours to ripen.
For the sponge
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water about 110 degrees
- 1 cup unbleached flour
For the bread
- 1½ cups warm water about 110 degrees
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup cold water about 60 degrees
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 or more sweet peppers diced
- 1½ cups semolina flour
- 4 to 5 cups unbleached flour
- egg and 2 tablespoons of milk for wash
The sponge (biga)
8 TO 24 HOURS BEFORE BAKING THE BREAD, stir the yeast into water to soften. Gradually add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour, a little at a time, until the dough has absorbed the 1 cup of flour, about 5 minutes (note: my biga only absorbed 3/4 cup of flour).
Put the dough into a large glass or pottery bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and a tightly woven towel. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. It will rise, but after a few hours it settles.
ABOUT 3 HOURS BEFORE BAKING, add the warm water to the sponge in the bowl. Squeeze your fingers through the dough until it has dissolved into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over this mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir.
Add cold water, salt, sugar, pepper, semolina flour, and 1 cup unbleached flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
Gradually add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about two hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball. Roll each ball of dough in semolina flour to coat the entire surface of the loaf and place on a well-greased baking sheet. Flatten the top of the loaves slightly. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Just before baking, paint the loaves with egg wash and cut slits into to the top of the dough.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 190 degrees.
Immediately remove bread from baking sheet and cool on a rack.