Weekend Mailbag II

Reader Bill asks:

I noticed in the focaccia recipe you mentioned durum flour as an optional ingredient. Can you tell me why, and also where I might get some?

Durum flour makes an excellent addition to focaccia (and many other breads) because it adds not only a more exotic flavor, but a very attractive golden color. Durum, as I mentioned a few months ago during my posts on Pugliese bread, is a very hard wheat, the hardest of all wheats in fact, by which I don’t just mean it’s very high in (protein) gluten…it’s tough stuff. Thus it brings a nice “tooth” to breads it’s added to, provided you don’t use too much of it (the stretchy gluten of conventional wheat is needed for a strong rise).

Durum isn’t easy to come by as a fine flour. Mostly it’s packaged in its course ground form (known as semolina), which is great for things like pasta, but not for bread. Look for it in specialty shops packaged under the name “extra fancy durum flour” or “extra fancy pasta flour”.

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