What Is Durum Wheat? (& How the Heck To Bake With It)

The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer-turned-bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker), Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather on a lot of butter. Today, how to turn high-protein durum flour into a golden loaf of bread.

If you’re a fresh pasta-maker, chances are high you’re familiar with durum wheat. Though the species is most commonly used to make pasta, it’s also an excellent choice to incorporate into bread. It’s a hard wheat—hence the name durum, which is Latin for “hard,”—and is so-called because of the strength of the durum berry itself, requiring significant force to mill. The grain has a high protein percentage, but the gluten quality in durum flour doesn’t have the same gas-trapping characteristics as traditional wheat. This means when using even finely-milled durum flour. The resulting bread will have a tighter, more cake-like crumb, or internal structure, somewhat akin to a loaf of whole wheat bread (as opposed to a super-light loaf with large inner holes, like a country loaf). Though there are visual and textural differences to a loaf of bread made durum wheat, there’s no compromise made: The color, aroma, and flavors from durum are all quite striking when used in bread, yielding a more rustic loaf but nonetheless delicious.