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Understanding the flours

It is important to understand the variety of flours available in the supermarkets. In Italy, we classify these from Tipo 00 to Wholemeal, depending on the amount of bran contained in them. The classification indicates how fine the flour has been sieved and the quantity of bran contained, from 00 very fine and next to none, to wholemeal which contains lots of bran.

In France, the flour is measured by strength using the W rating and this summarises the capability of the dough to create structure and flexibility.

White baule with poolish fermentation

When choosing your flour, be also mindful of the type of fermentation.

I haven't been very lucky with my sourdough starters, but I have achieved similar results using poolish, a high hydration fermentation process

On the flour packets available in the UK, we mainly find the protein content, which indicates the capability of creating gluten: the higher the protein, the higher the gluten which often indicates a higher strength. During my research, I have found a very comprehensive table in Italian, which I will translate in the easiest way for a beginners' guide:

Flour up to 170W (weak) with a low protein content: for biscuits, waffles, breadsticks and pastries crumbly. Absorb about 50% of their weight in water

Flour from 180W to 260W (average): French bread, olive bread, pizza, pasta absorb from 55% to 65% of their weight in water.

Flour from 280W to 350W (strong): Pizza, pasta, pastry long leavening: baba, brioches. Absorb from 65% to 75% of their weight in water.

Over 350W (special flours): typically made with special types of wheat, are used to reinforce “flour weaker”, mixing them, or for particular products.

Simple white baule with poolish fermentation method


The recipe and method adapted from here

Ingredients for the poolish:

  • 150 g 11,2 g protein flour - I had available this one

  • 150 g water

  • 1 g fresh yeast or 1/2 dose dry active yeast or 1/3 of instant dry yeast

Additional ingredients:

  • 285 g of the same flour

  • 165 g water at 30 degrees C

  • 10 g sea salt


  1. Prepare the fermentation by adding the yeast to the water and then the flour, and combine to a batter. Cover with cling film and let it rest overnight.

  2. The following morning the fermentation should be well underway and you can smell the acidic scent. Add the remaining ingredients, starting with the water.

  3. Once all the flour has been incorporated, fold the dough 4 times on itself, cover and let ferment for additional 3 hours.

  4. Once the dough is doubled in size, prepare your basket by lining it with a cotton cloth and lightly floured. Place the dough and perform the first shape into a baule.

  5. Let rise a third time until the poke test is passed. This should be when once poked the dough with your finger, this slowly comes back, but still leaves a soft imprint. This is the sign you are looking for.


I have used the KitchenAid bread bowl, perfect for baking which can be found here

  1. Pre-heat your oven at Gas Mark 7 - if you have an electric oven should be static at 250 C

  2. Place the dutch oven and heat for 30 minutes. In the meantime, give a final shape to your loaf.

  3. Place on parchment paper lightly covered in flour, shape in a round, sprinkle with flour and perform a cut on the side, being decisive. You can also add more, by using some scissors.

  4. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid shut and then a further 10 to 15, by placing some water in the bottom of your oven, in a tray, until nicely brown.

  5. Let cool completely before cutting.

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