The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Single Guy Seeking the Perfect Bread

apmacon@gmail.com's picture
apmacon@gmail.com

Single Guy Seeking the Perfect Bread

Hi.  I am new here so I'm jumping right in with a very basic request for help.   I have been unofficially baking bread off and on for about 10 years.    I'm used to my own cooking and my standards are what you might call -  very flexible.   So, I have many times quickly read thru a bread recipe and tossed it together, kneaded it and baked it into something edible.   Sometimes I get better results than others but pretty often I end up with a yeasty smelling heavy brick which I donate to the Raccoons.   Sometimes I get something I can live with but in my heart I know that I want bread that has a completely different personality.   About once every two weeks I will sling together a seat-of-the-pants recipe, hoping to hit on the secret combination that will yield the bread I had in Italy or Tunisia.   I have still not succeeded.   So, I thought I might describe the desired outcome to the folks here and see if someone can point me to a recipe that will get me closer to it. 


I am trying to bake bread that is sort of like flat bread but has big knarly air bubbles in it.  Sort or rubbery and sourdoughy and yet crispy around the edges.   I lived in Tunisia for a year and the locals would cook bread in their back yard in a taboona oven made of clay.   Their bread was wonderful and pretty much what I am shooting for.  I tried to capture the art from them but it was many years ago before the baking bug fully bit me. 


Sorry this is so long.  Let me conclude by describing how I bake bread now and perhaps someone can tell me where I need to change.    


Now I mix about 2 cups of all purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of sugar.   Separately, I mix a package of dry yeast with a little warm water and throw in a pinch of sugar and flour thinking it will give it something to eat.   I stir it up with a chopstick.   About ten minutes later I dump this into the flour mixture and begin to wad it up with my hands - covered in olive oil.  I add small amounts of water until the dough becomes - like dough...   After it balls up. I knead it on a flour dusted couter top for about 10 minutes.   I spray pam on the inside of a large glass bowl and put the dough in it.   I cover it up with celophane.  I put it in my oven (off) and set a baking dish full of microwave moderately heated water under it thinking this will make the yeast happy.   I wait 4 to 6 hours.  It rises.   I punch it down in the bowl with about 3 good mashes of the fist.  I pick it up and mash it on the counter top about five times trying to coax it into a ball shape as I do this.   I put it in a cake pan for the final rise and baking.   I want it flatter so I figured the big pan would let it flatten out.   I wait about 1 or 2 hours and I bake it at 400 degrees F till it seems/smells done.   When it is first cooking, I throw a couple of 1/8 cup amounts of water onto the oven inside - side- thinking that the steam will make it have a crunchy crust.


What I get is a realtively heavy bread that smells too yeasty and has a homogenous boring consistency like cheap storebought loaf bread.


So, how do I get flatbread that is na-anish, sourdoughish and bubbly? 


Thanks in advance for the help or tip toward something to read!


Joe

chasingimperfection's picture
chasingimperfection

Hey Joe - 


 


There is a pretty great post on here about naan.  Think comparing your ingredients and method with this one might give you a start.


Best way to find the post is use the search box (in the upper left corner on my screen on the home page of TFL) and type in naan.  The original poster on this one was gothicgirl.  I am sure there are more posts like it, but that's the one I liked best.


 


Laurel

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

for a better result. There' s a topic on the Home page titled "Your First Loaf". Try that out and evaluate your results.


As it stands right now, your "seat of the pants" style won't help you out if you bake only occasionally. If you take a disciplined approach by following a recipe, weighing rather than guessing the measurements of your ingredients, and staying with that recipe until you've mastered it, your once a week efforts will be much more rewarding. That's how a lot of people posting here on TFL got started. From that point, you'll be able to move on to a lot more styles and flavors that you probably don't even consider right now.


There are a lot of recipes available here on TFL. Master the procedures of baking good bread and they'll be yours.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

"Her ad libbed lines were well-rehearsed".  And he wasn't even talking about bread.


There's nothing wrong with a seat of the pants approach, so long as you know how things work.  Ask any actor.  Ad libs work best when you know the script cold. 


The same is true for baking.  "Too yeasty" has a lot to do with the 4-6 hour ferment.  So does the "heavy" aspect, although it is also connected to the amount of water in the dough (which, from your description, sounds as though there might not be enough) and the way you handle it.  And the missing sourdough flavor?  Well, not using a sourdough starter makes that a lock.


None of this is to knock anything that you are trying to achieve.  It's just that your Tunisian friends already knew how things were supposed to look/feel/smell at each stage of the bread's development from long experience.  Even though it may have looked as though they were winging it, they were exercising a lot of skills.


So, how to get from where you are to where you want to be?  Other posters have already given some good advice.  Start simple.  Work with a single bread until you can produce it well, consistently.  Learn what happens if the dough is drier or wetter, or if the kneading is longer or shorter, or temperatures are cooler or warmer.  Geez, I'm making this sound way too complicated.  It's mostly a matter of acquiring knowledge, accompanied by lots of repetition and practice. 


There is an enormous amount of information available on this site.  There are links to videos that demonstrate various techniques.  There is the Handbook which covers a lot of the basics; just click on the link at the top of the page.  Maybe someone in your acquaintance bakes bread and can walk you through the process.  A book like The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which has a lengthy section on the what/why/how of baking, can be illuminating.


When you get the bread of your dreams figured out, please share it.  Especially if there's a way to do it without a tamboona or tandoor oven!


Paul

naschol's picture
naschol

Joe,


 


Was the bread baked in a pan in Tunisia or right on the oven floor?  If it was on the floor, you might want to bake yours on a preheated pizza stone in your oven to help duplicate the results.  There are some great tips at http://www.finecooking.com/articles/howto/tandoori-naan-flatbreads.aspx.


 


As for recipes, i did an online search and came up with a few you might want to use as a starting point.  What I noticed about all that I saw was that they all used semolina flour, which may be a major breakthrough in your recipe.  Here is one such recipe - http://www.worldcook.net/Cooking/Bread/BR-FetaRoll.htm.


 


Good luck in your endeavor.  Let us know how it turns out!

sweetsadies's picture
sweetsadies

If you just want to make naan, there are straight forward instructions in one of my posts.  It works out very well!


http://www.sweetsadiesbaking.com/search?q=naan


 


Good luck

amolitor's picture
amolitor

Your bread will be a lot less like store-bought bread if you leave out the sugar and oil, and cut the yeast in half.


It sounds like you're kneading "for 10 minutes", rather than kneading until "it's right"? Same with rising?


To know when you've kneaded enough, you can use the "windowpane" test (search these forums for descriptions, or look around on youtube for videos) and to know when it's rised enough, do the same for "poke" test (poke the dough with a wet finger to make an indentation half an inch deep -- if it remains there, or springs back very slowly, your dough is risen enough). The poke test only works will if you've kneaded sufficiently.


You might want to "punch down" more gently. More of a "flatten it out with your palms, and fold it over on itself a few times" might give you a texture that you like a little better.


None of this is Naan, though. Nor is it sourdough! For naan, some google will find you a bunch of different recipes, or you can just use sweetsadies (honestly, Naan recipes are so wildly variable I think it's one of those things that's more about baking technique than anything else -- bake anything that way, and you're going to get something Naan-like).


Sourdough requires wild yeast, not store-bought yeast. These forums have a LOT of great info on starting and maintaining a culture of wild yeast. I don't see any reason you couldn't make a sourdough naan.


 

clio's picture
clio

Hi Joe,


I believe I had a similar bread in Turkey--- it was like a flat bread but when it came to the table (I only had bread at restaurants while there) it would often be puffed up like a balloon.  Amazing stuff.


I agree with Laurel who suggests naan recipes.  I have made naan with smaller bubbles and would guess it has something to do with the use of yoghurt. Perhaps a good strong (greek) yoghurt would achieve the sour dough taste or perhaps sour dough starter + naan recipe.  I am inspired to try the latter myself now.


Please post if you ever achieve something close to the goal-- it sounds great!


 


cheers,


Clio

breadmantalking's picture
breadmantalking

There is a great post on this site about Tunisian flatbread. Also, IMHO you could do worse than gonig to my blog dedicated to bread making specifically. Find it at breadmantalking.blogspot.com.


Of course, this site is wonderful and has lots, I mean lots, of great resources, recipes and helpful hints from users etc. It is one of my very favorite sites. Hands down.


If you have questions just write me at: breadmantalking@gmail.com


All the best,


David

copyu's picture
copyu

...or 'durum semolina flour'...Residents of Morocco, Tunisia and other Nth. African countries often use this as part of the 'flour content' in their bread baking...100% APF won't 'quite' do the same job, I think


http://www.bread.recipes.ubr.com/bread-recipes/moroccan-or-tunisian-bread-recipe.aspx


Good luck!


copyu

breadmantalking's picture
breadmantalking

You could use Farina or Cream of Wheat. It is very similar to semolina.


 David at:  breadmantalking.blogspot.com