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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A couple of whole wheat and "00" breads

Whole wheat and "00" breads

I had some "00" flour that I bought on a whim when I was last in Ottawa, and I decided to make a Tartine country loaf with it for my sweetie, with 70% "00" and 30% whole wheat flours; but I also made a couple of loaves for myself, with 70% whole wheat, and 30% "00" flour.  I've added salt at the first turn, and at the second turn, I've added 80g of Sesame Seeds (unlike the official Tartine sesame bread, I haven't toasted the sesames).  So the two breads, in terms of ingredients, are somewhat symmetrical.  I'm using a kg of each flour, its just that each dough is lopsided to the different end of the whole grain equation.

I became curious about the"00" flour as I used it, and did a bit of research on it.  It is as fine as talc, and it has a protein percentage of 9.5%.  I found it kind of expensive, but I bought it just to see what it was like.

It comes to us in Canada from Italy, from the Divella company (google-translated here).  The Divello family started the company about 120 years ago in Rutogliano, a central city in Apulia.  The Apulian region is the breadbasket of Italy, where Durham wheat has long been grown.  It was here in 1890 that Francesco Divella, a wheat trader, decided to build the first of his Durum wheat mills.  About a decade later, he also built the first of his pasta factories.  Today, the company is run by another Divello (a fourth generation Divello: is he also named Francesco?  or is it Vincenzo?), who is the great grandson of the company's founder.  In addition to flour, and 140 different pastas, the company processes a great deal of vegetables that go great with pasta, and now they have begun to make biscuits and cookies.  The company is not publicly traded.  It remains in the family.  It's motto is "Quality above all." 

In terms of Italian pasta manufacturers, Divello is nowhere near the largest.  It has captured only 6.5% of the Italian market.  But they have grown through exports, and now they are in 80 countries around the world, and their cash-flow is respectable at 300 million Euros per annum.  That pales when you place it beside the larger pasta manufacturers of Italy of course: Barilla, founded in 1877, now handles 4.2 billion Euros annually and sits in the number one position; following on its heals are Buitoni, founded in 1827 in Tuscany, and DeCecco, founded in 1886. Like the rest, Voiello was also started as a family-owned and operated business; but now Barilla owns it. And Buitoni is now owned by Nestles.

Divello is quite proud of its product.  They are passionate about pasta, and concerned about using the best ingredients and methods for it.  And Italians in general are proud of their long tradition with pasta.  They are quick to point out that Marco Polo did not bring pasta back with him from China, that there is evidence that it was already here before he got back.  But the time-margins of that evidence are slim, and it seems clear that China had it long before Italy.  It is simply that Italy perfected it, using their local ingredients.  Now, the famous Mediterranean diet is intriguing the world with its healthy properties.  The Italian diet wasn't always so healthy, as the book "Garlic and Oil: Food and Politics in Italy" by Carol Helstosky points out.  But the efforts of companies like Divello seem to have made an impact.  I gather that Francesco Divella has also delved into politics (he is a congressman in the FLI party -- which seems to be somewhat of a right-wing reaction to the Berlusconi scandals, and an attempt to put ethics back into politics.  The FLI has only been around since Feb 2011, and as of now it seems as if its future as a party is still in flux).  Helstosky points out that political will has been necessary to change the diet of Italians for the better, too.

I found it interesting to learn that the Apulian region no longer grows enough Durham wheat to feed Italy -- so Italy is now a net importer of grain.  I believe they get some from Canada, and some from the U.S., and they mix it all together to make their flour a standard quality.


The 70% Whole Wheat and 30% "00" dough worked up easily and the bread  tastes great.

The 70% "00" flour, with 30% Whole Wheat made a really nice crumb, and tasted fine too.  It was a hit with friends and family that I gave it to.

Notes to Myself
  • While making this bread, and thinking about pasta, and using the "00" flour, it got me curious about making pasta from my own sourdough. My first attempts were disastrous, but I may learn enough to eventually blog about it.  Here is my starting point for the next attempt.
  • What is the first thing that one thinks about when one hears about a successful, family-owned, world-wide Italian business? I'm afraid that the first thing that comes to my mind is the Mafia. (Or rather, as the Apulian version of the crime network is known, "Sacra Corona Unita",  or SCU )

    The fact that the Divello family is by all appearances religious (as the article in "Famiglia Cristiana" (Google translation here) shows) is not immediately going to change my first impression of a successful Italian company -- after all, there is a religious element to the SCU as well.

    I have no evidence that this company is involved in organized crime. But one wonders how an agricultural processing business could become successful in that time and region without encountering the SCU, or rubbing shoulders with it somewhere along the line. I would imagine a business such as Divello would attract organized crime, if for no other reason than that Divello could easily handle some of its smuggling.  But this is all pure conjecture on my part.

    I found only a brief mention of Divella in a news article regarding price fixing (going back to 2007), but using Google Translate I can only get a glimpse of the lawsuits that took place. It seems, however, that Divella was accused, along with 29 other Italian pasta companies, of price fixing.  Divella was the only company that launched a counter suit against the Competition Authority (presumably because its good name was besmirched?) but apparently it lost the case.

    It is a shame that I have immediately drawn the conclusion of the stereotype.  It is a shame that I did not simply think that the secret of Divello's success is hard work, investment in appropriate technology and a quality product.  It seems that Divello really
    is working hard, world-wide, to change that stereotype of the Italian Mafioso with all the smuggling and money laundering that goes with it -- the first thing that leapt to my mind.  Divello is exporting a quality product, which should eventually change the stereotype, drawn from fear, of the Mafia -- Italy's infamous export.  For that, I will give Divello credit, and until proved otherwise, the benefit of the doubt.  Good luck, Divello!

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