Italian Flours are graded by a Italian law passed in 1967 (law 4.7. 1967. n. 580.) It is based on measuring the ash content of the flour (just as for French and German Flours.)
Flours from hard wheat are termed "semola" or "grano duro." Flours made from soft wheat are labelled "grano tenero" meaning "tender grain." In Italy, as in much of Europe, soft wheat is the norm.
Grano duro flours are slightly yellowish and have a more granular texture. They are used for pasta, and in the south of Italy, for some types of bread. They are often also called "semolato di grano duro" or "sfarinato di grano duro."
Grano tenero flours are white, more powdery flour used in bread and in pastries.
You can also buy "farina speciale per pizza, dolci e pasta."
In the flours listed below, "Tipo" means "type." This type classification applies to "grano tenero" flours.
|Flour type||Ash content||Extraction Rate||Protein|
|Type 00||< .5%||50%||7 to 9%|
|Type 0||.51 to .65%||72%||9 to 10%|
|Type 1||.66 to .80%||80%||10%|
|Type 2||.81 to .95%||85%||10%|
|Integrale||1.4 to 1.6%||10%|
These Italian Flours are also called "dopio zero", meaning "double zero."
They are the softest, finest, Italian flours; they are very finely ground like a fine powder and are very white. They have the most refinement done to them and the least fibre remaining.
Every mill in Italy makes several different kinds of Type 00, as flour in this category can be milled from hard wheat (durum wheat) or soft wheat.
The protein will range between 7.4 (for the soft wheat flours, often labelled "grano tenero") and 11 % (for the hard wheat flours, "grano duro"), but generally it is no higher than 9 to 9.5%. Consequently, at bakeries they are often blended with stronger flours for bread making.
The "grano tenero" flours in this category are more in the range of "cake flour" in terms of protein content. They will not create much gluten.
If you are using a Tipo 00 flour for pasta, you want to make sure that the one you are using was milled from hard wheat.
This category of flours is more in the range of a strong all-purpose or lower protein bread (strong) flour. They are a bit less refined than Type 00, use about 70% of the grain, and are consequently a bit darker.
These flours are a bit darker and coarser than Type 0.
These flours are a bit darker and coarser than Type 1.
This is the darkest and coarsest Italian flour. It uses the whole grain.
This comes as both a 0 and 00 flour. Made from the Manitoba variety of hard wheat, as grown in Canada and the States, it has a high protein content.
Essentially a strong, highly-refined white bread flour, it is mostly used as a flour to strengthen other flours, often being mixed in right at the mills.
Such strengthened flours are sold as special strength flours -- the flours may be marked as being for "pane, pizza, dolce" (bread, pizza, baked goods.) At other times, the presence of Farina Manitoba may be indicated by a W on the package (the W is a value used on "Chopin Alveograph" graphs in Europe that measure the quality of gluten in a flour.)
The name "Manitoba" is applied to it by Italians only. People in the Canadian province of Manitoba would have no idea what they meant -- nor is it made only from wheat grown in Manitoba.
If you are making bread: in North America, some suggest 3 parts all-purpose flour to 1 part cake flour; in the UK, 3 parts of bread flour to 1 part plain flour. Bread (strong) flour on its own is probably pretty much too strong for almost any Italian recipe. The absolute highest protein content you'd want in a flour for Italian bread would be 12 to 12.5%, tops. (Granted that their top protein rate is 10%, but remember that they tend to add a stronger flour such as Manitoba to beef up the dough.)
Italian wheat traditionally produced soft (or "weak") flours. To compensate for this, a stiff starter called a "Biga" was used that would reinforce the bread dough. Now that strong North American flours are being used and blended in, the starter, which is still called a "Biga", has evolved to be weaker so as not to combine with the stronger flours and make the bread dough too stiff.