The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Community Bake - Semolina/Durum and similar grain breads

headupinclouds's picture

Community Bake - Semolina/Durum and similar grain breads

CB 1:

  • home milled durum wheat (100% extraction) at 500g total (400 g mix + 100 g in levain) @ 70% hydration
  • 20% PFF via sifted and remilled bran powder levain (#30, #40, #50 stack) final 12 hour build 5:6:10 at 56F
  • overnight soaker (salted) from 400 g semolina
  • 2% salt
  • used a standard fold + roll batard shaping w/ tension which immediately created a bunch of pockmarks on the dough
  • 12 hour final proof in fridge
  • try increasing hydration next time
  • reasonable oven spring but tight crumb (flavor is nice and "bright")
  • monitored pH as I read comments that durum doesn't like acidity



headupinclouds's picture

This is the second attempt at a naturally leavened home milled whole grain durum loaf.  The changes with respect to the previous effort are

  • I tried to increase hydration to 73% (but later reduced it) and,
  • I used a final 5:6:10 levain build for total hydration of 60% at 157.5 g
  • I aimed for a higher BF of 50% before a cold 12 hour final proof. 

I also aimed for intensive gluten development via french folds followed by standard bench kneading.  The jump from 70% to 73% hydration was extremely noticeable.  I kneaded the soaker pre-dough the night before (I aimed for 600) as I anticipated trouble with the whole grain durum flour and wanted to get a head start.  I also kneaded intensively after mixing using french folds and traditional folding + kneading to layer the gluten.  The dough had excessive extensibility similar to the issue I mentioned in THIS DURUM BUBBLE GUM POST, although silly putty is probably a better description.  There seems to be a hydration cliff close to 73% after which this whole-grain durum becomes essentially unshapeable and I can stretch it all the way across my workbench without any elasticity.  The dough doesn't feel wet or unworkable, however, and if it weren't for the extensibility I might further increase hydration to help improve the tight crumb.  As an alternative, I could a shapeless higher hydration bake -- a durum ciabatta.  My assumption is that some amount of elasticity to support shaping is more critical here, and I slowly and carefully incorporated additional fresh milled durum flour by feel, iteratively flattening, sieve dusting, folding and kneading, until I was able to achieve some tension again.  I suspect it ended up closer to the 70% level of the previous loaf, or slightly above it.  After the early post-mix kneading it held its shape pretty well and it was relatively untouched through bulk fermentation to a rise of 50% as measured in an aliquot jar (the previous effort was 30%).  I shaped it more gently this time, which minimized the outer skin pockmark issues I saw in the first version, although the effect was still there to some degree.  I found a spot in the fridge that measured about 40F and placed it there overnight.  I baked at > 500 F covered in the cloche for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature for a taper to 425F or so for another half hour, and then baked uncovered for another 8 minutes or so.  This flavor of this bread is excellent, and it has received a stronger reaction than any I have made so far, although the crumb is still very tight, which is not unexpected.  We had a few slices the same day with a kalamata olive pate, which nicely complements the rich slightly sweet durum crust.  I've been using a cutting board "miter box" style cutting board bread slicer and set the guides for the finest setting as if slicing up a denser rye bread.  In a follow-up test, I would either try to push the BF further before the cold final proof or possibly attempt to increase hydration for a durum ciabatta-inspired bread.


Note: the top of the black bands indicate 30% and 70% volume increase (BF stopped at roughly 50%)

Due to questions about the whole grain durum color last time, I included a few different photos in daylight and one with a flash making sure to include some additional color points (orange and blue) to avoid color balance issues that can show up on my phone in indoor lighting.  It has a deep golden yellow color.



idaveindy's picture

I know you didn't ask, but I'll offer my observations/opinions anyway. ;-)

The crumb shows it needs more water.

I think I was inadequate in my explanation of how I hydrated my WW durum.

I too experienced what you call the bubble gum effect. I called it "gooey gluey paste".

If I may...:

There are three steps needed:

1. don't give it all the hydration at once. If you give it all the water at once, the finer particles or the bran locks up the water, and it will never leave the glue state.  However, even with the lower hydration, it will be gummy/gluey, but only temporarily so.

My WW durum (store bought, roller milled, Sher Fiber Wala) is like this:

a) if I give it 85% water up front, it becomes _permanent_ gluey paste. Nothing will then change it to workable _dough_.

b) If I give it 77% water up front, it becomes gluey paste (bubble gum), but in about 3 hours it absorbs the water and becomes workable dough, to which I can add 12% more water in 3 steps of 4% each.

2. Wait. Durum is glassy or glass-like, aka vitreous. Its flour is not powdery like wheat, it is glass-like shards. Tiny shards, but not a "powder" like red or white wheat.  So give it extra extra time to absorb the water.

3.  Add the final water slowly, in 2 or 3 steps, or it will enter permanent glue state again.  add, wait, add, wait, add, wait.


I think you are possibly operating under three misunderstandings:

1. What you are sifting out might not be the bran.  The seive only knows the size of the particles, not where they come from. What if the larger particles are the hard glassy endosperm, and the small particles are the more easily broken down and softer bran?

Suggestion: don't sift, at least for now.  Sifting is just adding another variable.

Durum is not the same species as wheat.    same genus, different species.  NOT just a different variety/strain like red/white or hard/soft.    Therefore..... as we learn to use it, ALL assumptions about how the flour should behave have to be abandonded because it is not "common wheat".  It is Triticum Turgidum Durum, not Triticum Aestivum.

Therefore, don't assume  that what is retained in the seive is mostly bran, or most of the bran.   

In other words:  Durum does not and can not mill and break down like red/white wheat because it is not red/white wheat.  It is a different species of plant.

2. To get rid of the gummy gluey paste, the solution is not less water. the solution is time time time, and more water added slowly in stages.

3. Being whole grain, the flour you and I are working with needs more water than the other bakers who are using endosperm-only durum.  Our hydration will need to be in the 85% to 90% range.

Side note: semolina and semolina rimacinata does not behave like this, so the "culprit" must be the bran.  The bran is somehow interfering with how our flour hydrates, so we need to figure out a different approach to how we hydrate our whole grain durum.

Note:  bran absorbs water differently (different speed and different amount) than endosperm.  You already know this:  WW red/white  just hydrates and handles differently than white endosperm-only flour.

again, Note: Durum bran is going to behave differently than red/white wheat bran. If durum is not red/white wheat, then durum bran is likewise not red/white bran.  How is it different?  Let's abandon assumptions and explore!

(the first assumption to abandon is that what was retained in the seive is bran. So to simplify, do.... not..... sift.)

I think I figured this out with Kamut which is closer to durum than to red/white wheat. Kamut is also vitreous / glassy like durum.

I have made home-milled Kamut, but not durum.

And what made my home milled Kamut "bakeable" for me was.... soak time.


Your stone ground whole grain durum will have larger particles than my roller milled whole grain durum.  So... that initial wait time after you add the first water at  77% could be as high as 8 hours as opposed to my 3 hours for roller milled whole grain durum.


What I suggest is ___establish a hydration baseline__, like how I discovered my 77%.

Take 4 bowls. Put 100 grams unsifted durum, and 2 grams salt, in each.  Hydrate each one differently: 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%.  

Cover and let stand 8 to 12 hours.  Then... knead each sample... and see which ones are now "workable dough", and which ones are still gluey paste.

The highest hydration that is workable dough is your first iteration of a baseline.

Forget, toss out, the higher hydration samples that are still gluey after the 8 hours. In my experience, something happens, where you can't "undo" the gluey nature. Again, the notion that we can "correct" the glue situation by adding flour ..... comes from our experience with red/white wheat, and durum is just not going to act like red/white wheat.  (Maybe there is a "fix", but I haven't discovered it yet.)

Now... Add 4 grams water to the lower hydration samples that became workable dough, and wait again.

The samples will all likely turn to gluey paste, which happens to me.  but as before... give them time. Say 45 minutes.

The question now becomes....  how high hydration can you go and still have the "paste" revert to "workable dough" after giving it time to absorb?

For the samples that are still gluey paste after 45 minutes, set them aside. Do not throw out. Maybe your home-milled needs 60 min or more, as opposed to my small particle roller milled flour.

My answer is 92%. But I can still get a good loaf at 89%, which is what I shoot for.

Yours could be more or less, as your durum grain might have more or less native moisture.  And your time-to-absorb will be be longer than mine due to home-milling likely creating larger particles than roller-milled.

Good luck amigo.


For more of my ramblings on home-milled grain, including Kamut/khorasan, see my comments on this thread:

and my blog entry here:

idaveindy's picture

Headupinclouds:  You've already worked with home-milled durum, so I think you understand the above.

I'm writing this comment for future  bakers who are going to stumble onto this via search engines. What I do is: 

  • To 100 grams of Fiber Wala whole grain durum flour,
  • I add 77 grams flour and work it in.
  • It becomes a glue-like paste.
  • I wait 3 hours, and it becomes a workable dough.
  • I knead in 4 grams water, and it becomes overly glue-like and sticky.
  • I wait 45 minutes, and it becomes  workable dough.
  • I knead in 4 grams water, and it becomes overly glue-like and sticky.
  • I wait 45 minutes, and it becomes a workable dough.
  • I knead in 4 grams water, and it becomes overly glue-like and sticky.
  • I wait 45 minutes and it's ready to use by adding the rest of the ingredients.


headupinclouds's picture

Thanks for the detailed explanation.  I will give this a try, as I still have a fair amount of the durum wheat berries I picked up for the CB, and the flavor can be excellent.  When you mention "workable dough" above, I presume you mean a dough that has enough elasticity to support shaping, instead of the excessive extensibility I encountered.  You may be right about differences in bran separation, but it does seem the problem was more noticeable in the low hydration starter created from the sifted stuff (whatever it was).  It is curious there is almost no information on this whole grain durum flour phenomena.  Presumably there were periods where people made bread from a similar flour, even if it is out of favor today.  I'm curious if temperature could be altered to support faster or more uniform hydration.

Edit: I'm also curious about whether something like a mash might be beneficial.

idaveindy's picture

Answer: I don't know. But I have a guess.

I think the durum _bran_ is getting to the water first, over-hydrating (to the point of becoming glue-like) and "locking up" the water.

In other words, the bran is stealing the water, and not letting the slow-absorbing  glass-like endosperm have enough.

So by providing the water slowly, it allows the endosperm to absorb some before the thirsty bran gets too much.

That may not be the real story, but it's a mental picture that seems to satisfy my need for an explanation.


I know that a one stage addtion, 77% plus 12% does not work for my flour. It still locks in the gluey stage.

Two additions, 77% plus 6% plus 6%, is doable, but hard to work with.

Three additions, 77% plus 4% plus 4% plus 4%, makes the best and easiest to work with dough.

And, this is for my flour.  Your flour may need different percentages and waiting periods.

headupinclouds's picture

This wikipedia entry is repeated frequently around the web:

Durum flour and semolina are good for making pasta because they do not create doughs hard to shape, e.g. into sheets. Technically, the dough is relatively plastic, contrasting with the strong elastic doughs obtained from bread flours. Durum is rich in gluten but that is not readily available as the endosperm is hard to break to release that gluten. Durum wheat is thus less used in breadmaking. Its protein content is almost as high as that of hard spring or winter wheat and so is its gluten content, necessary for bread to rise. Although 100 percent durum wheat breads do exist (such as pagnotte di Enna or "rimacinato" bread from Sicily, as well as Altamura bread from Apulia and Matera bread from Basilicata) in most instances bread doughs contain only a portion of durum wheat and are supplemented substantially with commercial white flours, often those higher in gluten necessary to offset the poor contribution of durum flour to the gluten network. Pure durum wheat breads are often dense, containing little air bubbles, with relatively little elastic structure (continuum). The uncooked dough splits easily and is easier to shape, as for instance to make pies or pastas.

This seems to be a 100% whole grain durum pagnotee di Enna:

Here is a 100% durum loaf by dmsnyder, although it isn't clear if it is whole grain or not:

TFL user did a lot of durum flour baking

It's a nice bread, David, but i disagree with Hamelman's minimal mixing method. I make 100% durum bread every week and I never work the dough less than 20-30 minutes. First it sems to come together, then it almost melts, then after some time it comes back together wonderfully. I knead the dough until it remains firmly clinged to the hook when I raise the mixing arm (always at speed 2). Same hydratation and same series of folds after mixing.

Durum is a strange beast that needs a lot of time to absorb the water and develop gluten. I have first hand tales of old southern italy grannies  that literally worked the dough by hand for more than one hour.

Perhaps what I consider to be excessive hand kneading is still coming up short!

They share a pointer to a durum "water roux" method, which sounds similar to the durum mash I was curious about:

In farinograph tests durum flours have higher water absorption than bread wheat flours due to the higher starch damage during milling, especially when semolina is re-ground into flour (Saperstein et at 2007). Also, farinograph development times are often shorter than bread wheat flours and durum flours have unsuitable doughs for bread making when measured using the extensograph and alveograph (Boyacioglu and D'Appolonia 1994).


headupinclouds's picture

According to this article, sprouting durum seems to actually result in increased loaf volume.  I'm curious if this could also make it behave more predictably.


Specifically, the best bread-making performance were achieved using durum wheat that was sprouted for 38 h

isand66 example