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Arkatena Bread Matters

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hanseata's picture

Arkatena Bread Matters

If anybody wonders why, after a furious start, my Equal Opportunity Baking has somewhat slowed down - that didn't happen only because of my recent trip to Germany.

My last three breads proved to be tricky, they didn't turn out quite right. One was overly spicy, one too sweet and one too dry. On the other hand, they were not so disappointing that I didn't want to deal with them again, writing a bad review, and be done, once and for all. 

So I will get back to them, giving each of them a second chance to live up to their potential.

Though I had purchased "Bread Matters", by Andrew Whitley, a while ago, I hadn't really looked into it before I chose a recipe for my Fair Baking project. The Arkatena Bread, made with a chickpea starter, and inspired by a loaf the author found in a little village bakery in Cyprus, seemed intriguing. And I certainly go for a "bread with a hefty crust, chewy crumb, and intense flavor".

Like many baking book authors, Whitley doesn't cater to the sensibilities of thrifty housewives, making his starter large enough for the needs of small bakery - only to advise you later to discard the surplus. Though I'm not a miser, I hate trashing a perfectly good guitar starter, so my first step in mastering this recipe was recalculating the amounts I really needed for one loaf.

From then on it was pretty straightforward, though I have to admit I cheated a bit with the leaven. From my experiences with GF sourdough I know that chickpea flour (together with other gluten free flours), mixed with water, develops a lively fermenting activity if you just let it sit at room temperature over three days.

I didn't feel the urgent necessity, though, to make a leaven from the scratch, being the proud owner of a couple of healthy and hungry starters. So, instead of going through stage 1, I used a bit of wheat starter in stage 2, deducting the amount of whole wheat and adding the missing chickpea flour (from stage 1) to the production leaven.

Otherwise I followed the recipe instructions closely, but used steam for the bake, a measure Whitley, for some reason, doesn't suggest.

The result was this beautiful bread:

I couldn't wait to try it! But when I took my first bite, the only thing I tasted was FENNEL! Any other, more delicate aroma was completely knocked out.

Being a German, I love breads seasoned with anise, caraway, fennel and coriander - the typical German bread spices. And I do like fennel. But only as a hint of spiciness, not as full frontal attack. Whitley's original recipe has 6 g fennel seeds per 577 g flour = 1%!

We also found the bread could do with a little more salt (it had only 1.2%).

Everything else about the bread was fine, the crumb, the crust - and I still wanted to know how a chickpea leaven could flavor a bread.

So, after my baking break, when I came back from Hamburg, I made another Arkatena bread, this time with a little rye starter as stage 1 leaven. I added 10 g salt (instead of 7 g). And I reduced the pesky fennel to just 1 gram.

As before, the bread turned out beautiful:

I was a little impatient, and probably should have waited another 15 minutes before placing it in the oven, it "exploded" a bit. This time it tasted really nice, with a complex aroma, and still spicy enough with a hint of fennel.

Since I used a bit of mature starter, the overall development of the leaven didn't take 3 days, but only one.


5 g whole wheat or rye starter
15 g water
15 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
45 g all first step leaven
19 g water
23 g whole wheat flour
4 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
91 g all second step leaven
68 g water
28 g whole wheat flour
28 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
85 g all-purpose flour
100 g whole wheat flour
300 g all-purpose flour
10 g salt
300 g water
1 - 2 g fennel seeds
300 g production leaven (all)

DAY 1:

1. Prepare 3-step starter. Let the first step leaven sit for ca. 6 hours, the second one for ca. 4 - 6 hours, and production leaven for 4 - 6 hours, or overnight.

DAY 2:

2. Mix a dough with all ingredients except fennel and leaven, 8 - 10 minutes of vigorous action. Dough should be soft and elastic (82ºF/28ºC). Add starter and fennel, and work a few minutes more until smooth, but still somewhat sticky.

3. Transfer dough to a moistened work surface, cover with an upturned bowl (sprayed with water). Let rest for 1 hour.

4. S & F, using a scraper in each hand. Dip dough ball gently in a bowl with whole wheat flour, so that it's completely covered. Place in floured proofing basket, seam side up. Let proof for 3 - 5 hours (poke test, mine took about 4 hours).

5. Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC, including steam pan. Invert basket onto parchment lined baking sheet. Score 2 - 3 times.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 400ºF/200ºC, and continue baking for 10 minutes. Rotate, and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes.

NOTE: When I make this bread again, I would try working with autolyse, instead of long "vigorous" kneading.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Karin,

Your loaf looks lovely.  I like the 'exploded' look.  Shows off your nice slashes and gave the loaf a very nice shape indeed.

So how did the garbanzo flour effect the flavor of the starter?  I am thinking that it wouldn't make a whole lot of taste difference as garbanzos are a rather mild bean but I would think it would impact the texture.  I know when I add bean flour to loaves it creates a nice soft dense crumb that my daughter really likes.

Also, I noticed that the hydration levels in your leaven builds are really low. How on earth did you mix up each leaven?  I know I struggle mixing a leaven at 50% and yours, if my math is correct, is lower than that.  Do you use a mixer? 

Was this bread sour since the % of leaven to flour in your final dough is really high?  How do you think it would do with an overnight retarding session in the refrigerator?

The garbanzo beans that I have sitting on the shelf in a jar across from are calling to this just may have to be added to my ever expanding 'to bake' list.  :-)

Thanks for the post.  I was happy to read about how your challenge has been progressing.

Take Care,


hanseata's picture

I mixed the first 2 stages of leaven by hand. They are not very hydrated, but it worked pretty well, squeezing the little bit of dough with your fingers around in the bowl. (I think I even made my fingers a bit wet once (cheating?) For the production leaven and the final dough I used the mixer. (Instead of long mixing, I would try S & F next time).

The bread was not sour, it had a delicate taste, and I'm sure the garbanzo starter had a share in it, at least if I consider its lively activity and strong smell. The Basic Country Boule from "Bread" that I made before was blander in comparison, inspite of the chia seeds.

I also thought of retarding the dough overnight, after doing ABED S & F. I do not really think it would taste much sourer, but, perhaps, more pronounced. Let me know if you try it.



dabrownman's picture

I got whacked with too much coriander in the recipe not long ago and am now spice shy.  I just cut the recipe in half for spice now - unless it it yours and then I always add a minimum of 1% hemp to every thing :-)

Love your bread as always.

hanseata's picture

Haha, don't make me think you're an old pot head!

I realize I have to post the Walnut Hemp Seed bread pretty soon so that you don't get withdrawal symptoms:) Did you ever see "Alice's Restaurant"?

Happy baking,



dabrownman's picture

The hemp seeds that shot up from $7.99 per pound a week ago to $17.99 were back down to $8.99.  I think it was a plot to raise prices and look good while doing it :-)

Arlo and Alice's Restaurant are my favorites from so long ago and yes I was a SF Hippie for a very short while.  It was dangerous there back then, quite crazy and not very good living.  Don't remember Hemp seeds in  bread though :-)

isand66's picture

Hi Karen,

I recently made a sourdough loaf with some Chickpea flour and was very happy with the results.

Your second attempt looks very nice and sounds excellent.

I shall have to try your 3 build method with the starter and give this one a go.

I'm going to print it out to definitely try in the near future.  I have to use up the rest of my chickpea flour anyway :).

Thanks for the inspiration.



hanseata's picture

Please, do, Ian, and let me know how you liked it.

The chickpea leaven was what tempted me to try this bread in the first place. I have one other chickpea bread in my repertoire that I really like, a little twisted braid from South Tyrol (seasoned with anise).


ananda's picture

Late to the party, Karin,

but I meant to let you know that Andrew Whitley "likes fennel"!!!   I guess you've worked that one out.

Best wishes


hanseata's picture

Yes, indeed, I did! :)

It's funny, I always thought I was the one who liked strong flavors but I sure can't compete with Whitley.

I was thinking of the Arkatena Bread again, lately, I still have some dried chickpea leaven in my fridge. I was thinking of trying it with another mediterranean herb, like rosemary, for a change.

Take care,



Cob's picture

Hello, a bit late but thought I'd take the chance.

This is just what I'm looking for. I'm going to give this a go and clear the weekend for baking. Yippee!


AW talks about beany flavour. Don't suppose you concurred? I actually love the flavour of chickpeas, but he says it doesn't translate itself in the loaf, such a shame. You said complex but not sour, I suppose you mean a good fermy flavour, but not young?

And yes, he has a tendency to make 'an excess' of everything. It's annoying to say the least!

I mean, the suggestion to give some extra leaven to the nieghbour made me fall off my chair. My neighbours are not, ahem, that sort of people, i.e. turn on the oven.

I agree, your loaves are very impressive!


hanseata's picture

You are so right! I just tried to imagine what my neighbors would say if I came around with some surplus leaven....! I actually offered once to supply some B&B's across from us with bread, but they preferred supermarket ones.
Please, let me know how your Akatena Bread turns out. I haven't made it for a while, but kept some dried chickpea leaven in the fridge for that purpose.
Happy Baking!


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

LOVE the dense, small hole crumb in this one.  Thank you for sharing :)


hanseata's picture

You should try it!


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I just used up all my chickpeas in homemade hummus but soon for sure!  Wonder how the chickpea influences the texture/flavour?


Cob's picture

Just to correct you, there's no dried/tinned chick peas in the recipe. It's all made with gram/chickpea flour. :)

I will sclae the recipe, just like you Karin, and leave out the fennel seeds. Not sure what I'll do with two loaves if they turn out to be horrible. I think they may be just the thing to have with hummus actually. I imagine they'll make great toast.

hanseata's picture

It's chickpea flour. It does toast well, and I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

Happy Baking,


Andros195's picture

Hi guys, 

I am a cypriot baker and proud to have a cyprus bread as a host name here in my loving page. Though I have the  need to expand a bit the story about Arkateno bread. "Arkateno" is coming from the Cyprus word Arkatis, which means the worker. So as may understand now this Worker is making all the work for this fabulous bread. Worker = starter. To traditional way to start the worker, the starter , actually it is a long process. But we don't use at all chickpea flour. Just the chickpeas. Actually the  foam from the fermented chickpeas. That's our Arkatis.  But to finish the whole proces just collecting the foam every eight hours for the first three days. it's a huge story. to cheat a bit, like I do as well I use a bit my whole meal starter. The final bread, it's amazing. No other bread can smell like it. Ps. Please no spices, no herbs in this lovely bread.

hanseata's picture

Hi, Andros, thanks for explaining to us the meaning of Arkatena. Your description of the process is very interesting! Would you share your recipe with us? 

Happy Baking,