Pane Siciliano or Sicilian Bread Sprinkled with Sesame Seed Recipe


Our friend and avid home cook Dr. K. continues his mastery of all things Italian with a terrific homemade bread from Sicilia; namely, Durum Pane Siciliano – a bread shaped in the form of the Occhi di Santa Lucia (i.e., a pair of eyeglasses in homage to Santa Lucia, the patron saint of vision).
Dr. K. utilized a recipe from Carol Field’s, The Italian Baker (however he doubled it yielding four loaves and also used freshly milled 100% whole wheat <instead of store-bought bread flour> and durum flours, with middlings, bran, and all).  Moreover, he used more water, and slightly less flour, given that the dough would be too dense and wouldn’t pass the windowpane test for a strong gluten network (yielding a brick).  He also added a touch of vital wheat gluten and lets the dough rest for five minutes after mixing and prior to kneading. 
Here’s the recipe (using commercial flour).

Ingredients (makes two loaves):
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon malt syrup (note: or sugar)
  • 1 cup water, room temp
  • 350 grams durum flour
  • 150 grams bread flour
  • 2-3 teaspoons (10-15 grams) salt
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
Process: Via mixer
Stir the yeast into the water in the bowl. Let it stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the oil and malt (sugar) with the paddle; then add the flour and salt and mix until smooth. Change to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is firm, compact and elastic with lots of body, 4-5 minutes. Finish kneading by hand.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough should be springy and blistered but still soft and velvety.
Punch the dough down, knead it briefly and let it rest for 5 minutes. Flatten it into a square, then roll it into a long narrow rope, about 20-22 inches long. “The dough should be so elastic that it could almost be swung like a jump rope.” Cut the dough into two pieces and shape in either:
  • Mafalda: Curl the rope up like a fire hose on a rack, leaving a 5 inch tail. Place the tail on top of the accordian-like dough.
  • Occhi di Santa Lucia: Place the rope on the counter and start coiling the two ends up, working from opposite directions, so that you have an S shape with spirals in the loops.

Place the loaves on floured parchment paper, peels sprinkled with cornmeal or oiled baking sheets. Brush the entire surface of each loaf lightly with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Pat the seeds gently into the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the oven with stones to 425F. Bake 10 minutes, spraying 3 times with water. Reduce heat to 400F and bake 25-30 minutes longer.  Can check for internal temp of 190-200F degrees.


  1. This look so good, and wonderful. I need coffee (fresh) and butter. Now I have a meal.

  2. Thanks, Vince. I’ll be trying this one out!

  3. Aha! So this may be why so much Italian bread you see here in the States has sesame seeds sprinkled on top. I’ve always wondered. Those store-bought loaves are usually pretty pedestrian but I am sure that *this* is a different matter altogether. Freshly made bread with best-quality ingredients… yum!

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