Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Pane Siciliano

Sliced Pane Siciliano

I have been looking forward to this Pane Siciliano for months, but for some reason just couldn’t get it started.  Perhaps it was the knowledge that this particular bread takes three days to complete.  Even though I knew that most of the allotted time would be dedicated to waiting for the dough to ferment and didn’t require any extra effort, I was still intimidated.  It’s hard for me to plan things one day in advance, much less three days in advance!  But I finally did it.  And yes, this golden-hued bread was worth the wait.  It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Like the Pain de Campagne before it, this bread starts with a pâte fermentée, a small batch of dough that is made the day before the main batch of dough gets put together.  So on the first day, you just need to make a quick batch of pâte fermentée and put it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.  I used the stand mixer for that part.

Pate Fermentee for Pane Siciliano

The second day, take the pâte fermentée out of the fridge and cut it into small pieces.  Cover it with a towel and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so.

Dry Ingredients for Pane Siciliano

Meanwhile, get ready to mix up the dough.  Put the dry ingredients (flour, semolina, instant yeast and salt) into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  I decided to mix this one by hand.

About to Mix Dough for Pane Siciliano

Next, add the rest of the ingredients: water, olive oil, honey, and the pieces of pâte fermentée.

Dough Mixed for Pane Siciliano

Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment on your stand mixer until you have a shaggy, slightly sticky ball of dough.  As usual, if the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.  If it’s too dry, or if there is still flour left in the bowl after mixing, add a bit more water.

Pane Siciliano Dough Ready for Kneading

If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook for kneading.  If not, dump the dough out onto a floured work surface to knead by hand.

Kneading Dough for Pane Siciliano

Knead the dough by hand for about ten minutes (6-7 minutes in a stand mixer) until smooth and supple.

Fully Kneaded Dough for Pane Siciliano

At this point it should pass the windowpane test.  Mine didn’t.  I kneaded it for another minute or so then just moved on.

Ready for Bulk Fermentation

Now it’s time to let the ball of dough rise until doubled in size.  The book says to let it ferment at room temperature for about two hours.  My apartment was pretty warm, so I had a feeling it might double faster than that.

Dough has Doubled

I was right.  It only took about an hour and a half to double in size.

Dough Ready to be Divided

Dump the dough out onto the counter and grab a knife or bench scraper to help divide the dough into three pieces.

Scaling the Dough

Divide the dough as equally as possible, then use a scale to check the weight.  I cut off and added little pieces of dough until they were all close to the same weight.  (You do own a kitchen scale by now, don’t you?)


Preshape each piece into a bâtard (they don’t have to be perfect), then cover with a towel and let them rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten.

Shaped into Baguettes

Using the palms of your hands, roll each bâtard into a long skinny baguette, about 24 inches long.  If the dough resists and shrinks back up, let it relax for a few more minutes and try again.

Shaping the Loaves

To shape the Pane Siciliano, roll each end of a baguette toward the center – each side in the opposite direction so that it resembles a tightly coiled “S” shape.

Loaves Ready for Proofing

Line two sheet pans with parchment and sprinkle semolina over the parchment paper.  Transfer two loaves to one pan and the remaining loaf to the second pan.

Loaves with Seeds

Mist all of the loaves with water and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds.  I only had toasted sesame seeds, but would have preferred white ones and suggest that’s what you use (the toasted ones don’t show up well against the brown crust).  Mist the tops of the loaves with spray oil and cover both pans loosely with plastic wrap.  Put pans in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.

Fully Proofed Loaves

When you are ready to bake the loaves, remove the pans from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.  Meanwhile, prepare the oven for hearth baking and preheat it to 500 degrees.

Pane Siciliano - Out of Oven

Bake the loaves using steam for about 30 minutes (I baked one pan at a time) or until golden brown.

Pane Siciliano - Top and Bottom

I thought the loaves were beautiful and loved the way they looked on the bottom as well as the top.

Pane Siciliano Loaves and Crumb

The crumb was soft and golden with small, irregular holes.  It did remind me of some of the breads we ate while living in Sicily.  I especially liked the crust which was thin and crunchy and chewy for the first few hours.  The bread was good the next day, but I think the texture of the crumb and crust were best on day one.

If you’re following along in the challenge, the actual formula can be found on page 198 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The next bread I’ll be baking is Panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas bread.  It’s a bit early for a holiday bread, but maybe if I start practicing now, I can perfect it by December!

Want to Join The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread, which is the first bread formula in the book.  You may also visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group.

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Pane Siciliano from other BBA Bakers:

  1. pam

    Boy that’s beautiful! This is one that I havne’t tried.

    4:06 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  2. amanda @ fake ginger

    Yours looks so awesome! I had trouble shaping mine but it was worth the trouble.

    5:08 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  3. HPD

    Your bread is always awe-inspiring. Just plain inspiring, now that I think about it. Cheers!

    5:32 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  4. Susie

    This is the one I ‘have’ to do next. I did great going from recipe to recipe from the book and then stopped here. Yours looks awesome and you have renewed my interest. 🙂

    5:46 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  5. Nick (Macheesmo)

    Absolutely perfect.

    Nice work Nicole!

    7:24 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  6. The Teacher Cooks

    This is such a fantastic post! After reading this and using your great photos anyone should be able to make this bread. Nicole, I am using this post with my students. We don’t have the time to make yeast bread in class and this will be perfect.

    7:41 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  7. Prerna@IndianSimmer


    8:55 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  8. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I haven’t made this one yet! Looks fantastic!

    8:56 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  9. christine

    Awesome! I love how specified the steps are. If you wont mind I’d love to guide Foodista readers to your post. Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post so it will appear in the Foodista pages and it’s all set, Thanks!

    9:46 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  10. heather

    wow. those are truly things of beauty. we’ve attempted to make a similar bread and it wasn’t so successful. major props to you!

    cheers and enjoy that amazing bread,


    10:05 am  Sep 9th, 2010
  11. Jodi

    gorgeous! you make bread look irresistible!

    2:50 pm  Sep 9th, 2010
  12. Veronika Rojas

    Gasp! That bread looks beautiful! I am really glad that you post the step by step pictures when you make bread. It makes it seem easier even though making artisan bread is so intimidating!

    3:18 pm  Sep 9th, 2010
  13. Kristie

    There is nothing like home-made bread. I am going to be adding this one to my repertoire. Your pics are great!

    4:59 pm  Sep 9th, 2010
  14. Abby

    Beautiful! Love the shot of the bottom of your loaf ~ I never think to do that!

    5:08 pm  Sep 9th, 2010
  15. Leli Wiggins

    They look lovely! I would totally love to make this bread, but when I bake, it doesn’t look are great as these. Good job! I’ll be waiting for your pannetone, I love getting a pannetone every Christamas.

    7:26 pm  Sep 9th, 2010
  16. Renee

    Looks delicious!! Can’t wait to get to this one.

    10:20 am  Sep 12th, 2010
  17. WeightLoss Willie

    Mmm! Can’t wait to try this. All of your recipes look and sound so good. Hmm, or are you just really talented in photoshop?

    Haha, just kidding!

    Have you tried any of these other kinds of wheat bread?

    11:42 am  Sep 16th, 2010
  18. ATigerInTheKitchen

    Bellissima!!! Congrats, Nicole…your loaves look spectacular. Looking at your pics made me want to make them all over again. Kudos…xxx

    12:50 pm  Sep 27th, 2010
  19. Linda Gleason

    Thank you so much for posting your beautiful pictures. I’m teaching a food science class at a small midwestern college – may I include them in my slides on bread baking?

    6:42 am  Apr 29th, 2011
  20. Raven Whitman

    As far as I can tell, this challenge has been abandoned. Is that right? I can’t find any post after December 2010. Please let me know. Thanks

    10:28 am  Jul 19th, 2011
  21. Plastic Jones

    I’ve made this bread several times with varying degrees of success. Since I work with an electric oven, I have, on occasion, burned the bottom of each loaf by having the rack too close to the element. Solution: I placed my quarry tiles (used for hearth baking) on the bottom rack, using a third rack in the middle to keep the pan from overheating. By the date of my last post, I see I need to update my blog.

    11:11 am  Oct 15th, 2014
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