3 ratings

Sesame-Topped Sicilian Bread

Like grandma used to make
Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune

Classic Sicilian bread relies on simple ingredients — yeast, salt, sugar and flour — and is perfect for the holidays, or any occasion. 

This recipe by Peggy Wolff was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.

Ready in
65 m
30 m
(prepare time)
35 m
(cook time)
Calories Per Serving


This recipe calls for fermenting a biga — a starter of flour, water and yeast — overnight.


  • 2 Ounces fresh yeast
  • 3 Cups lukewarm water, about 100 degrees, divided
  • 9-10 Cups flour, divided, plus more for dusting
  • 4 Teaspoons salt
  • 4 Teaspoons sugar
  • 4 Teaspoons vegetable shortening
  • Olive oil, for greasing and serving
  • 1/2 Cup sesame seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving


The night before:

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 cup of lukewarm water. Add 2 cups flour; mix well with a wooden spoon until a thick batter is formed. Cover; let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 10 hours.

Next day:

Dissolve salt, sugar and shortening in 2 cups lukewarm water; stir into starter. Add 7 cups flour, beating by hand or by stand mixer with dough hook until dough comes together.

Transfer dough to a floured surface. Knead until no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball; transfer to a large, greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 35 minutes.

Transfer dough to floured surface and knead for 2-4 minutes. Shape into a ball, return to bowl, cover, let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf; place on lightly greased baking sheet, cover with towel, let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Halfway into the final rise, heat oven to 425 degrees.

Just before baking, score tops with shallow cuts. Brush olive oil over loaves; sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with olive oil seasoned with pepper.