Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baking with Durum (Semolina); 3 varities

Durum wheat, is primarily for grown for its use in pasta making (semolina flour), but it does have applications for the hearth bread baker as well.  It is important to note some of the characteristics of Durum wheat in order take advantage of its benefits and compensate for its less admirable qualities. First Durum has the higher percentage of protein than any other wheat variety, although it is not the protein that is desirable for bread production. Due to its inability to form a strong gluten matrix dough which is mixed with a considerable amount of Durum wheat,must to be mixed with a careful baker's eye. It is important to have an understanding of the breads fermentation process prior to mixing a dough. Although a lot of dough strength is developed in the mixing bowl, there are alternatives to increase dough strength. Folding is key, and the amount of folding necessary is very subjective. It really just depends on the dough, not just the formula, but the dough itself.

Although Semolina flour does come from Durum wheat, they are not one in the same. Jeffrey Hamelman explains it this way. Durum flour has a 'lovely golden softness' while semolina has a 'sandy coarseness. There are of course ways around this, one of which is re-milling semolina into a finer flour, I will touch on this in a later post. Experts definitely prefer Durum flour over Semolina in baked breads, due to the fact that it is much more gentle to the overall dough in the mixing process. 

Hamelman's book contains four breads which use durum flour. This past week I made three of them. 

The first formula utilized a flying sponge, something I had never done before. This technique is typical of English bakers, it utilized all of the doughs yeast in a sponge and it is expected to quadruple in volume within 45 minutes to an hour. The dough was rather soft, and carried a nice yellow color. The crumb was fairly tight, yet very soft. 
Semolina Loaf prepared with a "flying" sponge
The second formula I used was a Semolina Sourdough, it was 60% semolina and 40% bread flour by weight. It utilized a liquid sour dough starter which was fed with bread flour rather than semolina. I found the dough to be sort of slow to rise, and that is understandable to the ambient temperature of my kitchen, but even when baked it was slow to rise in the oven, and as a result the crumb will most likely be tight and chewy.

Initially I was only going to make two loaves this week, and then I decided with a friend of mine to make homemade lasagna with some homemade lasagna noodles with some of my semolina flour.  I realized that the Semolina with Soaker and Fennel Seeds would compliment the lasagna nicely. My tomato sauce always starts off with 3-5 pounds of julienne onions cooked on very low for about 7 hours. The result is a sweet and flavorful base that just dances with every flavor it touches. That loaf which did not use a sponge or a sourdough build, rather it was a straight dough apart from the soaker which I prepared the night before. It mixed well, I had not problems incorporating dough strength in the mixer. I did perform one fold after an hour of bulk fermentation. It was a loose dough, and I jut pan baked it for ten minutes and then removed the pan and finished it on my bread stone. I can' wait to drown it that sweet, spicy onion blasted sauce.

Listened to while composing. Its a great one!
Information on Durum Flour found in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman John Wiley and Sons 


  1. Dave they're gorgeous! Especially the one with the "flying sponge" whatever that is-such a lovely little round shape!

  2. A flying sponge is a short term preferment that incorporates all of a bread yeast.

    I have to admit, that free shaped loaves are not my strength. It seems that I have lost my touch since my artisan bread course in my freshman year of college. I am going to be doing them more and more to improve.