Tag Archives: grains

Italian flour: types and terminology

A selection of flours

Today’s bread is being made with farina di farro biologica from the Coop supermarket’s own brand, farina integrale di segale di agricoltura biologica from the Il Frantoio brand, and “Setaccio” farina semi-integrale di grano tenero from Mulino Marino. There really is no shortage of types of flour (farina) to experiment with here in Italy, if you’re into baking and bread-making. In fact, there so many flour varieties and variables it can be boggling.

Over the 20 months or so I’ve lived in Italy I’ve used many of them, but I still get confused. Previously, for example, I wrote about the various types of grain (and flour) known as farro to try and clarify what they were – as they’re often, erroneously, just translated into English as “spelt”. Here I hope to clarify a little more the other types of grain and flour you might encounter in Italy, or be able to buy as imports in other parts of the world.

Anyway.

Italian words for grains and more

A caveat – these are standard Italian words. There are doubtless a gazillion local dialect words as well, but let’s stay on target.

The wheat family:

The word grano (plural grani) means grain, though it’s frequently used as a synonym for wheat.
Frumento is the more specific word for wheat. In the modern world, wheat generally means bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), which accounts for 95% of global production.
Farro is name given to three, older members of the wheat family, “heritage grains”. Briefly it can refer to:
Farro piccolo (“small”) or farro monococco (Triticum monococcum) – that is, domesticated einkorn wheat, also known as enkir.
Farro medio (“medium”) or farro dicocco (Triticum dicoccum, aka Triticum turgidum var. dicoccon) – that is, emmer.
Farro grande (“large”) or farro spelta (Triticum spelta, aka Triticum aestivum var. spelta ) – that is, spelt. (Also known as dinkel.)

Grano turanicum – a name for Khorosan wheat (Triticum turanicum), another ancient grain type.
Kamut – the trade name for Khorasan wheat (Triticum turanicum).
Manitoba – the Italian name for bread flours with a higher percentage of protein, like what we’d call strong bread flour in the UK. It may or may not be from Manitoba province in Canada. Indeed, according to a blurb on a pack of Ecor brand flour, Manitoba flour is also known as farina americana.
Saragolla – another one I’ve encountered, which is proving tricky to identify with any real certainty. One Italian source says it’s similar Khorasan wheat (Triticum turanicum, but refers to it as Triticum polonicum, Polish wheat.

I’ve also seen things labelled with grano antico, which isn’t very helpful, as it could refer to any one of these ancient wheat species.

two old grains

Non-wheat cereals:
Avena is oats. Fiocchi di avena are oatflakes, or porridge oats.
Orzo is barley.
Miglio is millet.
Riso is rice.
Segale is rye.

Wholegrain rye flour

And not forgetting the that poster boy of industrialised, ecosystem-destroying, logical-economics-manipulating monocrop agriculture: maize (Zea mays), or corn: mais in Italian, also granone (“big grain”), granturco, granoturco and various other dialect names.

Polenta is, of course, made from maize, which arrived in Europe from the Americas in the 15th century, replacing earlier gruels made of orzo or emmer. Polenta (cornmeal) comes in various degrees of coarseness, some quite gritty, some more floury. You can also buy amido di mais, which what we’d call cornflour in the UK, or (more descriptively) corn starch in the US.

Other non-cereal flours you may encounter could be made from:
Amaranto – amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus).
Castagna – chestnut (used for Pane di San Martino).
Saraceno – buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum). Buckwheat isn’t a member of the grass family like the above grains. Instead, it’s a member of the Polygonaceae family and related to things like rhubarb.

There are see flours made from legumes such as:
Ceci – chickpea (Cicer arietinum).
Lenticchia – lentil (Lens culinaris).
Soia – soya, soybean (Glycine max).

Marino closer

Other useful terms:
amido – starch.
biga – type of low hydration, firm preferment, which can made with a sourdough starter or commercial yeast.
biologico – organic, organically farmed or produced.
chicco – grain (also bean, pellet, bead), eg chicco di grano, grain of wheat
crusca – bran.
germe – germ, eg germe di grano.
glutine – gluten.
integrale – wholegrain, eg farina di segale integrale.
lievito – yeast, raising agent.
lievito madre – “mother yeast”, meaning a natural leaven or sourdough culture.
lievitare – to rise, to raise, to grow (with a raising agent).
lievito naturale – natural leaven or sourdough.
macinata a pietra – stoneground. Always good, as it doesn’t damage the grain as much as modern milling with massive steel rollers, as such maintaining more nutrients and more flavour.
macinare – to mill (flour).
mulino – mill, eg uno mulino a vento is a windmill.
pagnotta – loaf.
pane – bread.
semi-integrale – semi-wholegrain. I’m not entirely sure what the preparation of such a flour involves – more sieving? Or blending?

Hard and soft

You’ll often see farina di grano duro and farina di grano tenero on packets of Italian flours. These translate as “hard wheat flour” and “soft wheat flour” (or, more literally, as “hard grain flour” and “tender grain flour”), but shouldn’t be confused with what we consider “hard” wheat in English, which is generally a higher protein bread flour.

Farina di grano duro is flour milled from the wheat species Triticum durum (aka Triticum turgidum var. durum), with durum and duro meaning “hard” in Latin and standard Italian respectively. Triticum durum is most commonly used for making pasta. It is the second most significant type of wheat grown globally, accounting for about 5% of production. It is ground into products of varying coarseness:
Farina di grano duro – the finest, most floury
Farina di semola – a slightly coarser flour
Semolina – the coarser middlings and yes, the stuff used for old-fashioned British puddings, (though the term is also used generically to refer to other wheat middlings).

Farina di grano tenero is flour milled from a subspecies of the wheat species Triticum aestivum, the most commonly cultivated strain of this useful grass. Also known as bread wheat. In Italy, it generally has a medium protein percentage, around 12%, though it can vary greatly. As with farina di grano duro, it is milled into products of varying degrees of coarseness, which is where the whole “00” thing comes into play. Read on…

Mulino Marino 00

Licensed to bake: the “00” system

When you see a flour graded as 00, it’s not a reference to a particular type of grain or species of wheat, it’s simply a reference to how finely the flour has been milled, and how much bran and germ has sieved out, and what sort of colour the flour is as a result.

The various types are: 00 (doppio zero, the finest grade), 0, 1, 2 (the coarsest grade, more akin to a meal). The coarsest grain is effectively integrale, that is, wholegrain.

Although 0 and 00 are commonly used for bread-baking, both are loosely interchangeable with British plain flour or US all-purpose flour. Indeed, if you look at the dark blue packet in the photo at the top of this page, the Barilla brand flour is labelled per tutte le preparazioni, which could be translated as “all-purpose”, and it’s a grano tenero 00.

The blurb on the side of a pack of ‘Ecor’ flour I mentioned above, also explains that il grado di raffinazione indica la quantità di farina ottenuta macinando 100kg di chicchi. Tanto più alto è questo indice tanto più grezza è la farina: the grade of refining indicates the quantity of flour obtained from grinding 100kg of grain. The higher the grade, the coarser the flour.”

Also, as the first table on this rather technical page indicates, the higher the grade, the higher the ash content and protein of the flour. Though these Italian flours are all still fairly low protein, between 9% and 12%, and different grains would give different results – that is, this table’s data has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

And the rest

I’ve probably missed all sorts of pertinent things, but can add them as and when I encounter them. For specific types of Italian bread and baked goods, I may mention them elsewhere on the site. In the meantime, if, like me, you’re into baking and an English-speaking learning Italian (there must be a few of us in that demographic out there), I hope this has been useful.

Pandi Sempre

Love this spiel “This flour recounts the (his)story of cereal crops. It’s composed of the most ancient grain, Enkir, of farro, and of a careful selection of soft wheats, all naturally stone-ground without the addition of additives or ‘improvers’. Thanks to its varied composition, it’s ideal for every use.”

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Absurdly wholesome multigrain, multiseed bread

Multigrain, multiseed wholesome bread
I had a load of cooked farro grains left over, and needed some bread, so this came into being. It wasn’t an entirely happy experience. The dough was very moist and sticky, and I’ve really lost my moulding mojo recently, so there was a bit of a (one-man) scene in the kitchen. Then it didn’t really have much in the way of oven spring*, hence the slightly sad shape. BUT, and here’s the important thing, it tastes great.

It’s a ridiculously wholesome loaf that would make a spongey British “Granary” go and hang its head in shame. It’s firm, moist, with a good crust and eminently satisfying to bite. Great with cheese or for a peanut butter sarnie.

And yes, I might be a food blogger based Rome, but this isn’t a Roman bread. I made it up, in part inspired by Dan Lepard‘s Five-grain loaf (in The Handmade Loaf). As Mr Lepard spent a lot of time in Italy learning his trade, I suspect he took his inspiration for that loaf in part from Italian multicereali (multigrain) breads. So this is a distant cousin to, say, the wonderful multicereali that you can get from Roscioli, or the multicereali I got last week from the Testaccio Ex-Mattatoio farmers market, which the baker called Pane di brigante. He explained he called it that as his area, in the hills south of Rome, used to be full of brandits, brigands.

As I made it up on the fly, these quantities can’t pretend to be exact. You want a nice moisty dough, but don’t get yourself in a lather (like I did). If it feels too wet, add some more flour. And use whatever seeds you have to hand.

400g cooked spelt grains (Dry grain simmered in water until soft, then drained – reserving the cooking water. I used farro perlato.)

Mix in a large bowl:
300g white spelt flour. I used stoneground organic farina di farro bianco.
300g fine durum wheat flour. I used a stoneground organic farina di grano duro.
10g sea salt

Combine in another bowl:
15g fresh yeast, crumbled
100g leaven (100% hydration. I’ve done it with leavens fed on emmer, spelt or modern wheat)
50g honey
350g grain cooking water (tepid, not hot), made up with ordinary water if necessary

Combine in small bowl and add a little water (to soften):
20g linseed (broken up slighty with a pestle and mortar or in a coffee grinder)
20g  poppyseeds
20g  sunflower seeds
20g pumpkin seeds
20g sesame seeds

1 Make the dough by adding the ferment (yeast, water, leaven etc) to the flours and salt mix.
2 Mix well with a spatula or spoon, then turn out on to worksurface.
3 Knead until well combined.
4 Stretch the dough, add the grain and seeds.
5 Fold over the dough, then gently kneed again to combine the grain and seeds.
6 Adjust the dough if it’s too wet or indeed too dry by adding more flour or liquid accordingly.
7 Form into a ball, then leave to rest in a bowl covered with a moist tea towel.
8 After 10 minutes, give it another knead.
9 Rest another 10 minutes.
10 Give it another gentle knead.
11 Return to the bowl, cover and prove until doubled in volume.
12 Turn out the dough, and press it out to equalise the gas pockets. (We always called this “knocking back” in British baking, but that encourages unnecessary violence towards your tender dough.)
13 Weigh dough and divide into two equal portions, each around 850g.
14 Shape each portion into a ball, then leave to rest for 10 minutes, covered.
15 Shape as you like. I was planning batons, but after my tantrum I went with the easy option: tin loaves.
16 Preheat oven to 220C.
17 Prove again until ready to bake: the dough should be wobbly, plump and soft.
18 Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with seeds. Cut along the length (my cut was pathetic).
19 Bake 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C.
20 Remove from the tins then retun to the oven for another 10 minutes or so. (As the dough was damp, and contained the moist farro grains, I reasoned it could do with a little more time to bake through.)
21 Cool on a wire rack.
22 Enjoy.

(Part of the reason I’m pleased with this one is that it reminds me of the bread made by my friend and sometime cooking mentor Nadia, all the way over there in New Zealand. It looks quite similar to her bread, and even tastes similar despite the distance and different provenance of the ingredients. Arohanui to Nadia and all the Aotearoa whanau!)

Addendum
Making this again today, 6 February 2013, and noticed a few errors, now amended. I also thought it was about time I added bakers’ percentages. So here we go.

Note, the seeds are soaked in water to soften them slightly, but I think the amount is negligible so I’ve not factored it in.

Basic percentages (ie not factoring in the leaven composition)

Ingredient Weight Bakers’ percentage
Spelt grains 400g 67%
Flour 600g 100%
Salt 10g 1.7%
Fresh yeast 15g 2.5%
Leaven (at 100%) 100g 17%
Honey 50g 8.3%
Water 350g 58%
Linseeds 20g 3.3%
Poppyseeds 20g 3.3%
Sunflower seeds 20g 3.3%
Pumpkin seeds 20g 3.3%
Sesame seeds 20g 3.3%

Percentages factoring in the leaven composition (100g at 100%, ie add 50g to water weight, 50g to flour weight)

Ingredient Weight Bakers’ percentage
Spelt grains 400g 62%
Flour 650g 100%
Salt 10g 1.5%
Fresh yeast 15g 2.3%
Honey 50g 7.7%
Water 400g 62%
Linseeds 20g 3%
Poppyseeds 20g 3%
Sunflower seeds 20g 3%
Pumpkin seeds 20g 3%
Sesame seeds 20g 3%

It doesn’t seem like a very high hydration recipe, but bear in mind it contains a lot of cooked spelt grain: and this is very moist.

 

 

* Oven spring – the final burst of growth made by bread dough when it goes into the oven. It’s caused by the heat exciting the yeast, which gets all hyperactive, farts out more gas, causing the dough to rise rapidly. Then the yeast dies is killed, when it gets heated over around 60C. Boo hoo. And gets eaten. The horror! You can get better oven spring with steam (it moistens the dough, conducting the heat into it more efficiiently). However, getting reliable steam in a domestic oven is a bit hit and miss, despite what people suggest about pouring boiling water into trays anor using a mister-spray.

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