Soft Semolina Sourdough

When my daughter and I visited son/brother in Oregon this summer, we had lunch in a cafe whose salads were accompanied by a soft, moist, seed-encrusted bread that inspired M to ask “Why can’t you make bread like this?”

“I can.”

“Well, make some, then. Your bread is always too crusty.”

When I offered this to M yesterday, I imagined she might throw her arms around me and pronounce me the best baker-mom a girl could hope for.

Not even close. She gave the crumb an offhand squeeze and pronounced brightly, without taking a bite, “Yeah, that’s it. I’m not hungry. Good job, though!” I’m not entirely sure, but I think she might have given me a little pat on the head at this point.

M, you are so lucky that I love you unconditionally.

I used a mixture of equal parts sesame and fennel seeds for the coating. Don’t do this unless you love the taste of fennel. Sesame seeds by themselves are nice without being quite so provocative.

Although you must not expect your kids to appreciate you for it, you can further soften the crust by storing this bread in a plastic bag once it is cool.

Soft Semolina Sourdough

Yield: 1 kg (2 loaves)


  • Mix: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 4 hours, with folds at 1 hour and 2 hours
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
  • Proof: 2.5 hours
  • Bake: 45 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 77F


  • 252 g flour
  • 252 g semolina
  • 302 g water
  • 13 g (2-1/8 t.) salt
  • 151 g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 60 g olive oil
  • seeds for topping (I used equal parts sesame and fennel)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, semolina, salt, starter, and most of the water. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well incorporated. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium-soft dough consistency.
  2. Continue mixing to a low-medium level of gluten development. Then add the olive oil and mix just until it is incorporated.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 4 hours, with folds after the first and second hours.
  4. Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter and divide it in half. Preshape it into balls and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into batards. Roll the tops and sides on a wet towel and then in your seed mixture to coat. Place them, seeded side up, on a lightly floured couche.
  6. Proof, covered, for 2.5 – 3 hours, until the indentation left by a fingertip springs back very slowly.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  8. Just before baking, slash the loaves as you like.
  9. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450. Bake for 8 minutes with steam, and another 25 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 10 minutes, with the door ajar.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.

Post a comment » 36 Comments

  1. Wow, that loaf is gorgeous! I have to admit the story gave me a laugh, but my condolences for the reception of your bread. M has a wonderful mother :-)

    This is the first time I’ve commented on your blog, so I have to thank you for all the advice you’ve compiled here. I haven’t been baking much recently, but your site is a constant inspiration.

  2. That is one beautiful bread!



  3. Hey! This looks like the Greek bread I enjoyed so much a couple summers ago. My boys LOVED it. Hope I can get a pat on the head if I make it. :-)

    It’s gorgeous!


  4. I think she might come back and take a whole loaf with her :)

    And the bread ?, well, I always tempted.

  5. For obvious reasons, I cannot offer to be your daughter, but as an “almost twin sister”, I would gladly eat half of this gorgeous loaf, complimenting your baking skills at each bite!

    I would probably omit the fennel seeds because my husband finds them overpowering, no matter how little I add in a recipe – but the sesame seeds definitely make this bread a complete winner….

  6. I love the story behind this bread. I actually have the opposite problem: I wish i could make a more “crusty” bread…

  7. Beautiful loaves Susan, my children offer similar “encouragement/appreciation” but they do also complain if I stop baking… which doesn’t happen often…I have found neighbors/friends are the most appreciative.

  8. sometimes you have to give in to the softic notions of bread, good work!

  9. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rémy Charest, Susan Tenney, Jeremy Shapiro, Penny, Gretchen Glasscock and others. Gretchen Glasscock said: Soft Semolina Sourdough: When my daughter and I visited son/brother in Oregon this summer, we had lunch in a cafe… [...]

  10. This bread looks amazing. My family hasn’t made bread in years but this makes me want to try it again. And don’t worry, we kids are meant to underappreciate our parents until we ourselves become parents and realize just how terrorizing and difficult we can be. Then we start to really appreciate the things our parents do for us.

  11. Your bread is always too crusty??! Ah, your poor daughter. She doesn’t know how fortunate she is!

    This “non-crusty” bread looks delicious too though. Good for you for not declaring “I have no daughter” after that reception.

    (It will be interesting to hear what she thinks about the bread once she’s hungry.)

  12. I think you deserve more than a pat on the head for this bread. A big hug and kiss is so in order.

  13. Awesome story. Your creation, as usual, looks entirely delicious. Thanks so much for sharing your artistic endeavors.

  14. When I’m in VT, I do bold bakes and produce dark, crusty loaves. The first Christmas I went home to visit family and friends, my uncle asked me how come “my bread doesn’t taste soft, like cake?”

    I’d love to have one of your loaves, any time!

  15. Looks divine in every way to me! Perhaps she’s too used to having delicious breads? When I was a child my mom’s loaves perfuming the house was always a delight. I’ve got semolina and might try it even though I don’t have any sourdough starter on hand. Living in warm Florida I’ve always been afraid it might spoil before it gets into the fridge so never tried starting it though I love the flavor of sourdough.


  16. TOO CRUSTY??!! Heresy I say!

    Yes, your daughter is lucky for your unconditional love. ;)

  17. I’ve just purchased an organic semolina and the sourdough starter is begging to be used – thus, this is the bread I’ll be making tomorrow. Your breads are always fabulous, and this one is no exception. Thank you very much for this awesome formula.

  18. Hi Susan, this looks so delicious I might have to make it today instead of our favorite which is your Norwich sourdough, the “more sour version”. We live on this basically and I haven’t bought bread for months! We also LOVED the overnight ciabatta. Thanks so much for all the unbelievable recipes!

  19. [...] son pain tendre à la semoule et au [...]

  20. You are right. (sigh!) M is so lucky that you love her unconditionally and bake such loving things for her. Beautiful post!

  21. Hi Susan,
    I’m planning on baking this today but I’m a bit confused about whether the semolina in the recipe is actually semolina/durum *flour*, or is it the coarse semolina stuff (that’s almost as coarse as cornmeal). I have both. Can you clear this up for me?


  22. Mike, it’s the coarse semolina.

  23. Thanks Susan, that’s awesome — I actually have a lot of the coarse semolina and I need a recipe to use it on!

  24. You know that kills me. You are a masterful baker!

    I just took a class recently with a woman who has written several books on quilting. She has made the most amazing quilts. She is brilliant in how she can break down a quilt into manageable pieces. The way she simplifies and perfects at the same time.

    She relates to us during the course that her daughters are not interested in her quilts at all. It makes me want to cry and shake them and say “Do you realize how lucky you are?”

    Having said that, as a mother, I understand children…
    If I was your daughter Susan, I’d throw my arms around you and say thank you Mom!

  25. [...] von WildYeast hat mich mit ihrem Soft Semolina Sourdough zu einem neuen Rezept angeregt. Ein reines Sauerteigrezept, das im Hauptteig zu gleichen Teilen [...]

  26. [...] has been making soudough recipes with two catching my eye – Bread Crumb Sourdough and Soft Semolina Sourdough. addthis_pub = [...]

  27. [...] von WildYeast hat mich mit ihrem Soft Semolina Sourdough zu einem neuen Rezept angeregt. Ein reines Sauerteigrezept, das im Hauptteig zu gleichen Teilen [...]

  28. I really wish I had the skills to make this bread so beautifully! Some day, I will give it a try.

  29. Susan, thank you very much for a such wonderful loaf! my children were so happy to get finally not crusty bread ;) I wanna show you what we have: thank you many many times!

  30. Susan, I made this delicious bread yesterday. I will post it on yeastspotting soon. I have a question. I follow your recipes without a blink, but adding the 60grams of olive oil made me doubt. In the beginning the oil didn’t incorporate enough and I threw away the remaining oil. I used approx. half the amount of the oil. The bread looks and taste good. I will bake this bread again, but preferably without a doubt. Do I need to add 60 grams of olive oil?

  31. Connie, if you liked the bread with only 30 g of oil, continue to do it that way! The 60 g will incorporate eventually and will yield a softer crust and crumb than half that amount does, but if you get a result you’re happy with, of course you don’t need the additional oil :)

  32. Could you shed some light as to what makes the crust softer. Is it the oil? The semolina? The baking time? The steaming time?

    I’m just starting to learn how to bake a sourdough bread, and am interested in which parts of the equation are responsible for thick hard crust or softer thinner crust.

  33. John — the oil serves as a tenderizer to keep the crust soft.

  34. It’s been a few months since I baked with my poor neglected (i.e. pushed to the back of the fridge and not fed for weeks on end) starter, but decided to have a major baking session today since I’m on holiday. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a while and since I’d just picked up a huge bag of semolina for less than £1, it seemed to be the right time to make it. Unfortunately, I chose to bake on a day when the temperature plummeted and the loaves proved really slowly. It’s August and I had to resort to putting them in the microwave with a bowl of hot water just so that they would be baked before midnight! I wouldn’t be able to shape a batard if my life depended on it, so I went for boules and covered them in cumin seeds rather than your tasty combo. Sadly, I didn’t do a good job flouring my bowls and my boules had to be scraped out rather more than I would have liked and ended up as somewhat degassed and twisted lumps of dough. Then my slashes were disasters, but I went ahead and baked (because the aforementioned midnight was fast approaching)! So now I have two of the ugliest loaves that I have ever seen in my life (along with two only slightly misshapen loaves of your soft sandwich sourdough – can’t go too far wrong when it’s in a tin, right?). They are shaped like UFOs (with a pointy “rim” halfway up the side) and the slashes are, well, not very slash-like. However, I have just had a slice and the texture and flavour are absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe, and for your wonderful blog in general. And if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to a master baker? Cumin is definitely a fantastic addition to this bread – I thoroughly recommend it if you choose to make this recipe again!

  35. this is the best bread i’ve ever baked since i use sourdough.
    I baked 8 small loaves, half with no seeds and half with cumin, and I used only 30 g of extra virgin olive oil and it’s amazing! I really mean it!

  36. hello, i am from the UK so not sure what semolina is, i have semolina flour that i use to make bread sometimes is that ok or should it be coarse like corn meal – forgive the ignorance, thank you !

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