I served this semolina crown with cranberries, pine nuts, and fennel for Christmas dinner. It’s a variation on a favorite of mine, Semolina Bread With Fennel, Currants, and Pine Nuts. The crown shape and substitution of dried cranberries for the currants make it a little more festive for a holiday dinner. (OK, so I’m a little late posting this in time for Christmas. But it would be lovely for New Year’s dinner, too.)
With a cross-section similar to that of a baguette, a crown is a delight for crust lovers. To maximize crustiness, make sure you bake the loaf until it is good and dark. Any leftover bread can be sliced thinly and baked in a low oven until crisp for some toasts that are wonderful with your morning coffee or after dinner with a smear of goat cheese.
The crown should be proofed in a couronne basket, but if you don’t have one you can rig one up with an inverted bowl placed in a large basket and draped with a piece of linen. It could even be proofed upside-down on a floured board, but it’s easier to flip it over for baking if it’s in a basket.
Cranberry Semolina Crown With Fennel and Pine Nuts
Yield: 850 g (one crown)
- Mix: 15 minutes
- First fermentation: 1.5 hours
- Divide/rest/shape: 30 minutes
- Proof: 1.25 hours to 12 hours
- Bake: 35 minutes
- 170 g flour
- 170 g semolina flour (coarse-ground)
- 190 g water
- 2.7 g (7/8 t.) instant yeast
- 8.5 g (scant 1.5 t.) salt
- 150 g ripe 100%-hydration sourdough starter
- 17 g olive oil
- 7 g (4 t.) whole fennel seeds
- 85 g dried cranberries
- 54 g pine nuts
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, combine the flour, semolina, water, yeast, salt, olive oil, and starter. Mix on low speed until just combined, about 4 – 5 minutes. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium dough consistency, similar to a regular French bread dough.
- Mix on medium speed to a medium level of gluten development. This might take about 4 or 5 minutes, but will depend on your mixer.
- Add the cranberries, fennel, and pine nuts. Mix on low speed just until they are evenly incorporated into the dough.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 1.5 hours.
- Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Preshape it into a light ball and let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a tight ball, cover, and let rest for another 15 minutes.
- To form the crown shape, pierce the ball in the center with your elbow, then pick the dough up and gently turn and stretch it evenly until the hole is about 5 inches in diameter.
- Place the shaped crown upside-down into a flour dusted, linen-lined couronne basket (or a makeshift one).
- Proof at room temperature, covered, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Or proof at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 – 12 hours.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 460F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
- Just before baking, flip the crown right-side-up onto the peel and slash once in a circle around the crown.
- Once the crown is in the oven, reduce the temperature to 440F. Bake for 10 minutes with steam, and another 25 minutes or so without steam. The crust should be a dark golden brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaf in for another 5 minutes, with the door ajar.
- Cool on a wire rack.