There’s been a lot of discussion on the Mellow Bakers forum about semolina versus durum wheat. Please visit over there if you want to join in with the conversation. I am still unsure as to what exactly Jeffrey Hamelman uses when he talks about durum wheat flour or semolina flour even though I have had a good look over on the KAF site to find out. We need a picture of your flour Jeffrey!
This is one of the not uncommon challenges of baking from a cookbook written by someone not based in your own country.
Immigrants to a new country often use the words from their motherland to describe the ingredients and the breads they make in the new home; often they are different and that is where the confusion arises.
In the case of the United States, that melting pot of cultures and foods, this can give rise to breads which bear no resemblance to the European breads whose names they bear. Pumpernickel being the example that springs to my mind. The word ‘corn’ gives rise to all sorts of confusion as does spelt and its European translations. It’s all part of the fun of deciphering the baking puzzles presented to us by writers.
I reckon you either like the bread you make or purchase, whatever its name and ingredients, or you don’t. Unless there is legislation to protect bread type names similar to the way it is done in Germany, we will just have to muddle along, carrying on the chatter and trying to figure out the answers ourselves. There is enough argument on the Real Bread forum about what constitutes ‘sourdough’ and I just want to get on and bake great bread and not worry too much about all these definitions.
I tackled the semolina bread with liquid levain (one of the June breads for Mellow Bakers) by using this flour.
I didn’t put in as much as the recipe stated, as I wasn’t really sure if this was the right stuff or not.
I made the starter as follows the night before I wanted to bake:
- 30 g mature wheat starter
- 150 g strong bread flour
- 187 g room temp water (this gives a hydration of 125%)
Fifteen hours later I mixed the dough with:
- the starter as above
- 482 g water
- 650 g strong bread flour (plus 40g extra after the initial mix)
- 200 g semola di grano duro
- 20 g salt
I mixed the dough slowly and carefully, the semolo has a very fine sandy quality and this cuts through the strands of gluten in a dough, so over mixing and kneading is not advisable.
I then added a further 40 g of bread flour to the mix as it was just too sloppy for me.
Once it was well mixed I left it alone. I left the dough for three hours in total covered with a shower cap as usual in a lightly oiled bowl. I nearly always use a light olive oil for this, just enough to coat the bowl, too much and you will get a different sort of texture to the bread.
After the first hour and a half, I took the dough out of the bowl and patted and stretched it out into a rectangle on a lightly oiled board and folded it as you would an A4 sheet of paper to go into a business envelope. You then repeat this after turning the dough through 90 degrees. You end up with a nice big squarish mound and you can usually see and feel a change in the dough once you have done this. Stretching and folding dough is an excellent alternative to heavy duty old school kneading. Not that there is anything wrong with kneading, but it’s not necessary to knead for a long time for most breads if you employ this well-known technique. One reason for doing this is to redistribute the developing gas bubbles in the dough more evenly. Looking at the final crumb of the bread, I should have done this twice and then I would have got more consistent crumb in the final bread.
I then divided the dough into two parts, and shaped them on a lightly floured board into boules. I left them to stand for about ten minutes, then shaped them again and put them, seamside up into two linen lined and floured bannetons. Once covered, they were left to prove, and were finally baked at 6 pm in an oven preheated to 235º C. They were baked at this temperature for 20 mins on a baking stone, with a small metal tray on the shelf below which had been filled with an inch of boiling water at the beginning of the bake to create steam. The temperature was then dropped back to 190º C for another 25 minutes.
The bread improved over a few days, at first I thought it was a bit heavy and I wasn’t very keen on it, but like most sourdoughs they seem to develop in flavour and their texture improves by the second or third day. I noticed that the breads had a fairly low profile, the dough spreading quite a lot before bouncing back with oven spring during the bake. As can be seen the crumb is not very yellow and I think I was probably overcautious and should have used far more of the semola di grano duro more in line with the original recipe in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman.
235º C gives my breads a fairly thick crust, I usually bake at 220º C but for some reason I decided to follow the exact temperatures that are given in the book, another time I will follow my instincts and bake a little cooler.
Lots of other Mellow Bakers have had a play with this one this month. Do visit their blogs and read their posts!
Semolina barbecue buns by Dan Lepard
My favourite use for semolina, apart from in Dan’s lovely bun recipe above is for helping the dough not to stick as you move it from place to place. Sprinkle semolina on to your peel or tray before you upturn your dough on to it and you will find it slides easily from there into the oven.