Visiting Montreal recently, invited to a dinner for Sarah Jenkins and hosted by Michele Forgione (two heroes!) I volunteered to bake a loaf of bread using a "biga." Michele kindly obliged, letting me stick out my thick Gallic neck to show I wasn't a baking novice.
I decided to bake a Pugliese bread, as Michele's family is from that part of the world. He also had some first class finely ground Canadian semolina flour (known in Italy as "semola rimacinata") for me to use. Improvising on baker percentages and substituting yeast for leavening instead of my trusted sourdough, the biga had a trace of yeast, and a long overnight proof in a cool Montreal kitchen.
Also, I wrestled with using a full 100% semolina, deciding to compromise to make sure the dough would have oven spring, not turning into a pancake. The biga was all rimacinata, and the final dough was half semolina, half wheat, with a touch more yeast.
A distant relative of my pane eretici with kamut, perhaps this hybrid wheat version actually came close to the tradition of of Pane di Altamura, albeit using wheat flour. All to say, it became a compromise, touching the parameters of orthodoxy with a safety net of gluten strands, and structure, and aided by elements of Montreal's cool air, water and hospitality.
Machiatto while the dough rises and gets it's folds in!
100% semola rimacinata di grano duro (finely ground durum wheat,but you already know that!)
60-70% 'good' water, 20º C approximately
20% semola rimacinata starter (I usually use it with 80% hydration)
Simple is alway's better, straight up numbers, but it's not that simple, Pane Pugliese, or Pane di Altamura are a mosaic of style, shapes and different methods of fermentation, which I as an amateur would not be able to even explain, still trying to sort it all out myself!
Though it was made with commercial yeast, this 12 hour biga leavened dough with rimacinata semolina and just a standard commercial kitchen oven, I was amazed by the depth of flavor and different crumb characteristics from the same formula, just a different flour and leveaning agent.