The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking with Italian flours, first experiences

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Baking with Italian flours, first experiences

Inspired by the recent blogs about Pane di Altamura by Franko

and David Snyder,

and by the then hot weather I decided to try out this intersting bread.

In Britain I found three suppliers of Italian flours, so I ordered some.

I got semola di grano duro rimaccinata (the semolina used for bread) by Divella, from near Bari. The grains seem to be a blend from European countries.

I also got tipo 00 soft wheat flour "La Farina di Don Arcangelo", and durun semolina by the same make, both from Altamura. The semolina is coarser and makes wonderful pasta.


Here a picture of the flours:

No 1: TRS fine semolina (durum), which is availlable in Asian shops. Origin: EU countries (to compare)

No 2: La Semola di Don Arcangelo, from Altamura

No 3: Semola di grano duro rimaccinata by Divella, milled near Bari

No 4: La Farina di Don Arcangelo, from Altamura (tipo 00)

No 5: Shipton Mill No 4 organic strong white flour (my current standard flour, to compare)

To try out the Italian flours I wanted to make a bread I knew well: I used the Pugliese formula I learned at the Lighthouse Bakery with two changes:

1. I used 20% semola rimaccinata and 80% tipo 00 (for biga and dough)

2. I found an interesting baking profile in Italian bread blog: Preheat at maximum temperature, bake for 60min with no steam and turn to 200C immediately.

The result is quite amazing, my best Pugliese yet. The taste is not as sweet as the one made with English flour, but it has more depth, and an amazingly elastic yellow crumb. A good contrast to the thick crunchy crust.

Next I tried an Altamura style bread, but I got rushed, and the temparature in our kitchen dropped.

Not quite understanding the durum leaven I mixed too early. The resulting bread took a long time to raise, the crumb is uneven and it tastes very sour. But I am satisfied with my first attempt, I really like the consistency and feel of the semolina dough.

Here a picture of the loaf:

All in all it is great fun to work with these flours,

and it is really wonderful to find so much inspiration here on TFL.

Special thanks to Franko and David,


 /* UPDATE */

The inside of the Altamura bread:

I think the main problem here was fermentation control: The temperature in the kitchen dropped by about 5C during the last elaboration of the starter, and the effect was more drastic than on wheat or rye starters. I used the starter far too early. Lesson learned

The sources for the flours: for the Divella semolina for the altamura flours - they seem to be out of stock now (as of 8 July 2011)

DeCecco has an online shop (for European countries) where they sell Semola di grano duro rimacinata. They are based in Puglia,but like Divella they seem to use grains from all over the place. I didn't try that (yet).





breadsong's picture

Those loaves of yours are a lovely sight.
Really like the photo contrasting the various types of flour.
:^) from breadsong

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thank you, breadsong!

It's an interesting experience to have them next to each other and feel them.


Franko's picture

Welcome to the pleasures and idiosyncrasies of durum flour Juergen!

It's a very nice feeling dough, I agree, but difficult sometimes to recognize where it's at in terms of bulk and final fermentation. The same is equally true of the durum starter in my experience. Regardless of that you have some really good looking looking loaves to show for your initial mix and bake using this flour. Nice work! The Pugliese is just lovely, and the Altamura has a great 'cap' shape to it. I'm not sure which bread the crumb shot is from but I'm guessing the Pugliese. It seems moist, fairly even, and open. Looks good to me! Tasty bread isn't it?

Nicely written up Juergen, and many thanks for the mentions and linking to my blog.

All the best,


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Franko,

Thank you! The Pugliese is really great, and I think I'll stick to this process for a while.

And I'm quite optimistic about taming the durum beast, thanks to your hard work beforehand.

Best Wishes,


ananda's picture

Hi Juergen,

These look great.   I'm wondering what lies inside that lovely Pane di'Altamura??

Thanks so much for posting on the different Durum flours.   Are you able to reveal your sources, by any chance??

Best wishes


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Andy,

Thank you for your kind words.

I updated the blog with a crumb shot, and links to the sources.

Lots to learn there ... It's hot in Apulia, isn't it?

Here in Brighton it is 14C and stormy today... time to have scones and sit by an open fire in some tea room...

nicodvb's picture

as the Divella is renowned to be one of  the best durum wheat flours among the ones available in stores. Generally it's hydratated ad 80% to make bread. Not that it's very resistant, but it's much better than many others.

Nice bread! with so little durum you obtained a very yellow crumb.

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thank you, nicodvb.

I am glad the flours are highly regarded in Italy, the choice has been made by Matta's, and it's good to know they are a source for high quality ingredients.

The 80% hydration - would that be for pure semolina breads? Sounds interesting.


Syd's picture

Those are fine looking loaves, Juergen.  I can see how crisp the Altamura is from the crust shards on the counter.  So a pugliese is also dimpled like a foccacia - I didn't know that.  Nice shaping on your Altamura, too.



Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Syd,

Thank you for your kind words.

With regards to the dimples - there are different styles of finishing Pugliese loaves out there.

Carol Field's recipe uses dimples, while Peter Reinhardt doesn't ...


dmsnyder's picture

I agree that the feel of dough made with durum is nice. 

Do I understand you to feel that the criteria you use for judging fermentation of durum dough are different somehow than those used for doughs made with other wheat flours?


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

David, I don't have the criteria yet.

The surprising thing about the durum starter is to me how temperature dependent it is.

When I did the first two elaborations we had summer here in south-east England, and the kitchen was at 29C - F

During the third elaboration the temperature dropped by more than 5C.

Based on my limited experience during those hot days I estimated the starter to be ripe (domed, sour taste) within 6 hours.

Well, it had domed nicely but wasn't sour.

I panicked a bit because it was morning, my starter suposed to be ready and I wanted to get the bread out of the oven before a family outing. I proceeded to mix the dough - and it just didn't move.

I did the shaping AFTER the outing and baked in the evening. Frankly, I expected something worse...

As a conclusion I would say that my criteria for stiff starters are the same - I just have to apply them.

Thanks for asking,


SylviaH's picture

What a great source for flours and examples you have pictured!  Very nicely done.  Franko's write up has been quite an inspiration to bake : )


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thank you, Sylvia.

You might not be aware of this, but some of your write-ups about steam helped me to come to terms with my oven and produce these results.


lumos's picture

Beautiful Puglise, Juergen. I really love that sort of airy crumb with lots of irregular holes. I sometimes buy a loaf of Puglise bread from a certain well-known artisan baker in Borough Market, but I think your crumb looks much better. ;) Never baked Puglise myself, but I'll surely try soon. Thank you very much for sharing.

I've just checked your first blog on Puglise from the link. You mention biga can be kept in a fridge for 5 days, but do you find any significant difference between loaves made from younger biga and the ones from older biga, either taste or texture? (btw, the crumb on that first Puglise blog entry looks better than the one I buy from that bakery, too. ;))

I've been very interested in the coursed at Lighthouse Bakery school and wanted to ask how it's like from someone who've attended. Did you enjoy the course?

Best regards,


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Just left a comment on the other blog.

lumos's picture

Thanks! Replied there. ;)

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

I went shopping yesterday (Waitrose in Hove) and was looking for eggs - I never remember where they have their eggs shelf.

Suddenly I found myself standing in front of this:

I couldn't resist.

The bread clearly wasn't fresh anymore, a bit dry.

It tasted very mild. The crumb was very light and open:

We used it to make Bruschetta, and it was delicious. My family are asking for more, I started a new feeding cycle for my semolina sourdough.

Now I know where I have to go, although the path has a lot of hidden surprises, for sure.


lumos's picture

I vaguely remember seeing that packet either on the shelf in a distance or maybe in their magazine. I go to my local Waitrose 3 times a week, but since I started baking bread myself 'seriously', I rarely approach their bread shelves near enough to be able to see what sort of bread they have. Especially in a past few years when they suddenly started opening up large number of branches all over England, I felt the standard of breads they sell has gone down so much, I almost totally lost interest in their breads (though I suspect they're still better than some of other supermarkets). 

But looking at your post, I know where I'm heading when I go to Waitrose next time (= day after tomorrow). I've never had semolina bread, so tasting it (though it's factory-made) would hopefully give me some sort of indication what it is like.

Thank you for the information. 

btw, their eggs are usually next to flours and baking ingredients, for next time you can't remember where they are. ;)

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

After tasting the Altamura from Waitrose I decided to try it again. My starter seems  to have stabilised - I noticed that after refreshment the starter gets very sour (after about 5 hours) and then becomes mild again. I watched this cycle and refreshed in the mild phase (after 12 hours or longer).

After 3 refreshments I wanted to know if the starer worked, I made a pugliese style loaf with my starter using 20% of the flour from the starter:

White "oo" flour 400g

Durum semolina starter 160g

Water 280g

Salt 10g

The dough rose slowly, I had to put it into the fridge overnight, because I couldn't bake.

Early in the morning I baked the loaf, nice oven springn but the taste is not convincing.

But it showed that my starter was OK, so I went to make a full-semolina bread alla Altamura.

Semola di grano duro rimacinata 500g

Semola di grano duro rimacinata starter 100g

Water 300g

Salt 12g

I watched the clock so intensely that I didn't take notes! But the bread came out really nice.

The crumb feels light and is very moist. And the taste is rounded, not sour, quite different from normal wheat bread. During the bake there was a smell of popcorn.

Here some pictures,

Left is the Altamura type, right is the semolina pugliese:

Happy Baking,


Franko's picture

The Altamura looks excellent Juergen! Great colour on the crumb and crust, and the crumb looks very moist and even. Nice job on the molding as well with the distinctive cap shape. The Pugliese looks very nice as well, so it's a shame your not sold on the flavour this time, but there's always next time for that though. Nice baking!

All the best,


Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Thank you, Franko,

I am very happy with the result.

It's curious that my "normal" Pugliese with 20% semolina tasted great, while the Pugliese with the semolina starter had a slightly stale taste from the beginning.


Franko's picture

From what I've experienced with semolina starter Juergen, and your notes echo this, it's a tricky, somewhat fragile starter to get a handle on as to whether it's just ripe and ready to go, or just past prime. I will tell you though that I now use it for inoculating any new wheat based starter, simply because of the speed the yeast multiplies at. The starter I have active now is  100% white flour other than the semolina inoculation of 3%, and it became fully active within 24 hours. I'm trying to build more acidity over the course of the next few days, but it's useable for leavaning right now.

As far as the Pugliese having a stale taste I'm baffled as far as it relates to the starter. The leaven obviously did it's job judging by the volume of the Pugliese. The flavour affect you note as "slightly stale" is more likely related to a scaling error of some kind, perhaps salt. Hard to say for sure without actually tasting it, but that's what bread tastes like to me that doesn't have enough salt. I've a feeling that your next Pugliese with semolina starter will taste the way it should.

Your result on the Altamura is really splendid, and a great example of how to use this flour to it's best advantage.


jcking's picture

Fellow Durum wheat bakers,

One way I've found to increase sour in my Durum wheat breads (with Durum starter) is to use the Altes Brot (old bread) process.