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Sicilian Bread

Pane Siciliano
Sicilian bread is special; it has a golden crumb due to the fine durum semolina flour used to make it and a nice nutty taste on the crust's top provided by sesame seeds. Begin the bread's life by making a biga or what the Sicilians call a cresciuta.

Makes 1 large loaf or 2 smaller ones



1/2 cup (110° to 115°F) water

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour


1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 cups warm (110° to 115°F) water

the prepared cresciuta

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

4 to 5 cups fine durum semolina flour

1 teaspoon wheat gluten

Cornmeal for sprinkling or parchment paper


1/3 cup sesame seeds


To make the cresciuta, in a small bowl,dissolve the yeast in the water. Let it stand 10 minutes until foamy. Stirin the flour, cover the bowl, and let the mixture sit in a warm place for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 cupsof the warm water. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes, or until foamy. 

Stir the cresciuta into the yeast and water mixture and blend well. Add 2 cups of the semolina flour, wheat gluten and the salt and mix until a pancake like batter forms. Add additional flour a little at a time until a smooth ball of dough is obtained, 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it with closed fists for about 20 minutes. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough, divide it in half and roll each half into a 30-inch long rope. Curl the dough back and forth on itself leaving a 6 or 7 inch tail.

Lay the tail over the top of the loaf. Do nottuck it under. This form is called mafalda. The dough may also be formed into the eyes of St Lucy (S shape).  Place the dough on a peel sprinkled withcornmeal or just line the peel with parchment paper. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours until doubled in size. 

Preheat the oven to 450F if baking on a stone.

Place a baking stone on the bottom rack to preheat for at least 30 minutes. 

(If not using a stone, preheat oven to 375F.)

Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Lightly press seeds in.

If using cornmeal, sprinkle it on the baking stone just before baking the bread.  Slide the loaf from the peel onto the baking stone. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. 

Let the bread cool on a rack before slicing. 

This recipe is featured on show 1919 -Homemade Bread.


  1. Lucy Cuzzola's avatar

    Lucy Cuzzola

    I make a lot of Italian bread when my family comes on Sundays for dinner. I do everything but I never add gluten. In this recipe it calls for wheat gluten. How do you make gluten or do they sell it at a Supermarket? Also, do all Italian breads need to have gluten added when making at home? My breads come out good, but if I can make it better, that would be great.
  2. Paul Lally, Executive producer's avatar

    Paul Lally, Executive producer

    Hi, Lucy,

    Mary Ann says, “Wheat gluten helps yeast development and is available from King Arthur Four either on line or in grocery stores.”


  3. juanita e. zumack's avatar

    juanita e. zumack

    Sounds sooo good =======what do you refer to as a peel???

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