Italian bread is a hearth-baked product leavened with commercial baker’s yeast or based on sourdough.

Italian Bread

What is Italian Bread?

Italian bread is a hearth-baked product leavened with commercial baker’s yeast or based on sourdough. It is generally characterized by a hard crust, chewy crumb and unique cell structure (grain).

Examples of Italian breads include:


Italian breads have traditionally been produced with preferments, such as a biga and sourdough systems. Italian bakers have always been known for their unique baking techniques and passion for the art and craft of breadmaking. Several family generations have consistently used sourdough systems that have been fed for decades, even centuries.

How does it work?

In accordance with Italian baking traditions, only flour from durum wheat (Tritucum durum) is used in true Italian breads. This flour gives a unique texture, flavor, aroma and color on the baked goods and requires special formulation and dough processing.

Durum flour specifications for Italian bread production:

  • Protein content: 13.0–16.0%.
  • Ash content: 0.5–0.8%.
  • Moisture content: 14.0%
  • Damaged starch: 7.0–8.0%.
    • Values vary according to kernel hardness and milling conditions. Starch damage is desired in long fermentations as substrate for amylases and food for yeast and bacteria.
  • Particle size: 125–220 µm (microns).
  • Milled from durum wheat with a particle size index (PSI) of 3.0–4.0.
  • Water absorption: values can be 10–20% higher (baker’s %) compared to levels seen in common wheat flour (Triticum aestivum).
  • Alveograph: P/L ratio < 1.5.
    • Given the strength of durum doughs, more extensibility is desired than resistance to deformation.
  • Mixing properties: are assessed and optimized according to process needs by using the farinograph.
  • Falling Number: 200–250 seconds (sufficient amylase activity to support fermentation and gassing without added sugar).
    • Flours of low amylase activity (Falling Number > 350 s) should be supplemented with diastatic malt (malted barley flour).


One example of an Italian bread is the Altamura bread. As its name suggests, it is original from the city of Altamura located in the Italian southeast region of Apulia (Puglia). This bread is the most famous Italian durum wheat bread and the only European bread awarded the “protected designation of origin” (PDO) label.1

Altamura bread is not leavened by any commercial yeast. Instead, it uses sourdough. A portion is taken from a mother sour (a plastic sponge or starter) that has...

To access the rest of this page, you must be a member of the American Society of Baking.