Many years ago when I went to cooking school, the method of learning a core group of formulas was to memorize the ingredients, known as "bon d'économat." Recently I was asked to make a cake impromptu style. I didn't have my handy formula sheet for Genoise. It's a classic cake in the French repertoire that is made with eggs, sugar, flour as well as a bit of butter and. Working with my dust-covered memory, I managed to summon up amounts for a chocolate genoise which includes cocoa and cornstarch! Can I blow my own bugle? Here goes. It worked! The cake was airy and absolutely what I remembered from school.
This past summer I met Domenico Bianco a pizzaiola from Naples. He is a consultant for a food group who does worldwide training for pizzaoilas. Last week I had a chance to talk with him about all things fermented. He shared some photos and videos that showed pizza-shaping techniques.To my surprise he described dough made with burnt wheat (or "Grano Arso" as I recently wrote). It's a Napoletano dough basically, classic in most aspects except for the addition of the smokey burnt wheat.
Grano arso or burned wheat is something I find deliciously satisfying in bread and pasta. Still, my first attempt at using it didn't yield the light or full of oven spring desired in the crumb. It felt dense and a wee bit too rustic.
This weekend it was back to the drawing board with parameters and ingredients spun around and reconfigured. I used a pasta madre, or solid sourdough of semola rimacinata. Then I broke up the total flour into different percentages composed of half regular bread flour, high extraction rye, and semola in smaller quantities, with grano arso being the flavor enhancer. It worked. Results below.
Caterer Nancy DeAngelo and business partner Mary Lndolfi
Caterer Nancy DeAngelo has spent 28 years in the food business. Between her first job in the hospitality business in Boston, followed by a period spent in Dallas, Nancy has crossed paths with future food stars such as Wolfgang Puck, Dean Fearing, Lydia Shire and Jasper White - meeting them while they were still forging their own careers.
Today she runs the Boston-area catering companhy, Short Order Gourmet. We talked to Nancy about managing a food business with her two partners, Mary Landolfi and Philip Dirego. Partner Mary Landolfi joined us for the conversation. Here is what they told Stir the Pots.
I went about feeding my levain as he'd described for Fanette, specifically 50 percent hydrated. I made some fine specimens with 60 percent mix of wheat flours, whole wheat and high extraction,, as well as a 40 percent white spelt. With an overnight proof, I followed Thierry's marvelous video instruction he posted and was in for some nice loaves!
As a by-product to trying grano arso in bread, I also used it in orecchiette, the ear shaped semolina and water pasta. Initially I tried shaping with my thumb. That's a bit time consuming. I found it faster to use a knife. It consists of a basic scrape across the surface, then inverting the dough to get the classic ear shaped pasta.
Recently a friend asked whether rye sourdough could add "some push" to a bread they were making using grano arso, also known as "burnt wheat." Its Italian origins literally came from burnt wheat, dating back to a period in Italy when fields were typically burnt following a finished harvest, the resulting ashes thought to provide enrichment to the soil.
In today's Germany, Schlüter mehl is a similar type of flour. It's actually soaked bran that is toasted, a process that destroys its enzymatic starches which promote the carbon dioxide that, in turn, help fermentation. Instead, the Schlüter (or Grano arso) give caramelization and flavor to the bread, as well as high water absorbtion.
Grano arso is from Puglia. As yet, it is not available here. My friend's curiousity was infectious, leading me to attempt a formula along the same lines, using a rye sourdough in a durum wheat bread and including grano arso. I just toasted my durum flour to a nutty brown color and tried to use my friend's formula with my home toasted wheat. The final dough included some kamut, semola, whole wheat and all purpose flour, along with the rye sour starter. I tried to stay in line with the wheat combinations, durum, kamut, wheat, all cousin grains to make a rustic loaf. Below are shots of the process and results.
Sometimes I use Atta flour as a substitute for Semola rimacinata. Both are a finer durum flour used in bread baking, as opposed to semolina which is a coarser grind used in pasta. Found in Indian or other South Asian grocers, Atta Flour is a less fancy, less expensive version of Semola rimacinata. It also has more bran.
Substituting Atta for Semola, sometimes I have had some success in adaptions of semolina bread and the classic Pane di Altamura. In my current tests of different formulas, both with 100% Atta, I found the crumb tighter then Semola Rimacinata. But I wonder if it that results from needing more hydration, or a mix of white flour to lighten the loaf.