Yellow flour, yellow bread
Most people relate yellow flour with corn or potato, but this is not always the case
In Greece and other south European countries, the typical bread is white, meaning that it’s made from white flour. The latter is obtained after milling the grains of soft/bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and sieving the resulted whole grain flour. Soft/bread wheat is the most cultivated wheat species worldwide. Second by far comes hard wheat (Triticum durum), also known as durum (the Latin word for hard). The name denotes that durum is the hardest from all wheats, a property that refers to the resistance of the grain to milling. Durum berries, compared to bread wheat, are also bigger and more amber-coloured. Durum likes the sun and thus it’s well adapted to hot and dry climates, like the areas around the Mediterranean sea.
Because of its resistance to milling, durum is appropriate for the production of semola or semolina, an endosperm-rich flour product, containing coarse-grained particles. Semola has a yellow/golden colour that reflects the high content of β-carotene in durum endosperm. Subsequent milling of semola produces a finer-grained flour, which is simply referred to as durum wheat flour.
Semola is mainly used for pasta production. It’s responsible for all goods of Italian pasta, like the ability to remain al dente after cooking and the rough texture that holds efficiently the sauce. On top of all, semola makes doughs that are plastic enough to be shaped to pasta forms that look like small sculptures and can keep their artistic shape after being thrown in boiling water.
Except for pasta, semola and generally durum wheat is used to make some of the most typical products in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, like couscous or bulgur. Additionally, many people are familiar with the sweet, semolina puddings that can be found widely.
In countries that it’s abundant, durum flour is used also for bread. In the south Italian region of Puglia, in the city of Altamura (also known as the city of bread), is produced one of the greatest Italian breads. Pane-di-Altamura is an artisanal product with a Protected-designation-of-Origin (PDO) mark, which is made from 100% local durum wheat flour, combined with sourdough fermentation and baked in wood-fired ovens. The same region is known for its focaccia that is made traditionally also with the same flour. Focaccia Barese is usually topped with cherry tomatoes and olives.
Greece produces also good quality durum. Particularly known are the ancient durum crops on the island of Limnos, or the ones in the Thessaly region. I have used already durum flour from Limnos and it worked perfectly for both pasta and bread.
Most Greeks though are familiar only with semola, which they use to make puddings and generally sweet preparations. However, you can still get in many bakeries a bread made from durum flour. It’s not named as such, but it’s usually called country or yellow bread. I find it particularly flavourful and I like to make it at home whenever I can get some Greek or Italian durum flour.
Durum flour bread
Water (approx. 75% related to flour weight – 75% hydration)
Salt (2% related to flour weight)
( I have noticed that durum flour absorbs more water than soft wheat flour, hence the hydration level for a durum flour dough is higher compared to what I would have used for a soft wheat dough (approx. 70%). However, hydration levels are depended on many factors (flour origin and quality, environmental conditions etc.) and whatever numbers are stated here should considered only as guidelines)
- The night before, take out the sourdough starter from the fridge, feed it with roughly equal amounts of durum flour and water and let it grow overnight at room temperature. In the coming morning, the grown culture commonly mentioned as sourdough biga is ready to be used in the final dough.
- For the final dough mix the durum flour, the sourdough biga (something like 20% related to flour weight), the water and the salt.
- Knead the dough until a coherent and extensible dough is formed. Transfer it in a bowl and cover.
- Let it rise for 5-8 hours (or until it doubles in size) at room temperature or up to a day in the fridge.
- When ready, take it out from the bowl, shape it and let it proof in a proofing basket for 1-2 hours or if it comes from the fridge shape while the oven is pre-heating and bake directly without proofing.
- Bake in pre-heated oven, at 220 °C for 20 min and then decrease the temperature to 180 °C for the next of the baking time (approx. 1 hour in total for a 1-2 kilo bread).