I have of late, been baking a lot with durum flour. I started with a whole durum which gives absolutely delicious flavor as an addition to wheat flour, but becomes just ridiculously hard to work with at very high percentages. After seeing Franko's fabulous success with his Attamura using a more refined durum I decided to put my efforts on hold until I could find a less than whole durum version of Atta. Then I saw Lynnebiz's recent post and realized that the answer for my Atta needs was only a few miles away at an Indian grocer in Waltham, Ma. Sure enough when I got there, I found a wall full of flours including the 20 pound bag of Golden Temple Atta that I ended up buying. The ingredients are listed as durum and wheat bran with a fiber content of 2g per 35g serving. This contrasts with Golden Temple 100% whole durum whose fiber content is 4g per 30g serving.
So I set off with great optimism to make 100% Atta bread with my new flour, and quickly realized it wasn't so simple. While it was instantly clear that dough made with the new Atta was much more well behaved than dough with whole durum, my first few tries were the sort that the less said the better. Then I started to get marvelously breadlike results from the outside, but when I cut into the loaves: huge tunnels from one end of the bread to the other. This was discouraging.
I concluded that I was having dough strength problems and decided to work systematically on that problem. After seeing the SFBI article that I posted about earlier I realized that my thinking had been too simple. Yes, it's true that a weak flour like durum needs more mixing to develop the dough, but I also had to be more careful about other things. For instance, I had been mixing flour, water, and starter in the first mix and then adding salt in the second. While I might be able to get away with that for regular wheat doughs, it wasn't a good idea for baking with 100% durum since the point of autolyse is not only to hydrate the flour, but also to strengthen gluten bonds. I had been using autolyse as a jump start to fermentation so wasn't getting its benefit for dough strengthening. This time I mixed flour and water first, and added starter and salt later. I had been doing a 30 minute slow mix in my Kitchen Aid to develop the dough. This time, I mixed by hand. A spiral mixer might be just the thing for durum based dough but given the importance of mixing for durum dough I thought I could do a more thorough job by hand than with a home mixer. The third change was serendipity. Since I had been making so many attempts at a durum loaf, my durum starter had matured and by now was quite active. While I had known that this was important from a fermentation perspective, I had not realized until reading Didier Rosada's article that it was also important for dough strength since the acids in a mature starter contribute to dough strength. Finally, I decided not to take any chances on having a huge tunnel develop due to explosive ovenspring. This meant that I had to make sure that my dough was not underproofed when it went into the oven, and second I couldn't risk the high temperatures of my WFO. I baked in my gas oven at 420 (instead of the usual 450degF) to slow down oven expansion. With all that, I took another shot at it. For the first time, I got a uniform crumb with absolutely no tunnels. And so concludes lesson 44 in breadmaking - Introduction to Dough Strength.
On a different note, I have been thinking about self-scored breads since seeing several beautiful examples on this site. I proofed this one with seam up, and noticed it opening in interesting ways. So I managed to get it seam side up onto the peel (not that easy) and didn't score. It came out a bit funky to say the least, but I'm sure I'll be posting more on this later.
Formula and method:
Mix flour and water by hand. Autolyse for 30 minutes. Add salt and starter. Mix by hand for 20 minutes. For first 5 minutes or so, press dough between fingers to get starter and salt thoroughly incorporated. After that, place on counter and roll into log first in one direction, then 90deg off to develop the dough thoroughly. Dough is not sticky, and no flour on the counter is necessary. Mix until dough is soft and silky. Bulk ferment for 2 hours with 1 stretch and fold on counter. Cannot pull out dough like wheat dough since it is too fragile. Instead press out gently, fold up, and roll into a ball. Shape by pressing out gently and then folding in the sides in a circle. Roll into a boule. Place upside down in basket. Proof for 2 hours. Place seam side up on peel covered with semolina. Slide into 420 degF oven for 20 minutes with steam, 20 minutes without. This bread is self-scored.