A bag of durum flour

Durum Wheat (Durum Flour): Definition, Characteristics, and Application in Pizza Dough

PizzaBlab » The Encyclopizza » Durum Wheat (Durum Flour): Definition, Characteristics, and Application in Pizza Dough

What is Durum Wheat

Durum wheat (Triticum durum) is a variety of wheat that is rich in protein and gluten. It is usually yellow in color, although there are some durum varieties that have a similar color to “regular” wheat. In addition, there is red durum, which is mainly used as fodder.

The products obtained from milling durum wheat can be categorized into three groups based on their granular size (this classification also applies to the milling products of “regular” wheat):

  1. Coarse semolina, which is primarily used for making pasta.
  2. Fine semolina, also known as “Rimacinta,” which is commonly used as bench flour,
  3. Durum flour, which resembles regular white flour in both granular size and texture (essentially flour made from durum wheat).

It’s important to note that technically, there is no such thing as “semolina flour”; “flour” and “semolina” are two distinct products obtained from the milling of the wheat kernel – they differ in granular size, with ‘flour’ having a smaller granular size and ‘semolina’ having a larger one.

It is also interesting to note that although fine semolina is called “rimacinata” in Italy (meaning “ground twice”), it is not actually ground twice; In fact, it is ground to a specific granular size as part of the standard wheat milling process, using specific rollers, similar to how flour and coarser semolina are ground to their respective granular sizes.

The main difference between durum wheat (whether in the form of flour or semolina) and “regular” wheat lies in the gluten-forming proteins. In comparison to regular wheat, the gluten produced from durum wheat is shorter. This results in a dense, rigid, and “hard” gluten network, which consequently yields a chewier and tougher final product. This is one reason why durum wheat is highly suitable for pasta production, as it provides a firm and chewy texture known as “al dente.”

The protein content of durum wheat typically ranges from 12% to 16%.

The Effects of Durum Wheat on Texture and Flavor

In terms of texture, using durum wheat in the dough (either as flour or semolina) will result in several effects:

  • The dough will become more elastic and resistant, thanks to the gluten structure of durum wheat
  • The crust will become firmer and chewier
  • The crumb structure will be denser and more compact
  • When making very thin pizzas (cracker style), the use of coarse semolina can enhance “roughness” and provide added crispiness
  • However, for regular pizzas (non-cracker style), using semolina will NOT contribute to crispiness

If you plan to use durum wheat in the dough, whether in the form of flour or semolina, it is recommended to limit it to no more than 25% of the total amount of flour used. Failing to do so can result in a crust that is excessively tough and leathery, which, upon cooling down, will have the texture of a shoe sole, making it quite challenging to eat (although it might give your jaw muscles a good workout).

In terms of flavor, adding durum to the dough (whether in the form of flour or semolina) will also result in a change in the aroma and flavor profile of the final product, adding a distinct “nutty” flavor, the intensity of which will vary depending on the amount of durum used.

The type of durum used, specifically the granular size (flour, fine semolina or coarse semolina), can have varying effects on both the behavior of the dough and the final texture. It is important to note that these effects are in addition to the ones described above.

The granular size can impact:

  • The ability to develop gluten – coarser grains may physically cut the gluten bonds, resulting in weakened dough
  • Water absorption capacity – the finer the size of the grains, the potentially higher the amount of damaged starch, resulting in a greater water absorption capacity
  • Water absorption speed – thinner grains absorb water faster due to a larger surface area to volume ratio. (This only refers to the speed at which the grains absorb water, not their overall water absorption capacity, which is influenced by other factors)

If you plan to use durum wheat in pizza dough, it is recommended to use durum flour or fine semolina instead of coarse semolina. Coarse semolina requires an autolyse to fully absorb the water before starting the kneading (as mentioned, coarser grains take more time to absorb water), which can potentially make the dough feel coarse and “grainy”.

Is Semolina or Durum Flour More Resistant to Burning Than White Flour?

There is a misconception that durum wheat has a higher burning point than regular flour; This is not true, as there is no significant difference in the burning point of durum wheat and regular wheat (bread wheat). Both types of wheat will burn at the same temperature during baking.

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