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Semolina Bread 

This classic Sicilian Semolina Bread is golden and fragrant with a crunchy crust covered in sesame seeds.

Known as Pane Siciliano, it’s easy to make and goes perfectly with salami, sausages and Italian cheeses. This bread is so good that you’ll devour it slice after slice!!

Semolina bread with three slices cut all on wooden board.
This bread is unbeatable!

The main ingredient in this bread is semolina flour. It’s not the coarse semolina used to make polenta or gnocchi alla romana. But fine semolina that’s milled from hard durum wheat and golden in color.

My rustic Semolina Bread is a little bit dense while still soft and flavorful. It’s this texture that makes it pair so well with the strong flavors of southern Italy. Imagine this bread, still warm from the oven, split in half, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, oregano and a few strips of anchovies. That is bliss!

Semolina Bread is traditionally formed in many different shapes in bakeries all over the beautiful island of Sicily. The most common shape is called mafalda and looks a bit like the letter “M” squashed together with a baton of dough across the top. The shape I’ve chosen is called occhi which means eyes and it’s a reference to the eyes of St Lucy who is the patron saint of vision. As you can see, this shape looks a little bit like eyeglasses.

Why you’ll love this recipe:-

  • Semolina flour gives this bread a stunning golden color, crunchy crust and an almost buttery taste.
  • The thick topping of sesame seeds is more than just for looks; they add a nutty flavor to the bread that’s unbeatable!
  • This bread is not hard to make, it just takes time and patience.
  • It’s a versatile bread that is amazing fresh and warm from the oven but toasting day old slices brings out all the fresh flavors of a just baked loaf.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

Ingredients for this bread recipe viewed from above.
  • Active dry yeast – easily available at most supermarkets and very easy to use. This yeast usually comes in premeasured sachets which is very convenient. 
  • Lukewarm water – just warm, not hot. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. You should be able to put your fingers into the water and feel neither hot nor cold. It’s at body temperature. 
  • Honey – I like the flavor of a little honey which also gives the yeast something feed on right at the beginning.
  • Olive oil – regular olive oil or extra virgin olive oil is perfect for this recipe. 
  • Semolina flour – is finely ground from hard durum wheat and it’s fantastic for pasta like cavatelli. The pale yellow color is characteristic of durum wheat semolina. Don’t use coarse semolina because it won’t work. Take it from me – I’ve tried!
  • Bread flour – this flour is higher in protein and gives great structure in bread dough. At a pinch, you could use all purpose flour.
  • Salt – sea salt is great but whatever salt you’ve got will be fine. Salt is so important when baking with yeast. It slows the yeast a bit ensuring that the yeast doesn’t eat up all the sugars in the dough. I know fast rising might sound like a good idea but dough made without salt ends up sticky, hard to work with and often collapses.
  • Sesame seeds – these are the essential characteristic of this Sicilian Semolina Bread and add a delicious nutty flavor. You’ll find these in most grocery stores.

See the recipe card for quantities.

Instructions

Four step process showing how to make this Italian bread recipe.
  1. Combine active dry yeast, honey and warm water in a large stand mixer bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes until frothy about 5 minutes.
  2. Using the dough hook on an stand mixer, knead together the yeast mixture with all of the ingredients except the sesame seeds. When well kneaded, remove the dough from the bowl and finish by hand forming it into a ball. Return it to the bowl.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled.
  4. When doubled in size, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Form each half into a long rope and coil the ends in opposite directions like an S. Continue to coil both ends back towards the middle until completely coiled. 

Transfer the shaped doubt to the prepared baking sheet, brush with water and sprinkle thickly with sesame seeds.

Allow to rise in a warm place then bake in a preheated oven until golden brown.

Hint: When preheating the oven, place a large baking pan underneat the rack on which you will bake the bread. Pour a cup of water into the hot baking pan just as you put the semolina bread in to bake. The steam created stops the crust from hardening to quickly and allows the bread to rise well. Remove the baking pan of water after 15 minutes. The loaf needs to finish cooking in a dry oven.

Substitutions

  • Active dry yeast – instant yeast can easily be substituted for active dry yeast. Use about 25% less – for 2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast use 1 ¾ teaspoons of instant yeast. If you have access to fresh yeast and would like to use it, substitute approximately ⅔ ounce or 20 grams of fresh yeast for the active dry yeast. 
  • Honey – replace with sugar if you prefer or don’t have honey.
  • Sesame seeds – while sesame seeds are the traditional topping for this bread, these can be omitted or substituted with poppy seeds.

Variations

  • Cheesy – add ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) into the dough for a cheese flavored bread.
  • Spicy – add chili pepper flakes into the dough for a little heat in this homemade Italian bread.

Use this Italian Semolina bread instead of ciabatta bread to make my tasty garlic bread recipe!

Equipment

Using an stand mixer with a dough hook attachment takes the work out of kneading this bread. However, if you don’t have an stand mixer this dough can be kneaded by hand quite easily.

Storage

While this bread is best eaten fresh the day of baking, it will keep for a day or two in a sealed bag or air tight container. Day old Semolina bread is delicious toasted and topped with sun dried tomato pesto!

Alternatively, this bread freezes well. Just wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and pop into a heavy duty, zip lock bag. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw at room temperature and reheat in the oven until crispy on the outside and warmed throughout.

Tips for Success

Two "S" shaped breads on a black wire rack.

When baking with yeast, always ensure you have fresh yeast. When combined with the warm water and honey, it should become foamy in just 5 minutes or so. If not get yourself new yeast!

Seeing as this is Semolina Bread, the semolina flour is very important. Be sure to purchase the finely milled variety. It’s the same as the one I used in my busiate pasta recipe.  Some semolina is more coarse and won’t work in this recipe.

 Preferably weigh ingredients on kitchen scales to get the correct ratio. However, if you use cups always stir the flour to lighten before spooning into the cups measures and leveling off.

Always allow the dry ingredients to mix well with the wet ingredients before deciding that the dough is too dry. It takes time for the moisture to be absorbed into the flour. After the dough has been well kneaded you can then decide if it needs more water.

Don’t skip brushing the final dough with water before baking. This is what makes the sesame seeds stick really well.

FAQ

Is semolina bread vegan?

This semolina bread recipe used olive oil and not butter so it’s definitely vegan.

Is semolina bread better than white bread?

Yes, in many ways semolina bread is better that white bread. It tastes delicious and has more fibre and protein than white bread. The health benefits of semolina flour include being high in minerals and B vitamins plus it’s known for being good for your digestive system. Semolina flour used in semolina bread is less refined than white flour however it is high in gluten which may not be tolerated by some people.

Should semolina flour be refrigerated?

Semolina flour has a long expiry date if it’s stored in a cool dry place. So the answer to this question is it depends. It depends on if your pantry is always cool and dry then it’ll be fine in at room temperature until the expiry date on the package.
 If instead you’re like me live in a hot, humid climate then the refrigerator or the freezer is the best place for semolina flour. I like to transfer semolina flour into an airtight container before storing in the fridge or freezer.

Serving Suggestions

Bread topped with sesame seeds cut in half on a wooden board.

Semolina Bread is absolutely divine warm from the oven. 

But if you want to take this bread to a whole new level then you’ll follow this tip. While still warm, split it in half, drizzle the bread with extra virgin olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and dried oregano then lay on strips of anchovies. Add a pinch of chili flakes if you like. 

Eat it warm. You’ll thank me for it!

Made this recipe?
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Semolina bread with three slices cut all on wooden board.

Semolina Bread Recipe

This classic Sicilian Semolina Bread is golden and fragrant with a crunchy crust covered in sesame seeds. Semolina flour gives this bread a delicious taste and beautiful rich color. Perfect paired with salami, cheeses and sausages. Makes two small "S" shaped loaves. Each loaf can be cut into 8 thick slices.
5 from 115 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Rising Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings:16 slices
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • 1 electric stand mixer with dough hook

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • cup lukewarm water divided
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ½ cups semolina flour 360 grams
  • 1 cup bread flour 140 grams
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Combine dry active yeast, honey and 1/4 cup lukewarm water in a large stand mixer bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes until frothy.
  • Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer.
  • Add the olive oil, remaining 1 cup lukewarm water, semolina flour, bread flour and salt into the frothy yeast mixture.
  • Begin mixing on low speed until all ingredients are combined.
  • Increase speed to medium and knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and finish kneading by hand on an unfloured surface. Use a bench scraper to lift the dough off the surface as needed. When the dough is springy and strong, form into a ball.
  • Wash out the bowl and lightly oil with olive oil. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 ½ hours in a warm place.
  • When risen, scrape the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface.
  • Cut the dough in half.
  • Flatten each half into a long rectangle then roll up like a Swiss roll. You'll have two fat logs of dough.
  • Take one log and with the palms of your hands, roll the dough into a long rope 24 inches (about 60 cm) long.
  • Tightly begin coiling the ends in opposite directions like an "S". Continue to coil both ends back towards the middle until completely coiled.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Carefully transfer the coiled onto the baking sheet lined with non stick parchment paper
  • Brush with water and sprinkle thickly with sesame seeds. Pat the sesame seeds on so they stick well.
  • Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30-40 minutes until puffed and risen or doubled in size.
  • In the meantime preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC and place a deep baking pan inside the oven underneath the rack that you will be baking the bread on.
  • When the dough is puffed and risen transfer it to the oven. At the same time, carefully pour one cup of water into the preheated baking pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes then remove the baking pan of water after 15 minutes. The loaf needs to finish cooking in a dry oven.
  • Bake for a further 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Notes

Tips for Success
  • Don’t use old yeast.
  • Use fine milled semolina flour.
  • Preferably weigh ingredients. If using cup measurements, stir the flour up to lighten then spoon into the cup measure without packing.
  • Mix the dough well and give it time for all the water to be absorbed into the flour before making any adjustments. 
  • Be sure to brush the final dough with water before baking so that the sesame seeds stick well.
For more information and tips, read the full post above.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 144kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 293mg | Potassium: 78mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 0.2IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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34 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    One last question – what difference do you think rolling the dough in a log makes compared to just a long rope? more air pockets? Lighter dough?

  2. 5 stars
    I’m Sicilian-American and grew up eating bread like this from the bakery…this brought me right back to my childhood. Fantastic recipe!

    My only comment would be that the yeast flavor was a bit strong, which surprised me given I only let it rise a second time for about 20 minutes.

    Additionally, reading the comments, it seems I got confused as to what you meant by a swiss roll. Does this mean flattening the dough into a long, say, 4 inch by 24-inch flattened rectangle that you then roll up like a cinnamon roll? I ended up just rolling it out into a long rope and coiling it, which worked very well.

    I’m also curious to know if you think there would be a difference in the water measurement if it was weighed, or if simply 1 1/4 cup would be fine no matter what. Thanks!

    1. I’m glad that you love this semolina bread. It’s one of my favorites. Yes, the dough should be rolled up like a jelly roll. I’ll add that to the wording. Don’t worry about weighing the water. Water is fairly easy to measure and doesn’t compact like flour. However, depending on your environment, you may need to add more or less.

  3. Can you make the dough the night before and allow to slow rise in the refrigerator overnight? If so, do you just bring the dough to room temperature and allow to rise until double in size the next day? Will that enhance the flavor? Thank you!

    1. I think you could, Karen especially if you have experience with doing this with other recipes. While I have never done that with this recipe, it would definitely enhance the flavor. The trick is allowing enough time the next day for the dough to come to room temperature and rise. Depending on the weather this can take some time..

  4. 5 stars
    Made this as a straight up sandwich loaf and my family loved it. Wonderful crispy crust with surprisingly tender insides. Definitely a winner. I will use this recipe frequently.

    My one problem was the sesame seeds. I used water and pressed them down and they still showered off the baked loaf.

    1. Thank you for the great feedback, Molly! Yes, the inside is beautifully tender, isn’t it? Perhaps you could try an egg wash to keep the sesame seeds on.

  5. Hi and thank you for this recipe shared. I have been looking at a few methods to make authentic Semolina bread. Some call for only semolina and like yours adds another flour as you show. What and why add it to semolina. What might the difference be. Also if adding fruit and or nuts to this would it change any of the method? Thank you for your assistance in my learning curve.

    1. Karen, I prefer adding bread flour to semolina bread because I like the texture the two create. A 100% semolina bread would have a different texture. If adding fruit (I’m assuming dried fruit?) or nuts to the dough, incorporate these when kneading by hand. Happy baking!

  6. 5 stars
    Great flavor! Mine did come out a bit dense… over mixing? I typically have this problem with breads and cakes
    I will definitely try it again

    1. I’m glad you loved the flavor, Lisa! This bread is more on the dense side though it could be that the second rise wasn’t long enough. Try extending the second rise next time. If the temperature in your kitchen is cool, the bread will take longer to rise.

  7. Hi,
    I am following your recipes, all are so delicious. I am always looking forward for your new posts.
    Which semolina flour are you using?
    Thank you

  8. I’ve made the bread twice. Great recipe. My only issue is the dough is not binding. It kind of separates. Adding a bit of water helps during my kneading process. Also dough will not form a ball in the mixer. Help!

    1. Hello Mary Ann! It sounds to me that the semolina you are using isn’t fine enough. The same thing happened to me years ago when I couldn’t find semolina flour and use regular semolina instead. Is this the case? Are you using semolina flour? It should be very fine – almost as fine as flour and only very slightly grainy.

  9. Hello! I live in Hungary but go to Italy often. Can this recipe be used to make a loaf? Thanks for the great recipe, I just came back from Calabria with many bags of double milled semolina flour and would like to make some simple loaves. Thank you so much for your time.

    1. Ciao Martin! I can’t see why not. I would use this recipe to make one loaf because it makes two small “S” shaped loaves. It’s a delicious bread which I think would be very good with your double milled semolina flour!

  10. 5 stars
    I just Ate 2 pieces. It’s amazing! I have Never made bread so good so easy. Thank you. I had Half a package of semolina flour left after making pasta, came across this recipe. So glad. I use Agave instead of honey and everything bagel seasoning instead of sesame seeds. Amazing crunch, softness,flavor! I did Drizzle with olive oils she warm from the oven soooo gooooodddddd!

  11. 5 stars
    Your Semolina Bread looks wonderful. I am eager to try this recipe. If kneading by hand, how long to knead? Also, any thoughts on using a baking steel instead of a baking pan? Thanks so much!

    1. That’s a great question, Alexander. Knead the dough for semolina bread for about 10-12 minutes. You’ll know it’s done if the dough springs back when you poke it with your finger. I have no experience with a baking steel for this type of bread but I do hear they’re great for pizza but you may need to pay attention with bread like this that takes 30 minutes to cook that it doesn’t burn. Let me know how you go.

      1. Didn’t give any starts since I’m in the middle of making this right now, but I’ve noticed that the recipe doesn’t tell you how many loaves it makes. In the steps to shape/form it’s a bit confusing.

        1. Thank you for your comment, Nancy. I’ll add in the recipe description that it makes two loaves. However did you read step 9? It says “Cut the dough in half. Flatten each half into a long rectangle then roll up like a swiss roll.” Then the recipe proceeds to explain how to shape the dough. In step 12 it says “Repeat with the remaining dough.” Have you seen the photo? This bread is in the shape of the letter “S” but more coiled at each end. As in the recipe, you need to flatten each dough half, roll it up like a swiss roll. Use the palms of your hands to roll and lengthen the log. Use this log to form the coiled “S” shape. Hope that helps.

    1. This is what confused me I suppose…”14. Carefully transfer the coiled onto the baking sheet lined with non stick parchment paper”
      Would be a good idea to mention that it makes 2 loaves. Recipes usually state how much it makes.
      I haven’t cut into them yet, but they look good. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper, I’m sure. I have a photo to share, but don’t see where to post that.

  12. 5 stars
    First time to hear about Semolina Bread, and it looks delicious and easy to make.
    I’ll be saving this recipe and trying this on weekend.

    1. Making this Bread was a wonderful expierence to have.. thank you for sharing. Although I would like it to have a shiney appearance..