Pane Accavallato di Altamura



Not bad except for the shaping.

The above photo is my sixth attempt at Pane Accavallato di Altamura (overlapped bread from Altamura) and, I am glad to say, it is my best to date.  The worst thing about this loaf is the shaping and I blame Carol Field for that.  I blame her for a lot of other things but that will come later.

This month, The Cookbook Guru is showcasing the book, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field.  As I didn’t have the book, I put it on my birthday list and my sister, Vickie, bought it for me.  Thanks Vick.

The Italian Baker was first published in 1985, before artisan bread and home sourdough baking became popular.  It includes recipes for regional and rustic Italian breads which require a long, slow fermentation.  Most bread books, at the time, would have been using an excessive amount of dried yeast and proving their loaves ‘in a warm place’.  It was all about speed back then.  The inclusion of these traditional loaves would have been quite ‘out there’ for the times.  In that regard, the book can be lauded.  My version, however, is the 2011 revised version and a lot has changed in bread making since 1985 which is not reflected in the revised edition.

I opened the book and headed straight for the chapter entitled Regional and Rustic Breads.  Traditional Italian breads are made with a sourdough starter (in Italy, called a biga) and no commercial yeast.  Ms Field makes her biga with commercial yeast.  I am sure this was done to appease the American consumer but, for this sourdough baker, it is very disconcerting.

Not to be deterred, I flicked through the chapter and stopped at Pane di Altamura. I had attempted to make this loaf four times before (using Daniel Leader’s recipe)with little success.  I decided to give Ms Field’s recipe a go.

IMG_7898 copy

The flour in this photo is what you need – Semola di grano duro rimacinato

Pane Accavallato di Altamura is a 100% fine remilled semolina flour (Semola de grano duro rimacinata) bread which should have a dense, uniform crumb.  The crust should be hard and dusted with semolina flour. The loaf should have a fold on one side that opens up during the baking.  Here is a link to my previous efforts.  If you have the book, Local Breads by Daniel Leader, there is a good photo of what this bread should look like. I would love to show you but the photo would be copyrighted.


A slice from my 6th attempt

This is a slice of the loaf in the top photo.  It is pretty much what it should look like.  I am pretty chuffed with it.


My attempt following Carol Field’s recipe and loads more flour

My fifth attempt, following Ms Field’s recipe, was a shocker.  I followed Ms Field’s instructions exactly, including making the biga with commercial yeast.  My resultant dough was more like a runny pancake batter than bread dough.  Semolina flour does not absorb water at the same rate as normal bread flour so, at this stage, I was only a little concerned but sufficiently concerned to re-read the ingredient list. “Yep, all right there.”

I checked the ‘method’, again.  The first sentence had my alarm bells ringing: “Stir the yeast into 2 cups of warm water”.  This was more water than listed in the ingredients.   [It should have read “¼ cup (2oz/60g) warm water”]. She then goes on to say, “Add the remaining water” –  mmmm.  Further, nowhere in the instructions does it say to add the salt.  And then she makes the strangest comment,  “Don’t add extra water, although you will be temped, for this flour absorbs moisture slowly.”  This is downright wrong.  If flour absorbs water slowly, it will appear too wet and one will be tempted to add more flour not water. I understand books have mistakes in them but you’d think they would have been corrected in a revised edition.

What to do?  I decided to add a little more flour and then wait and see whether the dough absorbed more water whilst it was proving.


Crumb shot of my attempt following Carol Field’s recipe.

When it came to the first shaping, my bread was still like a pancake batter so I started throwing flour at it.  The recipe called for 500g of flour.  By the time I had finished, I didn’t have much change out of my one kilo bag.

The end product wasn’t too bad.  The main problem was the dough was so wet it could not be shaped.  Even with nearly double the flour, it was more like ciabatta dough than what pane di Altamura should be.

I still had another kilo of Semola de grano duro rimacinata so I decided to try again.  This time, I replaced the commercial yeast in the biga with sourdough starter.  I looked at Ms Field’s biga – it was pretty close to 100% hydration so that is what I made.

To work out how much water was necessary, I measured out 2 cups of water and slowly added water to the flour, salt  and starter until the dough was the consistency I thought appropriate.  I ended up using one cup of water, compared to 1¾ cups required by the recipe.

The most important lesson from this is:  when making bread, never add all the water a recipe calls for.  You may need less, you may need more.  Different flours absorb water differently.  Also, the age of the flour and the climate in which you are working will affect the absorption level of the flour.  The water amount can only, at best, be an estimate.

One last bug bear from this experience is the shaping of the dough.  I followed Carol Field’s instructions but I do not think they are right.  I much prefer the instructions given by Daniel Leader in Local Bread.  I set them out below.

This is what I did…

In the morning:

Mix together in a bowl:

  • 60g active starter.  It doesn’t really matter what hydration.
  • 60g Semola de grano duro rimacinata (fine remilled durum (semolina) flour)
  • 60g water

Cover and leave at room temperature.

That night:

Mix together in a large bowl:

  • 166g from the morning’s mixture
  • 166g Semola de grano duro rimacinata
  • 166g water

Cover and leave overnight at room temperature.

The next morning:


  • all the starter from the night before
  • 500g Semola de grano duro rimacinata
  • About 250g water (NB:  it is what I used but read the above warning.)
  • 15g salt
  1. Put about 200g of water, the starter, flour and salt into the bowl of your mixer.
  2. Using the dough hook, mix for 2 minutes on low.
  3. Mix for 2 more minutes on low.  During this mixing, start adding more water, if necessary, until you have a sticky mass but one which can still hold its shape.
  4. Mix on medium speed for 10-12 minutes.  During this mixing, you can make fine adjustments to the water, if necessary.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (in an Australian winter, about 6 hours).
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape the dough into a boule.
  7. Place the dough seam side up in a bowl lined with cloth.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about two hours.
  8. One hour before baking, line your oven shelf with a tile(s).  Put an empty baking tray on the very bottom shelf of your oven.  Preheat your oven to as high as it will go.
  9. When ready to bake:  turn your dough onto a floured surface, trying not to deflate it too much. These instructions are based on those from Daniel Leader’s Local Bread which I think are better than Carol Field’s instructions.  I should have shaped my loaf this way but wanted to see how the loaf would look by following Ms Field’s instructions.
    Form the dough into a rectangle. Take a short side and fold it over so the top edge meets the bottom edge.  Seal.  Take the folded edge and bring it about three quarters of the way over the top of the dough.  Seal the seam.
  10. Gently rub the whole loaf with Semola de grano duro rimacinata.
  11. Generously sprinkle your paddle (or upside down baking tray) with Semola de grano duro rimacinata.  Gently lift the loaf onto the paddle.
  12. Pour boiling water into the positioned baking tray.
  13. Slide loaf onto the tile(s).
  14. Reduce oven temperature to about 225°C.  Bake for 50 minutes.
  15. Turn your oven off and leave the bread in the cooling oven for 10 minutes.
  16. Good luck!



31 thoughts on “Pane Accavallato di Altamura

  1. I have been reading through all your attempts at Pane di Altamura and always come back to that one photo you have on your Daniel Leader’s recipe. It’s the photo of your 4th attempt. Looks really delicious.

    I too have been working on Pane “Tipo” di Altamura. Technically we can only make Pane Tipo di Altamura. Only bread from the Altamura region can be called Pane di Altamura 🙂

    Sometime ago I had a big success. The bread came out exactly how I wanted and thought I had nailed it once and for all. Turned out to be a one off. While other attempts have been nice they’ve never been as good as that one. It is my aim to reproduce that perfect loaf.

    The recipe is quite simple. There’s actually nothing complicated. Flour, Water, Salt and Starter. What is confusing is the timings (the bulk ferment and final proofing seem too short) and the shaping – don’t get me started on the shaping AAArrrrgh!!!!

    Flour 100%
    Water 65%
    Salt 2%
    Starter 20%

    That’s it. The starter is the same hydration as the final dough. So it is a biga at 65% hydration. Should be nice and active having been fed 3x before making the final dough. I don’t always do a 3x build as it is fine when you build up to an amount when it can all go into the final dough but when you’re making just the one you’ll be discarding some eventually as the starter build is the same ratio as the final dough build if you see what I mean. And the final starter build (4th time) is the final dough. It’s just a 4 stage process. But as I only wish to produce one medium size loaf at any one time this isn’t feasible unless you discard some with each build. So let’s punch in some numbers.

    Flour 500g
    water 325g
    Salt 10g
    Starter 100g (at 65% hydration)

    (p.s. I used to think that the recipe was a 60% hydration dough but now I think 65% is more likely and have learned that some Altamura bakers follow this formula).

    This is easy enough so far. Now for the confusing timings which I always have to stray from. Perhaps because it is hotter in the Altamura region they get away with a seemingly too short bulk ferment and an almost non existent final proof.

    You are correct, as I have found out, that Durum Wheat Flour degrades quicker and can’t take too much kneading. In the Altamura region they use a machine that has arms and does a gentle but effective kneading. I haven’t tried this yet for Pane di Altamura but there is a way to mimic this kneading by using a scooping action like in this video I have come across… and look at the video “How to mix wet dough by hand” where he uses the Rubaud Method”. I think this may be a very good way forward for this kind of flour.

    In the method they describe that the bulk ferment is 90 minutes but I always need to do more. But hey, it’s whatever your dough needs, right!? I looked more carefully and it says atleast 90 minutes, so makes more sense. So whenever your dough feels billowy enough to proceed (this doesn’t necessary mean doubled but you should be able to feel a change in the dough. Billowy and elastic).

    Then they pre-shape and let rest for 30 minutes (ish) then final shape and seem t bake it straight away. Here is the make or break for me. It’s slightly confusing and difficult to handle. Can’t get my head around the Seemingly too short final proof. The only thing I can think of is they’ve taken the fermentation to a point where it doesn’t need a long final proof. But for me to do that is a hit or miss because there’s only a narrow window before it is over fermented.

    So there’s all my ideas from previous attempts and what I shall be doing in my next attempt. All the way up to the final shaping i’m quite clear on everything. After that we’re on our own.

    P.s. any ideas on shaping techniques?

    • Hi Abe, I have been aiming for a loaf that looks like the colour print in “Local Breads”. It is very similar to the “Italian Loaves” we used to get. I am pretty confident that is what this bread should look like. I have also been following his ferment and proof times. As for shaping. I fold a rectangle in half then fold it in half again bringing the folded edge up and over to meet the edge.

  2. Hi Glenda, I am also having trouble with Field’s instructions (for pastry). I think the whole book needs a re-write to correct style and give more attention to details. But, I’m glad you finally got the loaf to look the way it should. I think I would have given up with attempt 1 and not even bothered with attempt 2. So, brava for your persistence!

  3. You’re nothing if not persistent! Or maybe stubborn?! I wouldn’t have gotten past attempt number 2 but good on you for seeing it through and finally achieving the desired crumb. What did Maus have to say?!

    • Hi Nancy, Maus never criticises what I cook as she knows, if she does, it will be her job next time. When she really doesn’t like something, she just proclaims she is not very hungry at the moment. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Pane Accavallato di Altamura | Passion Fruit Garden

  5. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    Glenda from Passion Fruit Garden has dived into the bread making section of Field’s The Italian Baker and got some great tips and lessons for us from her experience. A must read for anyone attempting bread baking from this book.

    Happy Reading and Happy Baking,


  6. Great post Glenda, I feel your frustration and I agree that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a revised edition to have all the kinks ironed out. Even in my bread baking days I never baked from the Italian Baker, put off by the addition of yeast to the starter. I just looked at my book, the original edition, and this recipe is not included. The recipe from Altamura is for a slashed loaf, the ingredients proportions look quite different

  7. No wonder some new cooks give up thinking they will never succeed. It takes a fair amount of experience and ‘nouse’ to make a crappy recipe come good. Interesting isn’t it, the way fashions in food change the recipes and books. None of my 25 year old sourdough books have “stretch and folds” but do have punching downs! Good looking loaf too 🙂

    • Hi Maree, stretch and folds are definitely a new thing. It is interesting that Daniel Leader does not stretch and fold this bread either. I did once and I got a more open crumb but in this instance, we are looking for a dense loaf.

  8. All your efforts look very edible but the slice of 6th attempt has aesthetic appeal as well but which wouldn’t make me hesitate for a moment before slathering it in butter and gobbling it up 🙂

  9. Hey Glenda, I can feel your frustration. Most annoying when recipes are written out incorrectly. Good thing you’re not afraid to adjust them to make them work for you. The end product looks pretty darn good to me. Well done.

  10. Greetings from Scotland… this bread looks fab! Would be great with some good quality butter x

  11. Loved the bread,made great toast. Thanks for the delicious meal last night too. Thoroughly spoiled. Luv Sharmila and Andrew xx

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