Over the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with a new flour – semolina. Its characteristics make it the perfect bread ingredient for a coarser, more textured bread. Semolina bread is a robust accompaniment for soups and salads – just in time for the spring greens entering my kitchen. My semolina bread recipe uses small amounts of wholegrain flour to enhance the flavour profile as well as toasted sesame seeds.
What is semolina flour?
Semolina is a type of flour made from durum wheat (triticum turgidum l. var. durum) i.e. it’s the ground endosperm of durum wheat. Durum wheat’s particular quality is that the floury material in the middle of the grain does not immediately reduce to a powder when milled; it holds together in granular lumps of sandy coarseness. This can be further milled to a fine flour, but is often used as it comes.
It is pale yellow in colour.
Semolina is grainier than standard wheat flour. Semolina is available as coarse, medium or fine flour, based on the size of the grains.
Semolina flour is a high-gluten / high-protein flour as durum wheat has more protein than any other kind of wheat. “Protein is important because of its relationship to gluten. The more protein there is in a wheat, the more gluten there will be in a dough made from it.” Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters
Fine semolina flour is used to make pasta. Noodles made from semolina hold their shape well, and have a firm texture. Dough made with semolina is coherent but not very stretchy.
Coarse semolina is also used to make couscous.
In South India, semolina is used to make foods like dosa and upma.
In Germany and Austria semolina is known as Grieß.
Semolina and polenta – though similar in texture – are quite different. The former is derived from the wheat berry, and the latter from cornmeal.
Semolina For Bread Making
As a rule of thumb, fine semolina flour is preferred over coarse semolina for bread making. The coarse grains in semolina have a puncturing effect on the dough, adversely affecting dough strength and bread volume. However, it can produce a surprisingly smooth and extensible dough.
A high percentage of semolina flour gives bread a soft golden colour.
Semolina (farina di semola rimacinata) is an essential ingredient in Italian-Sicilian bread baking and also used frequently in Moroccan bread baking e.g. for khobz dyal smida or pan-fried harcha bread.
Where to buy semolina
You will find semolina in most well-stocked supermarkets or health food stores. My online store of choice here in the UK is BuyWholefoodsOnline.co.uk.
Semolina bread recipe
How to make semolina bread
My semolina bread recipe below uses my existing sourdough starter to raise the bread.
I’ve combined fine semolina flour with portions of wholegrain wheat and wholegrain rye flour to enhance the overall flavour profile.
Fennel seeds are often used in semolina bread baking, as are sesame seeds and I’ve decided to add sesame seeds into my recipe. A light toasting of the seeds adds even more flavour.
Although vegetarian and vegan dishes have become much more common on Austrian restaurant menus, the Gemüsestrudel (vegetable strudel) has traditionally been one of the token veggie dish on many Gasthaus menus. Quite remarkably for Austrian Gemüsestrudel recipes however, these typically come with ham (!). Dairy products (curd cheese, crème fraiche, milk, cheese) are also heavily used in Austrian vegetable strudel recipes. I left the ham out of this version of my mum’s vegetable strudel recipe, but you will see, it is still a far cry from a vegan recipe. It’s delicious though, and all the hard work that goes into the preparation is definitely worth it!
Austrian Vegetable Strudel Recipe
This vegetable strudel recipe can perhaps be more accurately described as vegetable-cheese strudel as cheese and other dairy products including curd cheese feature heavily in the filling.
As the strudel dough needs to be rolled out quite thinly, it’s advisable to use a very large soft linen cloth (Strudeltuch e.g. 120 x 100 cm) or otherwise a large cotton kitchen towel to roll out the dough and assemble the strudel. This makes it much easier to transfer the dough to the baking tray.
The vegetable strudel recipe below is made with homemade Strudel-dough, but if you are short in time, you can use shop-bought puff pastry or filo pastry.
A deliciously cheesy vegetable strudel, as per an Austrian recipe from my mum. Put together your own vegetable mix based on your preferred veggies or based on seasons. Spring Strudel (Kohlrabi, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, wild garlic, leeks), Summer Strudel (mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, courgettes, fennel, peppers, aubergines, peas, sweet corn), Autumn Strudel (pumpkin, cabbage, root vegetables, potatoes), Winter Strudel (carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, shallots).
Strudel Dough Ingredients
1tbspolive or rapeseed oil
125gwaterlukewarm - this will help with dough elasticity
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients
200gcurd cheesefull fat
250gmature cheddar or other flavoursome hard cheese (in Austria I would use Bergkäse)grated
4tbspfresh herbsmix of parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, basil, dill, fennel etc. whatever you fancy or you have to hand
1tspcorn starch or potato starch
1green or red pepper
50gfrozen sweet corn kernels
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetables for the filling
Boil 300g potatoes and mash them. If you prefer a finer texture, you can also use a potato ricer to process the boiled potatoes.
Cut the pepper and the carrot into small cubes, mince the garlic and thinly slice the leek. Using a knob of butter, fry these vegetables for around 10 minutes. Briefly simmer the frozen peas and frozen sweetcorn kernels, then strain well and add to the fried vegetable mix. The vegetables should retain 'bite' and not be overcooked. Altogether, you should use about 500g of vegetables (fresh and frozen). Make sure there is no excess liquid left in the vegetable mixture by the time you set it aside to cool.
Prepare the Béchamel Sauce
Start by placing the butter in a pot to heat up, then add the diced onions.
Fry for a few minutes - don't let the onions brown.
Add the flour and stir thoroughly for a minute.
Add the milk and nutmeg and continue stirring until the sauce has thickened.
Take away from the heat and leave to cool.
Prepare the dough
Combine the dough ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together. I do this with my hands.
Knead well until you have a formed a smooth dough. Don't be tempted to add any more water to the dough. It will come together well, just give it some time.
Shape dough into a ball, brush with a little oil, place back in the bowl and cover the bowl.
Leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. This helps the dough structure to relax and makes it easier to roll/shape later on.
Prepare the filling
In a large bowl, combine the cooled Béchamel Sauce, curd cheese, crème fraîche, egg yolks, grated cheese, herbs and oats. Mix well.
Add the vegetable mixture and mashed potatoes and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a smaller bowl, combine the egg whites and starch and whip until stiff.
Carefully fold the stiff egg whites into the remaining filling. The filling should not be wet so it doesn't soak through the dough while you assemble the strudel.
Shape the dough
Preheat the oven to 175℃.
Flour your work surface (ideally a large linen or cotton kitchen towel) and use your hands to form the dough ball into an even rectangle.
Flour the dough rectangle to prevent it from sticking and - using a rolling pin - take care to roll out the dough into a bigger rectangle.
Line a suitably big baking tray with baking paper.
Assemble the Strudel
Distribute the filling across two thirds of the strudel dough, leaving at least 1 cm around the edges free.
Brush the final third with butter.
Fold in the sides of the dough slightly over the filling to seal the sides.
Roll into a strudel and carefully seal all the ends. If you are using the linen or cotton towel, the rolling can be done just by lifting the towel to roll the dough.
Place seam-side down onto the baking tray. Again, this process is easier if you are using the cloth, as you can lift the strudel much more easily like this and carefully roll it onto the baking tray.
Brush with the egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake & serve
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm with a side salad.
Add variety to your vegetable strudel by adding ground spices such as caraway, paprika, cayenne pepper or chili flakes. You can also add seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds or boiled grains (e.g. rye grains or millet) into the strudel filling if you like. Make sure the grains are no longer wet before you add them.a