Bakers Journal

Baking with Durum

December 3, 2007
By Bakers Journal

Putting the traditional pasta wheat to the test for making bread.

Think Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD) wheat. Think bread, says Yvonne Supeene, Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) technical specialist in commercial baking technology.

Durum wheat has been used in bread making in many markets for centuries, including Italy, North Africa, and the Middle East. Historically used in family bread making, with recipes passed down from generation to generation, durum wheat has become synonymous with homemade bread in these regions. Not so in North America, however, where durum wheat is still primarily associated with pasta products and couscous.

To demonstrate the potential for this wheat class to be used in products not commonly associated with durum wheat, CWAD was put to the test in the production of various types of bread in CIGI’s pilot bakery.

“High protein durum wheat is exceptional to work with in the production of different types of hearth-style, artisan and flat breads,” says Supeene. “However, durum wheat flour isn’t well-suited for the production of high volume pan breads, which is why it is not commonly used in large commercial bakeries in North America.”

Tests conducted in CIGI’s pilot bakery using CWAD showed the durum flour to have higher absorption, shorter mixing times, good gas retention properties and longer baking times. It was evaluated against control flours made from Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS), Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) and Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) wheats in the production of pan bread, hearth-style bread and flat bread respectively.

Supeene says the biggest differences between CWAD flour and flours made from common hard wheats like CWRS are the dough feel (strength) and the resulting colour of the end products when durum flour is incorporated.

“Canadian durum is known for its exceptional brightness and it gives a very pleasing yellow colour to the bread crumb, something that many consumers find appealing.”

With regards to functionality, “durum flour is strong but it’s not very elastic,” says Supeene. “That’s why richer formulation pan breads made with durum flour will always have a lower loaf volume because the dough just doesn’t have the elasticity found in common wheats. Many Canadian durum wheat varieties are very high in protein content, but it is not only the quantity of the protein but the quality of that protein that impacts bread baking performance relative to other common wheat flours.”

In regions where the use of durum wheat in bread making is not common, Supeene says bakers might want to give durum flour a closer look.

“I would say there is a niche market for using durum wheat in certain types of bread. It offers consumers a different taste, appearance and colour at a time when many people are looking to add variety to their diets.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Institute Images. Reprint courtesy the Canadian International Grains Institute,

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