The Fresh Loaf

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semolina starter

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postino's picture

semolina starter

I tried making altamura bread using semolina sourdough from Leader's book. I came out somewhat dense. Is this a characteristic of durum flour breads?  It didn't seem that my starter was very bubbly. Could I make a semolina starter by refreshing a stiff dough levain with durum flour?  Thanks for any help.


buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

that's the only recipe in that book that took two tries for me to get it right.  When you get it, it's great. 


I am guessing it's hotter in Altamura, so it might take longer to feed the starter and really get it going, than is stated in the book.  I've done it both ways, like you said feeding an existing levain (though I used a starter that was wetter than a stiff dough, 166% hydration Nancy Silverton type starter), and I've also done it doing the starter as suggested in the book.  I used the yogurt as suggested the 2nd time around, and went by my own judgment as to when it was ready versus the time guidelines suggested in the book.


Tony, I don't know if you're in America or not, but I find to get the right semolina flour, I buy the yellow coarse cornmeal type semolina and grind it down further in a high speed blender to a fine flour consistency, then you get a nice yellow fine semolina flour.  The "durum" flour that's available to me is more of a brown whole wheat durum which can make semolina things more dense also, and less fabulous than the yellow semolina.


BTW, the semolina sandwich loaf in that book is also excellent, if you haven't tried it.  The mushroom foccace too!


There is a photo of the Altamura bread to show you how it should look, if that's of any help to you. 

postino's picture

I had trouble finding durum flour in my area near Seattle. I was able to purchase it at Marlene's health foods, but they no longer carry it. Searching the net, I found a company called the Granary in Wisconsin that shipped me 25 lbs. Shipping costs were high but still cheaper than KA. 

I tried putting semolina in my Cuisinart, but I didn't notice any change after about 5 minutes. Maybe I will try the blender. How long did you blend it? 

RigoJancsi's picture

I have used semolina bought from indian grocery stores. They carry fine and coase varieties which also come in white and pale yellow color. I found the yellow fine semolina works in the recipe I have.

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

I use a VitaMix blender, which is a higher speed than normal blender.  A coffee grinder might give you some results, or a decent blender, a Cuisinart won't "cut it." ;)  But I only do that to get the yellow coarse semolina into a fine flour, based on what's available for me here. 


Your flour might be fine as is, I don't know as I'm not familiar with that product.  What you could do is try the Semolina Sandwich Bread from the same book with your flour as is... that recipe uses commercial yeast, so that will eliminate the factor of whether it was just the yeast activity in your starter that was insufficient, or flour texture.  It might help you narrow down what the problem was for when you try to make it again. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Found mine in an Asian food shop. It is very light yellow. Even though the flour is fine, it still is gritty. Protein cont.10.7% European origin. Claimes to be "hygienically milled and pasteurised"....pasteurized might present problems if used by itself to grow a starter... (if using yogurt, make sure it is an active one, for they can also be sold deactivated.)

Mixed it up with wild yeast water and after 6 hours fermenting and 1/2 rise, it's loose but active, can smell it, refrigerated overnight. I really had not expected it to rise at all but was worried it might go over my container. Today warmed it up and by golly, after just one hour, it wants to separate! Had 400g of very ripe starter! The bubbles were hard to see on the surface but by pouring it out, it was just full of gas holes. Mixed with 300g bread flour and almost 200g water for a soft dough and let stand 30 min. Gave it some time on my old cheap mixer with dough hooks and enjoyed a second cup of coffee. Added some salt & played with it, folding a little, left it to bulk rise in a large lightly floured bowl. Plan on giving it some folds while it rises. The dough is smooth and stretchy but a little sticky.

Now I see it can be made with 100% semolina flour, Ok, next time....need to make gritty flour extra fine, like powder. (page 250 Local Breads ) I seem to be doing this backwards. Oh well, it is such a boaring day.... maybe I'll go hang a lamp...

My loaf came out rather dense.  I put it in a loaf pan.  Very tasty.  Great to toast.  Very moist. 

Mini O