The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Looking to replicate a very specific type of Lebanese flatbread and I can't even get close. Advice please?

khobz's picture
khobz

Looking to replicate a very specific type of Lebanese flatbread and I can't even get close. Advice please?

I'm looking to replicate a specific type of flatbread popular in the middle east where it's simply known as "khobz" (bread). It's frequently called "Lebanese bread", "mediterranean flatbread", "wrap bread" or "khobez".

It's similar to pita, but larger and flatter and softer.

I've tried many different recipes and cooking techniques but I still can't replicate the texture of the breads I buy from real Arabic bakeries and am looking for advice.

The ingredients of a popular and widely sold brand are listed as:
Wheat Flour (Fortified with Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Yeast, Sugar, Salt

The texture I'm aiming for: is extremely flexible without being oily, slippery, plasticky or moist (like cheap tortilla breads can be). The bread folds and rolls up without any cracking at all. There is no flouriness or powder on its surface. It has two layers and can be carefully opened up and stuffed.

Whenever I try baking at home - even with the addition of fat - I end up with bread which is either too brittle, too doughy, too floury or too oily.

This is what it should look like:

And these images are what it should not look like:
http://imgur.com/a/urArk

So - any advice on what exactly makes a flatbread strong, flexible, soft and otherwise perfect, please?

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I found several recipes that seemed to be what you are looking for. Here is one: 

http://butterybooks.com/vegetables-sides-bread/khubz-arabic-flatbread-recipe/

Lechem's picture
Lechem

If it is then it's a very thin large pita baked in seconds on a hotplate.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

gas grill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds and looks more like a crepe.  Try starting with the flour.

For experimental purposes I would start with 100g flour 2g salt, 4g sugar, 1g yeast and add (slowly) almost equal weights of water stirring well to break up lumps (easier to do when thick)  and adding more water as needed until it is like thick milk or cream.  (Think more like thickening the water.) Mix or work the dough well to develop gluten.   Let ferment.  Pour out onto a medium to medium high heated surface like a pancake flipping once after the top is set.   See if that doesn't get you a softer result.  

I'm looking for pancake type marks on the bread but don't see any.  Another idea might be to pour or pat out a soft dough  onto a floured tray, dust and let it rest a little before patting off the flour and transferring to a hot surface to bake.

If it tears while flipping let it heat longer or add more flour to the batter. If the crumb is too tough, add more water. Remember to let the breads cool before testing a crispy crust, then tend to soften as they cool.

Stacking the bread after baking would hold in moisture and make the crusts soft or bagging them when cool and waiting. Found this video for rolling out a soft dough very thin.  Wonder what is in the flour mix?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNGxHKnKF8Q 

khobz's picture
khobz

Thanks all. I have tried some of the "khubz" recipes but what usually happens is the bread doesn't brown with the distinctive golden spots you can see in my first picture. Instead it usually ends up with a big patch of hard and crispy overcooked middle like in this picture:

@Mini Oven: the breads are definitely not cooked on the stovetop. They're baked for just a few seconds in an open-flamed bread oven, which is probably the exact reason I'm having such a hard time replicating them using an at-home oven.

See this YouTube video for just how quickly they're cooked in a commercial oven:




This one also shows more of the production process. I notice they're rolled out incredibly thinly which is another key step I try to replicate (with difficulty):




Maybe I need to start looking into getting a pizza oven!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You will need a conveyor as well.  I noticed that "thin" rolling was one secret.  For the separation it is important to shape small balls of dough and let them rest a little bit before rolling out in one smooth step without folding or reshaping the balls.  Getting the skin is important for the ballooning.  That is one hot oven.

Have you thought about heating up two frying pans. Place the dough in one and cover with the other for top heat?  If the top one is slightly larger than the bottom it won't compress the bread.  ???  Or hot fry pan under the oven broiler?

khobz's picture
khobz

@Mini Oven: I haven't tried that but it's a very good idea - thanks! It's next on my list.

khobz's picture
khobz

So I ended up buying a portable catering-style pizza oven which I found cheap on eBay to try to crack the secret of this recipe. It has a thick stone base and reaches temperatures of over 450°C so I know it's hot enough.

This has definitely improved my bread-making, and I'm able to get nice soft flatbreads, but they're still not quite right.

Problems I'm still facing are:

1. The flatbread is still pale/white on one side despite the very hot oven temperature.
2. The flavour is very bland - probably a result of my choice of flour.
3. The texture, although quite good, is still not as pliable and stretchy as the store-bought breads.

I'm also finding it very difficult to roll these breads out thinly without using tons of flour which is probably having an adverse effect on the finished product.

Bread-making is tricky stuff!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Not long ago, I viewed a video on youtube of a woman making that kind of bread at home. She had some sort of special cooker. It had a bottom part that looked like a regular frying pan. The top looked like an inverted flat-bottom wok. It had an electric cord, so it was a heat source. I wonder if you could do the same in a very hot oven with a baking stone. (That's how I bake pitas.)

The recipes I have seen (and use) for pita say to immediately cover the baked pitas with a napkin. This keeps them moist and flexible. I usually freeze most of the ones I bake. I thaw and reheat them in the microwave, wrapped in wax paper. 10-15 seconds on full power. They come out very soft, flexible and almost as good as fresh baked.

David