Durum in Latin means “hard”, and the species is the hardest of all wheats. Its high protein content, as well as its strength, make durum good for special uses, the most well-known being pasta. Durum wheat is used extensively in breadmaking. However, it is unusual in that, despite very high protein content, it is low in desirable gluten needed to form a glutinous web necessary for bread to rise.

As a result, although 100 percent durum wheat breads do exist (such as pagnotte di Enna or “rimacinato” bread from Sicily, as well as Altamura bread from Apulia and Matera bread from Basilicata) in most instances bread doughs contain only a portion of durum wheat and are supplemented substantially with commercial white flours, often those higher in gluten necessary to offset the poor gluten contribution of durum flour. When durum flour is used as the sole flour in bread, substantial additions of isolated wheat gluten are necessary for rising to occur. Without it, 100 percent durum wheat breads are often heavy, with very close grain, and will split easily when risen for baking.