Another go at 100% Durum (Pane di Altamura)
Happy New Year fellow bakers!
It has been a little while since I have posted anything new, but it’s not for lack of baking. I have a little list of favorites that I have written about before that I keep going back to.
But a few weeks back, Gaetano (inumeridiieri) posted a loaf that inspired me to get back to my two-year-on-again-off-again attempt to reproduce Pane di Altamura. I have gotten some excellent results the past month to share.
In his post, Gaetano described a type of leavening that, as far as I have found, is not available in the U.S. It is called Lievisol (pictured about ¾ down the page of his post), and though I could not find a lot of information about it, it appears to be a blend of wheat flour, a malted flour and either instant or active dry yeast. I began my trials by simply adding a little barley malt and a small amount of instant yeast (IDY) to the dough mix along with my 100% extra fancy durum starter.
Initial results were very encouraging. My first bake followed his formula as closely as I could, using 1.5g IDY and 11g malted barley flour as a replacement for the Lievisol and an overall hydration of 68.5%. The levain was 100% hydration and 43% of the flour was prefermented. The loaves turned out ok, but they were quite overbaked and a bit underproofed. I repeated the bake, correcting for these things and here are some photos of the loaves.
The malt seems to have little effect other than to darken the crust, at least in my trials, so I have eliminated it. However, the addition of the IDY seems to give exactly the boost to the dough that I had not been getting with the levain alone. The flavor was more tangy than I expected, perhaps because of the long proof times. The crumb on this loaf is nice but much more uniform than the loaves found in Italy.
I baked a few more batches, playing around with overall hydration, pre-fermented flour %-age and bake times and temperatures. I even tried to do the traditional folded shape of Pane di Altamura, but it was not a real success as the two halves of the loaf didn’t really integrate into a single loaf. Some of the results below.
I did have some shaping issues, the large groups of holes were probably due to over flouring the bench during shaping. However, the taste was improving, the uniformity of the crumb is a bit more like artisan bread and the crust is blistery and crackly. At this point, after some 5 tweaks, I have baked this last version a few times with really good results.
This version has an overall hydration of 73% with 36% PFF. 
The main things that I have learned so far:
-Durum needs a long proofing time to develop flavors.
-Temperatures in excess of around 72˚F tend to make the dough sticky and unmanageable for me.
-Using a couche for final proof helps a lot. And don’t try to proof dough directly on parchment.
For the purists out there (and I consider myself among that group), bakers yeast is not traditionally added to Pane di Altamura. So my next batch of trials will be an attempt to eliminate it. I have also not mastered the folded over shape, and I still consider it a challenge for the new year. However, the results so far, thick,brittle and nicely honeyed crust, open crumb and good flavor suggest this is the right direction.