Semolina: What is it?

Antonio Favale

7/24/20232 min read

Pane Semolina
Pane Semolina

In this inaugural blog post, I want to address a frequent question from customers and pizza enthusiasts: what is the role of semolina in pizza making?

Before we get into that, we need to clarify: What is Semolina? To understand semolina, we have to define what flour is. Flour is a general term for grinding or reducing various cereals, legumes, or fruits into fine powder.

However, not all flours are the same. The most common type of flour is made from either hard or soft wheat, which has different technical characteristics that affect the final product. For example, our 00 Pizza Flour or Semolina are derived from wheat but from different varieties, which might look the same but are genetically different in the number of chromosomes. Semolina is the product of processing hard wheat, also known as durum wheat. Durum wheat has a long history that traces back to Western Asia, where it was first cultivated. From there, it spread through the Middle Eastern culture to Africa, Europe, East Asia and eventually North America. Nowadays, durum wheat is a staple ingredient in many cuisines worldwide. For instance, in the Middle East, it is used for making cous cous, a steamed grain dish. In India, it is used for making various breads and sweets. In the Mediterranean region, especially in Italy, it is used for making dry pasta, such as spaghetti and maccheroni, as well as homemade bread like the famous Altamura bread or other baked goods like Pizza or Focaccia barese.

In Australia, you can find semolina in different forms: coarse or fine. The coarse one is typically imported from Indian suppliers and has a larger grain size. The fine one is produced locally and has a finer texture, ideal for dusting the pizza peel or the baking tray. There are also Italian brands like Caputo that offer a Superfine re-milled semolina with a higher protein content (12.5%) that I would personally recommend for kneading the dough or for making a biga or Poolish, which are types of pre-ferments. The granulated semolina has a particular amber-yellow colour from the wheat bran's pigment. It also has a larger particle size than the 00 flour and contains more protein, starch, fibres and minerals than soft wheat flour. These characteristics give semolina some unique properties in the kneading process, similar to Wholemeal flours regarding water absorption and gluten development.

If we want to enhance our pizza with semolina, we must use it in the right proportion ( I suggest not going over 20%) and with the right technique ( Autolysis is advisable). Doing so can achieve several benefits for our pizza crust, such as a more intense and rustic flavour, better crispiness, higher water retention and more nutritional value. On the other hand, semolina will also affect the dough handling and baking, making the dough more resistant and less stretchy and requiring a different temperature and time in our wood-fired oven.