The Unexpected Rise of the Semolina Bread

I had already decided what to post. It was going to be a delicious boozy rum cake, perfect for the holidays or an orange pickle, made from the peels. I guess those recipes will have to wait for another time. This post is going to be all about one of the most frequently requested recipes (and bread, I might add). It just made sense to put it up on the blog, than to type it out every single time someone requested for it.

I had just about managed to successfully bake a few loaves of white bread and unsuccessfully a few 100% whole wheat bread.  I wanted to bake a loaf of bread, the kind you see in photographs, all tall and golden–almost like a mushroom top, when cut, to reveal a perfectly crumbed interior. The kind of loaf that beckons you, and tempts you with visions of bread heaven.

Browsing around, I chanced upon a recipe, which to me sounded very unusual. Instead of the usual bread flour or wheat flour, it used semolina flour. Semolina, I was familiar with. Rava or Sooji as it is commonly called, is extensively used locally, both in sweet and savoury dishes. I always had some on hand to make a quick ‘Upma’ or ‘Kesari’. Semolina flour– not so much. I had once tested the blades of my blender to grind up some of the rava to make Ladoos and promised myself, never again. I looked the pictures of the semolina flour a little more carefully. It did seem sort of grainy to me. So I assured myself that all I needed was to get the finest rava (in terms of size) and I would be baking my first semolina loaf.

rava postThe recipe was fairly simple and straight-forward. You just needed to dump all the ingredients together and knead to a supple dough. Doesn’t sound very complicated right? When I did what the recipe asked me to, I was looking at a bowl full of somewhat gritty slurry. “How on earth was this going to turn into that loaf in the picture?” I asked myself. Serious thoughts about photo-shopped pictures crossed my mind. After staring at the bowl for a minute, I did what I normally do when I make Rava Idly. Just covered it and left it alone for about five minutes. What happens in that five minutes is that the semolina slowly absorbs the liquids allowing you to handle the dough better. (You can actually do that for all your breads–allow the flour a few minutes to hydrate. Believe me this makes your kneading job that much easier) If you are the kind using a stand mixer, you could turn off your mixer and wait if you want. If not, don’t worry, it is after all your mixer which is going to do all the extra work. How ever you do the job, the idea is to eventually end up with a somewhat tacky but super supple dough.

semolina bread post 1.1The dough might be difficult to handle, especially if you are not used to wet dough. Please try not to add more flour or semolina. If the dough is sticking to your hands when you are shaping the loaf, and you find that you are playing a game of ‘let go of me’, simply wet your hands. The dough does not stick to wet hands. It is as simple as that. A word of caution though–if you keep dipping your hands in water every few seconds, you are going to make the dough even more sloppy. Work quickly and get your loaf in the pan. When you are ready, get the loaf into the oven and wait for the magic to happen.

For the maximum effect, I suggest you turn your back to the oven, clear up your kitchen counter, maybe get rid of that little dough sticking between your fingers and in about ten minutes turn around and take a look at your bread. If you are not amazed, then you got the recipe wrong. My insignificant and hurriedly shaped loaf had risen to such unexpected heights, that the height of the loaf above the pan was as much as the depth of the pan. I had heard of ‘oven spring’, but this was something else. It was almost as if I had unleashed a monster and there was no way I could control it. I just watched unblinkingly, praying fervently, “Lord let it not rise anymore” I did not want to have a loaf stuck to the roof of my oven

semolina bread postOut of the oven I could not wait for it to cool. So far, the bread had exceeded all my expectations. It looked picture perfect but what about the taste. I usually love the end slices of fresh bread. You get a lions share of the crust and a generous bit of the soft crumb. The problem is, my daughter thinks the same way. So usually, there is a scramble to be the one to slice the bread (lucky for me, the bread has two ends). So the bread was sliced at both ends and we both took a bite of the bread. The crunch afforded by the semolina had already won me over. The moist crumb had a mild sweet and an almost nutty after-taste. It had just the right amount of chew and the olive oil added a lovely flavour.

semolina bread post5

I knew almost at once what I was going to have for dinner. A grilled sandwich it was to be. Tomatoes, just a touch of green pepper, maybe an olive or two, a slice of aged, sharp cheddar and a few basil leaves torn. Now, tell me if you can think of anything better.

Since then, I have made this bread many times, and each time it has never failed to elicit the very same ‘jaw dropping’ response from me. It is a no fuss recipe, no need for a preferment. Start to finish you can have a loaf in few hours. Of course, you might just about lose a wee bit of the complex flavour, but believe me you will not miss it much. For a person who is just starting on their bread journey, this bread is a perfect boost for your ego. And for those, who have just experienced the wrath of the bread Gods, it is soothing balm and restores your faith in your bread making ability.

grilled sandwich

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups Water
1 tsp Instant Yeast
3 1/4 cups Semolina or Semolina flour  ( if you can find it. I used chiroti rava)
1 Tbs Sugar
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive oil (or any other oil, olive oil adds a lovely flavour)
1 1/2 tsp salt
METHOD
1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, semolina flour, sugar, olive oil and salt and stir with a rubber spatula just until a rough dough forms. Easy so far? (This is when you wait for about 5 minutes if you want)
2. Lightly dust the counter with semolina. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and knead it until it is very smooth, shiny, and elastic, This will take about 10 to 12 minutes. If you are using a stand mixer, dump the dough inside, turn it on and just watch for about 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container with a lid. Cover and leave to rise until it doubles.
4. Lightly grease a loaf pan (8 1/2 x 4 1/2) with oil. (The size of the pan is important if you want to see the bread balloon up. if you use a larger pan, the dough will double, but will be less awe-inspiring)

5. Lightly dust the counter with semolina flour. Uncover the dough and turn it out onto the counter. Form the dough into a loaf.

6. Place the loaf into the pan, seam side down, pressing it gently to fit. Lightly dust the top of the loaf with semolina and cover the pan with plastic wrap.
7. Let the loaf rise until it crowns just above the rim of the pan.
8. Preheat oven to 190C. Place the loaf on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the loaf pulls away from the sides of the pan and the crust is a deep golden brown (35 to 45 mts). Make sure you are around the kitchen to watch the magic unfold

9. Remove loaf from pan. Cool bread completely before slicing. I strongly recommend that you enjoy the end slice by yourself.

semolina pizza post1

A pizza in this post? Yes a pizza! I figured this dough with a wee bit tweaking is perfect for a pizza. I loved the crunch and the chew. How did I make it? That is something for another post. When you are buying semolina make sure that you buy the wheat semolina. There is also a rice semolina that is available. Use that and you can wait and watch, and all you will have at the end, is a crumbly door stopper, much like my first whole wheat bread.

116 thoughts on “The Unexpected Rise of the Semolina Bread

    1. Hi Harini
      I made semolina bread, awesome taste and I was very happy that I finally did one good bread, I failed in so many recipes and at last your re pie was awesome? Thanks a lot😊

      Like

    1. If you are using active dry yeast increase the quantity to 1 1/2 tsp and use some of the water and sugar from the recipe to proof it before you add it to the rest of the ingredients.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow.. I have been wanting to try my hand at bread making for quite some time now but never gathered d guts to.. This recipe seems to b simple enuf for nervous wrecks like me.. Will definitely give it a go.. Thanks so much for sharing..

    Like

  2. Hi iam a new bee to dis bread world….
    thanks 4r de recipe dat u hv shared gog 2 try it but little nervous…… As i hv not tried any bread…..dis recipe sounds easy let my try……

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    1. Like I said the recipe is very simple but you need to work the dough quickly when you are shaping it.Else you may find the dough sticking to your hands. Good luck!

      Like

  3. A must-try recipe.You have a charming style of writing. And I am still not sure what I enjoy more, your recipes or the way you write about them. Thank you for both!

    Like

  4. Thank you Harini for this lovely recipe. Very tempting. Will try this and share with you but before that i wanted to thank you.

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  5. Hi ha Rini the bread looks beautifully puffed up and tasty. I tried it yesterday exactly followed up steps but my bread didn’t rise and it’s very hard.
    Cam you tell me the mistake I made?

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    1. Did you check the yeast? If your yeast is old or not stored properly it will not bubble up and help the bread rise. If it is hard you might want to check your oven temperature as well.

      Like

  6. Hi Harini…this is fabulous recipe …m trying now only..bt its nt rising since 1/2 n hour… How much time it will take to rise?? I used instant active dry yeast… Following d same recipe u mentioned …
    Plz reply soon…

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    1. Did you check if your yeast is still viable? Is it instant or active dry —small or large granules? I’d it is active dry you will need to increase the quantity. If the ambient temperature is cold it will take a while longer. If you are in India it is pretty hot right now and you should not be facing that problem. Do check your yeast.

      Like

  7. Hi Harini, I’ve followed the steps as is, but both the times that I’ve tried, my bread has turned out too crumbly. The first rise, second rise -all seem fine, but after baking, it becomes too hard and crumbly 😦

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    1. If everything is fine till the bread goes into the oven then it is usually the oven temperature. If it is turning very hard you might want to check to see if your oven is maintaining the correct temperature

      Like

  8. Hi Harini ! Been a fan on urs on FB and now ur blog. Like someone here said, I don’t know what I like better – ur perfect loaves or your beautiful writing ;))

    While I bake other stuff with yeast, shaping of the loaf is always tricky to me. I end up with a shape that’s totally un-bread like in d pan. Would u kindly upload couple of intermediate steps on how to shape a loaf for a newbie bread baker like me ? Thanks a bunch 😊

    Thanks
    Kalyani

    Like

  9. Awesome, I have been in search for a healthy easy to baje bread and this recipe solved my problem. ..The bread turned out to be just perfect. .love the taste can’t stop munching on it. ..thanks a lot. .

    Like

  10. Hi Harini … i cudnt stop myself from commenting on this …. I am a small time home baker(not like the expert ones we have on HBG) with a full time IT job and a toddler …. I have read your name in a number of posts on HBG…. Two of my bread attempts have failed(one croissant and one pull apart bread I tried today). I am good at cakes but making bread seems such an intimidating task to me …. I just realized that the pull apart recipe has too much of yeast(2.25 tsp fro 3 1/4 cups of floor) as the blogger lives in the foothills or himalaya ….. My question is, do I need to tweak the yeast content in this recipe for the bangalore temperature?? Please let me know, cant handle another bread failure … BTW …. What compelled me to write a comment was your love for bread which shows in the way you explain the texture, crust and crumbs …. I m sure I dont know anyone who loves bread so much !!!

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  11. I found your recipe as I was trawling the Net wondering what I could make with a packet of sugi flour which had been sitting around. The texture of the dough was as you described and it was so fun to knead it. The baked loaf was just like the one in your photo and the texture was even. I had four slices when it came out of the oven regardless that it was near dinner time. thank you very much, the recipe is a keeper!

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  12. Hi Harini, i have been driven to try this recipe and finally got down to it. My loaf didnt turn out too well. The dough was a sand and water consistancy dispite leaving it to rest and didnt rise much.
    – after adding all the ingredients together and leaving it to rest for 5 minutes it was very dry, so i added ~2tbsp of water
    – after the first proofing, i was not able to shape it into a loaf, since it was grainy and wet like a rava idly batter, with less moisture.
    Can you help me with a few clarifications:
    – is it 1tsp or 1tbsp of yeast?
    – what is the texture of the dough before inleave it to proof – should it be pliable like bread dough made with flour?

    Like

    1. Dear Rohini, The dough should have never been a sand and water consistency. It is a lovely shiny, elastic dough. Did you use wheat semolina? You also get rice semolina and that is gluten free and could explain a lot. Yes the recipe contains 1 tsp of instant yeast and if the dough did not rise you might want to check on your yeast. I suggest you try it again using good ‘chiroti’ rava or sooji. The dough will in no way resemble rava idly batter. A lot of people have had a great deal of success with this recipe, I am sorry it did not work for you.

      Like

  13. Hey ,this bread looks so amazing…I’d read about it in some book but was sceptical… but since we dont get chiroti rawa in Mumbai…I guess I can dry grind the normal suji a bit…right??? I’m so making this tomorrow… Thanks for the push

    Like

    1. Guess this reply comes a little too late, but here goes. I have used normal sooji (do try and find the finest grained one) and have not had a problem. Grinding sooji in a home blender is difficult. Try it anyway.

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  14. Hi harini, I tried this bread today.. the final loaf came out awesome.. but while cutting the slices the pieces were breaking.. it was very delicate to handle.. what might be the reason..

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  15. Harini, made your semolina bread yesterday and it was delicious. Thanks a lot for ur wonderful recipe. Though I had expected an unexpected rise of semolina, but what I saw was much more than what I had anticipated. As you have written, the end slices taste wonderful and unlike you, my daughter doesn’t like it, so I got to it all by myself. Thanks again. Will post the pictures in HBG.

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  16. Hi harini, I have tried the recipe and loaf came out f extremely well but while slicing it broke into pieces. Slices became very soft.. what can be the reason..?

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    1. Hi Radhika, Sorry for the late response. Usually, the bread crumbles when the gluten development is not good. This could be either because the dough was not kneaded enough or that the gluten content of the semolina itself was not very good. with this particular bread I have noticed that happens more frequently when the grains of semolina are slightly bigger.

      Like

  17. Hi,today tried semolina bread as you mentioned in your recipe,it came out ok..I have one question..I set the time 40 minutes (preheated 190 c but in 28 minutes it got light brown color & hard from up side…I don’t know why it happened.can you suggest.. please tia

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  18. I tried your bread yesterday. The only alteration I made was curd instead of oil. The kneading was fine. The first rise was good, it took more than an hour. But the dough was still quite wet and so “shaping” was out of question. I dumped the whole thing into the bread pan and waited for the second rise, which was good. When the dough reached the saran wrap, I put it in the oven and waited eagerly for the “miracle”… but the rise was only about an inch above the pan height. The bread baked, cooled down, and sliced. It tastes really good, but I think its a little crumbly.

    Can you tell me what went wrong? Was it the substitution?? Would another alternative to oil work?

    Like

    1. Could be the substitution and could also be the size of the pan. IF you used a bigger pan, remember the dough will expand sideways and much as it expands vertically. So some of the dramatic vertical rise may be lost.

      Like

  19. Awesome bread harini thanks for sharing ,the bread came out well as explained was waiting to see it rise and when it rose it was superb, every body back home lived it ,once again thank you

    Like

  20. Hello Harini 🙂 I just love ur blog n always wish I could bake bread like u do. Would like to know if I can use this recipe to make ladi pav and pizza aswell.. Can I use a combination of maida and chiroti rava to make rolls?? If so in what ratio??

    Like

    1. Thank you Prathiba for looking through. I would not really recommend this for Ladi Pav. The texture is all wrong but it works wonderfully for a pizza.You could use maida and rava in any proportion but you would need to adjust the hydration accordingly. You could make one big loaf or many small rolls as you choose. Happy baking.

      Like

  21. Lovely bread.. I’m in bangalore.. Can u please tell me how much time the first and second proofing takes.. Approx.. Please.. Sorry for the bother

    Like

  22. Hello ma’m; This receipe is great and I tried it today. But it didn’t rise and didn’t cook from inside. I took half receipe and used rava which is used for upma. As you have mentioned i mixed everything together, instant yeast too. Rava is OK? Where would have gone wrong?

    Like

  23. Mam i tried this everything came out well until the second rise.it rose to the brim of the tin.But keeping in the oven no changes happened.kept at 190 with both rods on for 35 minutes.using mr oven.what could be the reason?

    Like

    1. Could you let me know what size pan was used? If the pan was bigger than required then you might not have needed to wait for it to crest. If nothing happened in the oven it could have been a tad over proofed

      Like

  24. Hey Harini, planning to make this beauty today. Wanted to know if we deflate the dough before putting in the loaf pan or we just take it out and shape it. Thanks

    Like

  25. Hie. The bread looks wow. I tried the recipe. It did not rise at all. What is the difference between dry yeast and instant yeast. How will the quantity of dry yeast and instant yeast vary in this recipe.
    Thanks in advance.

    Regards
    SOUMYA

    Like

    1. There could be many reasons why your bread did not rise. Wrong kind of rava, yeast not viable etc. Active dry yeast needs to be proofed before adding. Instant can be added directly. You will need to double the quantity of active dry yeast

      Like

  26. Iam a newbie in making bread so a long que of questions sorry for bothering you. Is it ok to make bread in a convention oven? My oven is of steel cavity inside( IFB). Is there any change in temperature settings in convention oven? Is active dry and dried yeast are same or not?? Thank you in advance 🙂

    Like

    1. Perfectly fine to bake on the convection mode. I do that all the time with success. I usually do not need to change the temperature. But do get to know your oven and make the necessary changes if required. Active dry yeast and dry yeast are the same. Instant yeast and rapid rise yeast are the same.

      Like

  27. Hi. Tried this recipe today. The bread rose well. But when I sliced it I could see the strands. To be precise like the strands in a spoilt ulundhu vadai. Could you pls tell me what’s wrong or is it okay to have such strands.

    Like

  28. Thank u harini….it was wonderful experience baking semolina bread…I tried making breads n tis was my 4 time n d best for d first time…n just cudn’t make out it’s of semolina….love u n thank u..

    Like

    1. Are you talking about the plastic wrap to cover the dough? You can even use a towel for that. Anything to stop the dough from drying out while the yeast does it’s work.

      Like

  29. Hi, thank u for the recipe, I have one doubt..I usually use half tsp instant yeast for one cup flour and in ur recipe it is 1tsp for 3.25 cup of semolina, is it enough..am I using too much yeast…

    Like

    1. The quantities depend on the recipe. You might also check if the recipe calls for instant yeast or active dry yeast. The quantities will vary depending the yeast as well.

      Like

  30. Hi harini thanks for this wonderful recipe.i have tried this.
    But my bread got burn from upper side .lower side was fine (golden colour.)

    ….want to ask what was wrong in my proceedure.
    Recipe time was 35 to 40mnts on 190 d.
    And i kept it 30 mnts on 180d.
    And preheated for 10 mnth from both side .
    Should i preheat oven from only lower side???

    Like

  31. Hi harini thanks for this wonderful recipe. And i also got worried if that dough will touch my oven roof.it was really unexpected rise.i made bread for the 1st time.i have tried this.
    But my bread got burn from upper side .lower side was fine (golden colour.)

    ….want to ask what was wrong in my proceedure.
    Recipe time was 35 to 40mnts on 190 d.
    And i kept it 30 mnts on 180d.
    And preheated for 10 mnth from both side .
    Should i preheat oven from only lower side???

    Like

    1. The problem is completely oven related. I have no idea what kind of an oven you have or how big it is or the temperature calibration. If you find that the top is burning, by all means, try and bake with only the lower element. You will need to figure out what works for you with the existing oven.

      Like

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