Recipe: 60% Durum Wheat Flour (Semolina) Ciabatta Sandwich Rolls

Ciabatt-ahhhhhhhh! Those pillows of airy goodness. I make basic ciabatta (just AP flour) almost as much as I make baguettes. They’re so light with a crispy crust. You can eat them plain, or with some butter, or dip them in good olive oil… Just puts a smile on my face. But despite loving to make them so much, I wanted to see what they’d be like with a flour blend.

Then it hit me that the other Italian bread I love to make is Pane di Altamura. That recipe uses an 80/20 Durum/AP Flour blend that’s absolutely delicious. So I decided to do a version of ciabatta that uses Durum wheat flour.

About Semolina…

Durum wheat ground up into flour is commonly called Semolina. But you can’t just use any semolina flour off the shelf as that is typically too coarse for making dough. You have to be sure that it’s ground fine to extra-fine. I get my Durum from Azure Standard. This is actually a high-extraction version of their Semolina that has a lot of the sharp bits of bran sifted out after milling. I use it for making bread and pasta!

Overall Formula

Flour
Semolina
AP Flour
100.00%
60%
40%
Water90.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast1.10%
193.10%

Final Dough

AP Flour377g
Semolina251g
Water565g
Salt13g
Yeast7g
Total Yield1212g
6 X ~200g loaves
Optimal Dough Temp80ºF

Initial Mix/Autolyse. Mix all the flour and all but 50g of the water together in a large bowl. Autolyse for an hour. Semolina is a very hard wheat and benefits from an autolyse.

Final Mix. Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the dough, then add the reserved water. Work the water, salt, and yeast into the dough until fully incorporated.

Bulk Fermentation. 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

NOTE: You’ll do two folds in the first hour, separated by 30 minutes.

First Folding. After 30 minutes, stretch and fold the dough using a wet hand. With a dough this wet, you need to be very gentle with the folding to ensure you don’t tear it while stretching. Stretch and fold until the dough no longer wants to be stretched.

Second Fold. Generously flour your work surface to prevent any sticking, then pour the dough out of your bowl and use your scraper if any dough sticks – you want to minimize tearing. Using quick movements, tug the dough from underneath into a rough rectangle. Then working in an N-S-E-W pattern, letter fold the dough by stretching a side, then pulling it over the dough mass. Once the pattern is complete, gently pat the dough down to flatten it, then repeat the letter folding pattern. If any side sticks, use your scraper to push flour underneath the dough. Once the second letter fold is complete, roll the dough onto the seams, then work it into a nice taut round. Transfer the round to a well-oiled bowl, seam-side-down. Allow the dough to expand about 50% of its original size after folding.

From this point on, the keyword for handling the dough is: gentle. Semolina flour-based dough is extremely delicate and will easily degas.

Divide and Shape. Slide the dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently tug it into a rough rectangle. Divide the dough into 200g pieces. You can then just tug the individual pieces into sandwich roll rectangles. Myself, I like to letter fold the pieces then using my fingertips, dimple the pieces and work them into sandwich roll rectangles. Once done with shaping a piece, transfer it to a well-floured couche or appropriate cloth for final fermentation.

Final Fermentation. 30-45 minutes. Rolls will be ready when they’re puffy and slightly billowy.

Bake. Transfer rolls to a baking sheet or transfer board, then dust lightly with flour. Bake at 460ºF for 15 minutes with steam. After 15 minutes, remove the steaming container, then bake until deep golden brown (about 10-15 minutes).

Recipe: Pane di Altamura (Updated)

Ever since I got Carol Fields’ book, “The Italian Baker,” I’ve been wanting to make this bread. It is a truly ancient bread from the Puglia region of Italy and documented by Horatio as far back as the first century BC. The most notable loaf shape has a bit of a pompadour on the top (not sure about the history behind the shape). But that said, the DOP doesn’t certify the bread by shape, but rather by ingredients and structure (e.g. the crust must be 3 mm thick).

Now truth be told, this recipe is technically NOT true Pane di Altamura because it is a “protected” bread under the Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which specifies that the flour must come from the Puglia region. Plus, the high mineral content water of that area apparently contributes to the distinctive taste of the bread. But even still, I believe we can get pretty close to the original. All I know is that the two loaves I made today are gone. My family ate one loaf, and the family I gave the other loaf to demolished the bread! This will definitely be a regular part of my repertoire from here on out!

Durum Flour

I get my durum flour from Azure Standard (and no, this isn’t an affiliate link). This is certified organic and milled using the Unifine method, which creates a finer texture while retaining the nutrients as it uses no water that could leach off the nutrients. Note that you can’t just use any “semolina” flour. Most semolina flour is too coarse to make bread. You have to make sure the grind is extra-fine.

Overall Formula

Durum Wheat Flour80.00%
Unbleached, Organic AP Flour20.00%
Water78.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.20%
Total Yield180.20%

Biga

Durum Wheat Flour100%
Water72%
Yeast0.2%

Make the Biga. The night before you bake, make a 72% biga. Because I make this bread often, I usually make enough biga for two bakes, using 500g of durum flour. Use room temperature water, then let it rise in a cool place for 6-24 hours. You’ll know the biga is ready when it is nicely domed at the top and is filled with bubbles. If it’s done before you’re ready to bake, just pop it in the fridge. It’ll keep for up to a week.

Final Dough

Flour538
Water428
Salt13
Yeast1.4
Biga231
Total Dough Weight1212
Weights are in grams. Note that I factored in a 1% process loss, which is why it’s not a nice round number. You’ll always lose a little during processing.

Initial Mix. Measure out the necessary amount of biga that you’ll need into your mixing bowl. Add all but 50 grams of the water to the biga, then break up the biga. When the water turns milky white, start adding the flour.

Autolyse. Durum is hard wheat, so it benefits from an autolyse. Autolyse for 30-60 minutes (use the longer time in cold weather).

Final Mix. Dissolve the salt into the reserved water and dissolve. Add the yeast to the dough, then lightly incorporate. Finally, add the salt and work it into the dough well all the liquid is absorbed. If using a mixer, mix on low speed.

Knead. Lightly knead the dough in the bowl or turned out onto an unfloured work surface. This is done simply to ensure that all the ingredients are distributed evenly with moderate gluten development. Get the dough to a smooth, even consistency then stop.

Bulk Fermentation. Allow the dough to double, yes, double. This will take up to 3 hours or more with the small amount of yeast that’s used. But that’s a good thing as it helps develop the flavor!

Folding. Fold the dough two to three times at half-hour intervals in the first hour and a half of the bulk rise. Do a windowpane test after the dough relaxes after the second fold to see if you’ll need a third. If you’ve got good extensibility, then the third fold isn’t necessary.

Divide and Pre-Shape. For this recipe, divide the dough into two ~600g pieces. Pre-shape into rounds, then bench rest for 45-minutes to an hour to fully relax the dough and let it puff up a little. In warmer weather, this will be shorter – maybe 30 minutes.

Final Shape and Fermentation. As I mentioned, while there is no standard for the shape, traditional Pane di Altamura is best known for its pompadour, or high form. Study this video clip to shape the loaves. Of course, that baker makes it look easy. And having made this several times, I’ve finally gotten it down. But it does take practice. Here’s another approach. This is quite a bit easier. The only thing I’d do differently is to press down the fold as the baker does in the first video. This will give a more pronounced shape to the pompadour by steepening the backside of the loaf.

Bake. Bake at 485ºF/250ºC for 50-60 minutes. Use steam for the first 15 minutes to promote oven rise. I’ve never baked this bread in a Dutch oven, but it technically could be done. Start with the lid on for the first 15-20 minutes of the bake, then remove the lid and finish the bake. Note that at least with my oven, baking at full temp like that for that long will burn the bread. So once I remove my steaming containers, I turn the oven down to 425ºF/200ºC to finish the bake. The crust should be dark brown, and little to no black.

Step-By-Step Shaping of a Pane di Altamura Loaf

After updating the post, I decided to add a step-by-step shaping guide. This was just as much for my edification as it was for sharing what I’ve learned.

First, lightly flour your work surface, then gently flatten the pre-shaped dough. Pick it up, and gently toss it between your hands to elongate it into a long oval.
Next, fold one end about 20-25% over the end and gently seal the seam.
Pull the top down about 2/3 and overlap the dough. Use your fingertips to seal the seam.
Pull the bottom up about halfway, then gently rock the roll back and forth then seal the seam.

Gently flatten the log, then bring the two ends to the middle. Make a channel with one hand to seal the seams.

Place both palms together and place them in the channel, then pull the ends apart. Don’t worry if you tear the dough a little. Stretch out until the middle is about 1cm thick. This will help form the crease.
Take the smaller end and fold it over the fat end of the dough. Then press down the fold to create a bit of a crease.
The shaped loaf should have a slightly triangular shape from the side.

In the oven, the loaves will pop up with a steep side and look like the bread erupted on the top. It’s a cool effect!

You can make a much more pronounced pompadour by narrowing the top half and shaping it into a cylinder. I did this to mimic some of the pictures I had seen, but it made cutting the bread a little problematic. So my more practical side took over and I just overlap. As long as I get a triangle cross-section, it’s all good!