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Durum Doubles for Bread and Pasta

By Ben Hardin
March 12, 1999

Bakery and deli patrons who want a bread with a slightly nutty taste and creamy interior color could soon find such fare made largely from durum wheat flour.

Today, durum’s main market niche is pasta. A durum also suited for breads would give growers a new market.

Agricultural Research Service scientists are working to produce durum breeding lines for both kinds of products. Meanwhile, they have modified a conventional baking procedure to hasten the advent of white pan breads made mostly from durum. The scientists are based in Fargo, N.D., at ARS' Hard Red Spring and Durum Wheat Quality Laboratory. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief research agency.

Until now, bread flour composed of more than 25 percent durum did not produce the light and airy loaves most consumers desire. But with the new procedure, 1-pound loaves of 60 percent durum bread baked up with nearly the same volume as bread from 100 percent hard red spring wheat (HRSW) flour. The scientists have also baked good loaves using 60 percent soft wheat pastry flour and 40 percent HRSW flour.

HRSW flour, which composes no less than 40 percent of the durum breads, is noted for high gluten content. Gluten accounts for good loaf volume; it imparts flexibility and strength to the dough as fermentation makes it rise.

To make durum bread, the scientists modified what the baking industry calls the sponge- dough method by working first with flour that had the weakest gluten content. During the initial, or sponge, stage, commercial bakers mix 70 percent of the flour with water and yeast and let the mixture ferment up to 3 hours. Then, for the dough stage, the sponge is remixed with water, sugar, nonfat dry milk, shortening, salt and the remaining flour and allowed to rise again.