The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

100% WG Durum, 40% Rye (60% WG), open fields and open mind...

IceDemeter's picture

100% WG Durum, 40% Rye (60% WG), open fields and open mind...

In amongst the rush and action of helping friends during calving season, there is also a fair bit of time spent wandering the fields for various chores, and time available for thinking while wandering...

I've been quite taken (obsessed) with this whole new-to-me discovery of making bread, and have been following blogs and postings by so many here of their fabulous and tempting looking bakes.  These temptations have been quite easily leading me away from my sort-of-planned path of learning to make a basic "daily" loaf that is a high proportion of whole grains and has a strong flavour profile, as well as play with some 100% whole grain rye or wheat or even a very occasional enriched bread as a snack or treat.  The most important considerations were to be flavour and utility (a heavy sandwich bread for a sandwich week, for instance), with room for experimentation and increase in skills.  We can only eat so much bread, and there is only so much room in the freezer, so too many deviations from my "path" are just not a good choice.

With that in mind, I still was quite taken with the whole Pane di Altamura concept --- especially after seeing some of the past results from dmsnyder, breadforfun, alfanso, and others, which I went looking for after seeing the current incarnations by Lechem and now pmitc34947.  Lechem  kindly shared the details of what specific flour to look for, and even though it is a "white" flour (well - yellow - but just the endosperm with no bran or germ) - and that isn't something that I generally like or look for - I started checking into it.  Well - then I started reading that the flavour really wasn't much (Lechem mentioned "cold pasta" on one of his earlier versions).  That didn't sound very appetizing (I'm not a big pasta fan), and the notes that it is supposed to be incredible with olive oil  didn't help much since that isn't up there in my favourite flavours either. 

A sane and reasonable person would have discarded the idea of trying to make a bread that is difficult to execute, uses an expensive and not easily found flour (here, anyways), and apparently has a flavour profile and usage that is not on their preference list.  I am obviously neither sane nor reasonable, so came up with an idiotic compromise idea that I'd pick up some local whole durum berries (those are easy to get) and do a whole-grain loaf to see if I actually liked it enough to go in search of the not-so-readily-available and far more expensive correct flour.  I spent a few days getting a durum starter going, and with Lechem's formula in hand, I took one of my baking days last week to try it with freshly ground whole durum.  Yes - I know that everything about whole grain is going to work differently than the semola, but it seemed like a reasonable starting point.  Well - by this point I was really questioning why I was even doing this.  I was almost resenting the time put in, and was NOT a happy baker.  Everything about the dough just felt wrong from the start, and I just couldn't get my head around what needed to be done to make it work and feel better --- so I just followed the formula and hoped for the best:

The crust looked okay, but it felt heavy and took forever to hit temperature, so it was obviously under-fermented, as proven by the dense and heavy crumb with the more open holes around the perimeter:

It had a surprisingly good mouth-feel, but the flavour was really, really, really - meh.  Not bad, but certainly not something that I'd go out of my way to look for.

The day wasn't a total waste, fortunately, since I still had some pizza dough left over from the previous week (that I'd been tempted to try from a post by inumeridiieri), and it turned out that an extra 4 days fermenting in the fridge with a longer par bake was just what it needed to become one of the first pizzas that I have ever really liked:

The next day I got back to basics with a 60% whole grain "daily" loaf with 40% rye --- and I really enjoyed playing with the mix.  This was my first loaf with tang zhong, then I started the final dough mix at 75% hydration, and kept adding water as I kneaded it (just to see how it would feel), and finished the mix at 83%.  I was looking for a hearty loaf that would stand up to a ham and sauerkraut sandwich made at 6:00 a.m. and not eaten until 8:00 p.m. and that is exactly what I got:

My different attitudes to the two bakes showed me that I need to get back to my original priorities and focus on creating loaves for a flavour that we love.  I still had that durum loaf to get through (I didn't even like it enough to want to save it for altus), and then... well - I thought about me not really liking pizza and then having the pleasant discovery that the right recipe was something that I now enjoyed.  Then, I recalled that inumeridiieri had commented on one of Lechem's posts with a photo of a fresh tomato and olive oil bruschetta. 

So - I got home and hacked off a couple of slices of that durum bread, toasted it heavily, and mixed up some tomatoes and onions and garlic and olive oil and ...

Who'd a thunk it?  It's actually really darned good!  I've had it for lunch for the past couple of days, and enjoyed it so much that I'm planning on another 100% whole grain durum for this week.  I'll be doing a different timing and a higher hydration, but will go with how it feels and see if I can't come up with a really serviceable loaf with a flavour that I'll enjoy.

I doubt that I'll be chasing down the proper flour any time soon (but won't rule it out entirely), but am glad to have my obsession reined in for a bit and get back to enjoying producing what the more practical side of me wants.  There will still be some playing (I'm still dithering on a tang zhong with my other loaf this week - or a toasted oat / oat bran / wheat germ porridge).  I'm even more glad that I kept an open mind about what I do or don't like - and gave the bread another try following suggestions from the wonderful experienced folk who post on here...

Many thanks, and keep baking happy!


alfanso's picture

known as New York, the only reference point I have to calving season is related to my lower leg exercises at the gym.

As with you, my adventure with the 100% durum everything, and blasphemously shaped (typical batard shaping) as my take on pane di Altamura, also rendered me not a fan of the perceived bland taste of the bread.  It did make for some fine toast.  To me there is the crust, the crumb - and the toast, my favorite of the three with crust running a distant second!  Now, I'll wager that the folks who have been practicing the craft in Altamura and the neighboring Matera are likely able to squeeze a far better flavor profile out of these than we rank amateurs.

But unlike you, I both do like the flavor of durum, when mixed with other flours and seeds, and more importantly didn't find the exercise to be a lost cause and time sink.  And that is because, to me anyway, almost all of these baking experiences contribute to our stores of baking knowledge. Not just what works for us, but also what doesn't work.  And we are all the better for it.  

I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of emptying out my pantry in any desire to see about what-ifs, although I applaud those who do.  Basically because that aspect of combinations just doesn't pique my personal interest.  I'm more of a meat and potatoes kind of baker, sticking to the basics with few far flung objectives and ingredients.  However it was heartening to finally read that you are game at giving it another go.

And your make-it-all-better loaf came out looking and sounding really really fine!  And even with that one you experimented with tang zhong for a first time.  Brava!


IceDemeter's picture

Thanks, Alan!

It was actually reviewing your post of that blasphemous batard that put me back in to a better mood after my cranky bake of that durum.  Yours turned out looking just so, so, well - signature alfanso! that I couldn't help but smile at it.  Quite seriously, it was the reminder that I needed that day that the baking is about pleasure - in the prep and the bake and the result, and that I'm the only one who can define what that means for me.  I definitely learned a lot from the experience, and consider it to be a grand stepping stone...

I'm on to the next round already, and am having more fun with it again.  I don't know what I'll get for crust or crumb (or toast!), but the dough was a joy to work with this time and I've got some ideas of what I want to try with it to see where the flavour profile will sit in future combined grain bakes.  I most often like simple combinations of flavours (which is why I like to try each new grain either alone or in a combination that I'm already familiar with), but am finding that there is still much fun in learning new techniques that still keep it to minimal ingredients.  An occasional foray in to the more complex combinations (a la dabrownman or isand66 or danni3ll3) is good for a dessert or treat bread, but I am mostly content with keeping things simple. 

Thanks again for your support - and for your continuous inspiration!  Oh - and for sharing your awesome sense of pun...


Laurie's picture

Your durum bakes look terrific, especially that first one.  Not an easy grain to bake with.  Nice job(s)!

Your bread baking ambitions are fairly well aligned with mine.  All I ever wanted out of this "hobby" was to routinely produce a fabulously flavorful and healthy naturally leavened sandwich/table bread, a 100% WW sandwich bread for my wife (since dropped from the repertoire -- the bread, not the wife.  She prefers sandwiches with the sourdough now) as well as periodic and seasonal excursions into hot cross buns, pizza doughs, colomba di Pasqua, panetones and other sweets.  Interesting enough, just last week I declared myself to be"done with durum" (for bread) after another disappointingly flavor-challenged durum-supplemented version of our weekly bread.  Still excellent fresh-ground for pizza doughs and our wholegrain pastas.  But we've concluded that "bread wheat" is called that for a reason.

Happy baking,


IceDemeter's picture

is a perfect description of my ultimate goal with this obsession er, uh, hobby! 

Thanks for your support - and for the link to your "daily bread", as it looks like a lovely combination and process that I will enjoy trying.  The whole "toasted" thing --- well, I followed some of dabrownman's references to your posts about it, and am thoroughly enjoying the added flavour that toasting brings to the wheat germ and oat bran and other whole or rolled grains that I am adding to almost every loaf.  It's amazing how a few minutes of toasting can totally change what flavour a grain will bring!

I'm not sure that I'm entirely "done with durum" yet - as I've got another attempt at 100% whole grain durum on the go right now (tweaked to better suit my preferences for procedure), and am hoping to get a better idea of what it will go with and whether it will be an enjoyable addition to future bakes (hmmm - as in a toasted durum porridge, maybe?!)  I'll definitely keep it in mind as an addition to pizza dough - since THAT sounds like it might be just the perfect place for it!

Many thanks, and keep baking happy!

isand66's picture

I highly recommend you try sifting the whole grain durum.  The flour will become much more "lighter" and you will get a less dense bread as a result.  I love durum but usually combine it with other flours which I find gives me the best results and flavor profiles.  You can check out my posts on this site or on my other site and do a search for durum.  Don't give up on it just yet and try combining it with other flours and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

IceDemeter's picture


Thanks, Ian!  I've got another attempt at this on the go right now, and followed your suggestion of sifting it (after also sending it for another run through the mill).  You are absolutely right that it makes a MASSIVE difference in the feel of the dough, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it does for the crumb and the flavour.

I've bookmarked your blog (thanks - it looks awesome!), and will be definitely checking out some of your flavour combinations.

Thanks again - and scritches to all of the fuzzy butts (looks like quite the awesome clan you've got there)!

dabrownman's picture

ddoesn'to it,  In your tomato mix I like some fresh basil and Parm grated with a splash or two of of balsamic vinegar  This is one of my favorite lunches when made with home grown cherry tomatoes - just killer.  Otherwise 100% durum is not a favorite and kind of like pasta with no sauce of any kind except I like the pasta plain better.  Your 10o% durum loaf looks about as good as it will ever be both inside and out.

I'm with you on the multi-grain whole grain breads and sprouted breads,  They are my favorite too ..... looks and taste great with a beer - pretty good,  Have to drink wine with white bread:-)  Your whole grain bread looks grand and has to taste great.'Happy baking ID

IceDemeter's picture

maybe over the open fire --- now that really WOULD add a whole 'nother dimension to the flavour of this stuff!  Honestly - it would never have occurred to me to throw it on the grill, but will definitely give it a go!

No parm around here right now, but it does go well with asiago!  I've been looking at those salads that you've been posting and am considering throwing some strawberries or citrus in to the bruschetta, too - since I have a feeling that the durum might go well with a tangy fruit mix.  I've got to pick up a different balsamic to work right with it (or maybe a heavy merlot...)

Thanks for your support and suggestions - they are always good ones!

Oh - and please tell Lucy that I could have used her skills yesterday.  It would have been much faster to have sent her down the hole after the badger instead of having to wait for it to finally come out to be removed...  She hopefully knows how lucky she is to be living all spoiled and comfortable with you and not having to work for her living!


Laurie's picture

So dab pointed you to our Miche Maillard probably.  That was my attempt at getting untoasted bread to taste toasted.  It was a start.  What I've found in similar exploration since is obvious from the chemistry and biology:  the most alluring "toasty" flavors are those produced by the Maillard reaction and that occurs between amino acids and simple sugars.  So the higher the protein, the more Maillard you get.  Wheat germ is a fantastic source (and is fabulous toasted), since, as the embryo, it's the most concentrated source of protein in a wheat seed.  But when you move on to toast entire grains (that have been flaked, as I've been recently exploring), your two key substrates (protein and simple sugars) are diluted way down by 90+% complex carbohydrates (starches), which make up the intact seed but make lousy Maillard substrates.  I've dabbled with soaking the grains long enough to start germination, which would convert carbohydrate and protein polymers to simple sugars and amino acids, respectively.  But when I then dry them, which is necessary for flaking, they don't flake as well, presumably because the endosperm's starch, and therefore its structure, has started to break down.  So perhaps better to just toast sprouted grains and incorporate those into the dough (as Ian has done, I believe).  But we have become very attached to the effect those wet, cooked porridges have on softening and moistening the crumb.  That cakey-ness would be hard to give up.  Perhaps sprouted, toasted grains can then be 'cooked' like porridge before incorporating into a dough.

I have flaked some durum and incorporated it into a dough.  Perhaps I soaked it too long, but the flakes (and thus the porridge they became) had a lot of durum flour in it, probably because the grains shattered excessively in the flaker,.  The crumb of that loaf was very durum-like, which didn't win it any points at our table.  This week's addition was toasted, flaked spelt porridge.  Great bread but nothing special.  Next week we'll go back to good old oatmeal.

Plenty to explore.  Have fun.