Franco visited me with a few bags of flour, without labeling, explaining to me that it was flour from Progetto Virgo, from the University of Bologna. It was intriguing and at a first glance, the flour looked attractive with bran speckles and the smell was nutty and pleasant, so naturally I wanted to see how it would turn after fermentation and baking.
The amazing challenge in this is that I had absolutely no information on the flour (that would be a good topic for a baking TV show actually!). When I searched online, everything was in Italian and Google translate helped a little, but after finding out the Progetto Virgo was working on five type of ancient grains, it was impossible for me to know which one among the Andriolo, Frassineto, Gentil Rosso or Inallettabile e Verna was the one I received. And instead of asking Franco for more information, I took the challenge and went on trying to create a new starter based on this flour, but right away I noticed that there was zero chance of obtaining any sort of texture from this flour, but I was already hooked to the flavor.
I tried to ferment a dough from the sourdough starter and purely based on the flour, baking it in a tin and the result was a rather dense bread, with beautiful flavors. To give it a bit more body, I blended it with our organic T80 from Moulin de Suire. 40% of the Virgo flour and 60% of T80 and the result was as expected with still a rather dense crumb, but this time it was very pleasant to eat and the flavor of Virgo flour perspired through the whole loaf! I used the following formula:
- 60% T80 organic wheat
- 40% Mysterious Virgo flour :)
- 72% Water
- 32% Sourdough
- 2.4% Salt
Dough temperature after kneading was 26C, fermented at room temperature for about 4 hours in bulk, shaped and final proofing in banetton for another 3.5 hours.
If you can understand some Italian, try watching the below video from the coordinators of Progetto Virgo: Giovanni Dinelli and Enzo Spisni from the University of Bologna. The ancient grains are cultivated in bio-dynamic mode, without fertilizer or chemicals. The Virgo team conducted studies with patients having gluten sensitivity illnesses by having bread baked with these flours. And the studies showed that the inflammatory level from the Virgo flour was very much lower than with conventional flours. As well, the bread made from Virgo flours was much more digestible and contained much higher nutritional values than other flours.
For a more detailed and intense reading on the topic, try running this URL through Google translate: http://www.unisg.it/the-new-gastronomes/pane-dannata/
I find this project absolutely amazing and worth every minute I spent baking with it. The industry successfully destroyed cereals and grains with their higher yield demand for the sake of more productivity for more profit, but these insane gluten level created a monster. Levels of gluten that were never intended to be made by Mother Nature and therefore never intended to be eaten by human. Going back to how grains should be like Virgo’s project truly is the way forward. Gluten-free bread is definitely not equal to healthy alternative, on the other hand, wholesome ancient grains are holding the key to better digestion and health.