Sicilian Breads - Overview

With a Sicilian Breads & Foods Bibliography Appended

Over the years, we have received a number of requests regarding Sicilian bread recipes. We have responded with this Sicilian suite   Because of its popularity, we have revisited the original Italian language texts.  As a result, we have revised our  English language texts and retested the recipes.   we are pleased with the results, and hope that you will be also.

We hope that Le Pagnotte di Enna which result  from our efforts will be a bread reminiscent of that tasted in Sicily by many.   Recipes for this bread may be found by clicking on the Menu in the left frame of this section.

At the least, we hope that the recipe(s) and the various citations below will provide our visitors with a starting point by which they will be able to prepare Sicilian style bread.  Since these breads are eaten with the wonderful foods of Sicily, the references should be especially helpful in this regard also.

Brief Description

The following is translated from: Pignatti, Erika. "Profumo di  Pane",  Bologna: Calderini, 1988.

In Sicily, there is an important tradition concerning the forms and types of bread, especially in connection with customs and religious rites. In some of these traditions, there are recurrent paleochristian elements (braids, symbols of the child Jesus), Jewish (unleavened breads) and Arabic (breads and sweets with sesame seeds). Certainly other people who took their turn on the island (Norman, Greek, Spanish, Angevin) have also left a trace, and certain small breads have a phallic aspect directly connected to pagan customs. In Sicily, making bread at home was alive up to a few decades ago. This bread always had a particular imprint in each village, and at times also in individual families. Today in the city these traditional uses are to a large extent lost and the bread often has little difference from what can be purchased in Milan or Rome.

Nevertheless, some characteristic forms exist such as the ferro di cavallo or horseshoe, the pesce (pisci) or fish, and the mafalda. Also, sesame seeds are frequently used sprinkled on the surface of the crust of the bread.

pane_palermitano_sm2.jpg (21546 bytes)The Palermitano filone (an elongated shape) is called cuddura or long bread. The dough is prepared with coarse flour, partly of grano duro (hard wheat), and the top surface is generally sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is a bread that can be preserved for several days and is excellent for bruschetta.

pane_siciliano_sm2.jpg (18715 bytes)The mafalda is a bread of white dough, twisted in form. In the zone of Iblea between Ragusa and Modica, bread is mostly prepared in two forms: the panuzzo, elongated, with a longitudinal cut and the stortella, in the form of an S with a dorsal cut. In the Trapanese the loaves take the name of vasteddi, the filone are called luniceddi.

Grano Duro or Hard Wheat

The following is excerpted from: Corriher, Shirley. "CookWise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking", New York: William Morrow and Company, lnc., 1997.

Semolina: the pasta flour

Some food reference books describe semolina as a coarse grind of cereal and say that white semolina is ground from rice - kasha is a semolina from buckwheat. Restaurant critic, Elliott Mackle, who has toured durum wheat fields, explained to me that in the United States anything called semolina must by law be made of durum wheat with no more than 3 per cent other flour. So, in the United States semolina is exclusively durum wheat flour that has been chipped or sliced (not ground) into a coarse texture about the texture of coarse cornmeal.

Durum wheat is a high-protein, extremely hard wheat with a large kernel. Durum varieties belong to an entirely separate botanical species from ordinary wheats and are completely different…

Pasta manufacturers order from the durum wheat miller a specific texture of semolina…

Be aware though, that semolina in Italian recipes and semolina in the United States grocery stores are not necessarily the same. Semolina machines - the machines for processing durum wheat are of Swiss or Italian manufacture and can be set to produce different textures. Most of the semolina in grocery stores in the United States has a coarse texture similar to cornmeal, but it can be produced in finer textures like flour, too. I have recently been able to find semolina flour in all the health food stores, Susan Derecskey, cookbook writer and editor, tells me that she has had good success making Sicilian pastries and breads with the coarse semolina by processing it in the food processor until it is silky fine.

Most important of all, in spite of its high protein content, durum wheat does not form as high - quality gluten as other varieties…

The following answer is authored by the Wheat Foods Council.

Q. What is semolina and how does it differ from durum flour?

A. Semolina is the coarsely ground endosperm of durum wheat. High in protein, it is used to make the highest quality pasta. It is also used to make couscous -- a North African and Latin American dish which is quickly becoming a staple in North America. Durum flour is a by-product in the production of semolina and is used for American noodles, some pastas and some specialty breads.

The following is excerpted from: Eckhardt Linda West, and Diana CoIlingwood Butts. "Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine". New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Types of Wheat Flour…

Semolina Granules: When the largest particles of the endosperm of durum wheat berries (a variety of hard wheat grown in cold climates) detach during milling, they're known as semolina. Pale yellow and granular, semolina resembles cornmeal and can be used to sprinkle on your baking stone, work surface, or parchment paper to keep breads from sticking. Semolina granules cannot be substituted for semolina flour in bread baking.  

Semolina Flour: Amber colored and slightly grainy this flour is milled from semolina granules, Pulverized, these granules make a coarse flour that is high in gluten protein. Generally used in making pasta, it cooks up firmly and absorbs less water than pasta made with softer flour. When mixed with organic bread flour or whole wheat flour, semolina also makes fine Mediterranean breads,

Durum Flour Integrale: The whole-grain version of semolina flour, durum flour is made from the same hard wheat and is milled using the entire wheat berry. It has the traditional powderlike, brown-flecked texture of fine whole wheat flour and a pronounced wheaty taste.

Golden Durum Flour: Ground from the endosperm only of durum wheat, golden durum flour is the same thing as semolina flour except that it is ground finer. If you can't find it, you can make it yourself with the help of your blender. Simply blend one part semolina granules with two parts organic bread flour until a silky fine-grind texture is achieved.

The following is excerpted from: Field, Carol. "The Italian Baker", New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1985.

Flour in America…

Semolina. Coarse, grainy cream-colored particles of semolina, milled from the hearts of durum wheat berries, are perfect for dusting your baking stone or sheet. The starch will keep your bread dough from sticking. Don't, however, substitute semolina granules for semolina flour; they simply won't make bread.

Semolina Flour. Semolina flour is made from the amber-colored granular grain that comes from grinding the heart of the durum wheat berry. If you read most imported pasta packages, you'll notice that they list semolino di grano duro as the major ingredient; this hard, high-gluten wheat flour is the basis of the best industrially made pastas, as it cooks firmly and absorbs less water than softer flour products.

In Italy, semolina is ground especially for bread making, but here it is hard to find and never quite as silky as its Italian counterpart. If you can find the fine-grind semolina, wonderful; otherwise, you'll have to grind the slightly gritty semolina with some unbleached white flour in your blender. Or you can use pale golden durum flour, which comes closest to the Italian equivalent.

Durum Flour. Durum flour is a creamy, silky fine golden flour milled from durum wheat, which is different from the hard wheats that are used for almost all bread making. It grows in very cold climes, such as Montana and Manitoba, as well as the great Tavoliere plain in Puglia, on the heel of the boot in southern Italy. Durum flour is the hardest kind of wheat. It is very high in gluten and, contrary to general opinion, makes wonderful bread, either alone or in combination with all-purpose flour.

Dan Di Muzio, a professional baker  suggests...   

.....that semolina in its granular form can make great bread. All that's necessary to compensate for the coarseness of the meal is to allow the dough to stand for 20 minutes or so after mixing all ingredients into sort of a lumpy slurry. The Sicilian bread I've made is about half white flour and half Semolina.  The rest period allows the particles of semolina to completely hydrate and become an integral part of the dough.

Le pagnotte di Enna

Our recipe for one type of Sicilian bread, Le pagnotte di Enna, is made using la farina di grano duro, which refers to the flour of hard wheat. These pagnotte, or round loaves, are the most common bread in the province of Enna, and weigh 200 grams (approximately 7 oz.) or 500 grams (approximately 18 oz.).

We have formulated three versions of this recipe, keeping the flour available in the United States in mind. The first recipe is formulated using semolina flour. We purchased this flour at a local Italian food market. The package labeling indicated it was milled as semolina pasta flour and could also be used to make bread. The second recipe is formulated using durum flour. We have purchased durum flour through two local natural food stores and one local bakery. In each case, the flour was different in color and the fineness of the grind. The third recipe is formulated using a blended combination of the durum flour, referred to above, and an unbleached all-purpose flour. The differences in the amount of water and flour utilized in each formulation reflect the differences in volume and water absorption rate of each flour.

Additional variations of Sicilian style bread can be developed using the techniques contained in the recipe(s). A ratio of one-third to one-half semolina can be combined with unbleached all-purpose flour, producing a bread denser in texture. Up to 3 tablespoons of olive oil can be added to the recipe(s), changing the taste slightly, and producing a softer crumb. One-third cup sesame seeds may be sprinkled on the crust of the bread. Sicilian style breads are not limited to combinations and permutations of durum wheat and white flours, but may also be made with 100% white flour and may include some portion of integrale or whole wheat flour.

We encourage those of you who have expressed an interest in making Pane Palermitano and Panini (rolls) to experiment with these recipes and inform us of your results.  We can be reached by email at Email.gif (3578 bytes)

Selected Bibliography

The following books are included because they contain one or more Sicilian style bread recipes and/or Sicilian style food to enjoy with your bread.

Esposito, Mary Ann. "Celebrations Italian Style"New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995.

Field, Carol."The Italian Baker", New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1985.

- "Celebrating Italy", New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990.

Jones, Judith and Evan. "The Book of Bread", New York: Perennial Library, 1986.

Lanza, Anna Tasca, "The Heart of Sicily",  New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1993.

Lo Monte, Mimmetta, "Mimmetta Lo Monte's Classic Sicilian Cookbook", New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1990.

May, Tony. "Italian Cuisine, Basic Cooking Techniques",  New York: Italian Wine and Food Institute, 1990.

Middione, Carlo. "The Food of Southern Italy",  New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987.

- "La Vera Cucina",   New York: Simon & Shuster, Inc., 1996.

Muffoletto, Anna. "The Art of Sicilian Cooking",  New York: Gramercy Publishing Co., 1982

Shulman, Martha Rose. "Great Breads", Shelburne: Chapters Publishing Ltd., 1995.

Schiavelli, Vincent. "Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table",  New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1993.

Simeti, Mary Taylor, "Pomp and Sustenance; Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food", New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1991.

Tornabene, Wanda and Giovanna, and Michele Evans. "La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio = Gangivecchio's Sicilian Kitchen". New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Wolfert, Paula. "Mostly Mediterranean",  New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Di Muzio, Dan,  Big Sky Bakery, Personal Communication, 1999