Tom Cat’s Semolina Filone [suggested errata]

Tom Cat’s Semolina Filone [suggested errata]

Tom Cat’s Semolina Filone is a lovely recipe by Maggie Glezer from her book Artisan Breads. With thanks to Alan (Alfonso) bringing this recipe to my attention and exemplary bakes of this bread by Alan and David (dmsnyder) I just had to try this recipe myself. 

However while many have tried the recipe, and have sung its praises, there is also talk of running into problems and having to make adjustments. After discussing this with Alan we came to the conclusion the issue lies within the wording of the recipe and we have come up with our own interpretation. Tried and tested to great success we’re convinced this should be the errata needed for this recipe. 

First I’ll give you the recipe as it is written, then I will explain the issue and afterwards offer the solution. 

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THE RECIPE

Poolish:

  • Instant yeast     Dissolve 1/4 tsp in 1 cup of 110F water. Use 1/4 cup of the resulting suspension.
  • Water                  135g (in addition to the above 1/4 cup)
  • Flour                   150g of King Arthur AP (or 75g lower-gluten AP and 75g Bread Flour)

Dough:

  • Durum Flour       250g
  • AP Flour              50g
  • Water                   205g
  • Instant Yeast      1/4 tsp
  • Poolish                All of the above
  • Salt                       9g
  • Sesame seeds    About 2 cups

Procedure:

The night before baking, mix the poolish and ferment 8 hours, covered tightly.

The day of baking, combine the flours and water, mix and autolyse, covered, for 15-60 minutes. Mix the yeast with the poolish and add to the autolysed dough for 5 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the salt on the dough and mix for another 2 minutes. The dough should be sticky but not “gloppy.”

Scrape the dough into a bowl 3 times its volume, cover and ferment for 2-3 hours, folding every 20 minutes for the first hour. Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare your steaming apparatus of choice. Scrape the dough onto your bench and preform it into a boule. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes to relax the dough, then form it into a batard.

Roll the loaf in sesame seeds and place it, seam side up, in a linen or parchment couche. If using a parchment couch you will bake on, place the batard seam side down.) Cover it well and allow it to expand until quite puffy. About 30-60 minutes. 

Roll the batard onto parchment (If using a linen couche). Spray with water and score with one cut from end to end.

Transfer the batard to the oven and bake with steam for 15 minutes, then continue to bake another 30 minutes or so until the bread is well-cooked. (Golden-brown color, hollow thump on the bottom and internal temperature of 205F).

Cool completely before slicing.

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THE PROBLEM

The reason for this seemingly obscure way of adding the yeast to the poolish is because such a small amount of yeast is needed, a fraction of a gram, it’s easier to dissolve 1/4 tsp dried yeast into one cup of water and then use 1/4 of that cup of water (59g) as part of the liquid in the poolish. If you have scales that can measure in fractions of a gram then you can skip this step and just use 0.8g dried yeast. However this is where the confusion comes into the recipe…

Water                  135g (in addition to the above 1/4 cup)

Predictably, and quite understandably, everyone dissolves the 1/4 tsp dried yeast into one cup water (236g) then uses 1/4 of that cup (59g) ‘in addition too’ 135g and ends up with:

  • 150g flour 
  • 194g water 
  • 0.8g dried yeast

The problem is the final hydration of the dough comes out at a ridiculous 88.7% hydration! No wonder many people run into issues. 

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THE SOLUTION

Poolish:

  • Instant yeast     Dissolve 1/4 tsp in 1 cup of 110F water. Use 1/4 cup of the resulting suspension.
  • Water                  135g (including the above 1/4 cup)
  • Flour                   150g of King Arthur AP (or 75g lower-gluten AP and 75g Bread Flour)

So for the liquid you end up with 59g of the yeast/water suspension + 76g water to give a total of 135g! 

Alternatively: 150g flour + 135g water + 0.8g dried yeast.

[Suggested Sourdough Levain Option: 136g flour + 121g water + 28g starter @ 100% hydration; for 12 hours]

We now end up with a more respectable 90% hydration poolish and a 75.6% hydration final dough. This has been tried and tested by Alan and myself and we both agree the resulting loaf handles very well with the overall rise, texture, crumb and taste being excellent. I’m sure you’ll agree should you try this recipe yourself. It comes highly recommended!