Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rosemary Whole Wheat (accidental) Flatbread

Ballet was canceled last night due to the studio being on spring break, and I felt like I needed to do something productive with my evening.  For some reason, I decided that this productive thing would be baking bread.  It's been a while since I baked bread (see here, here, and sort of here), and I suppose I was just feeling like making something out of (almost) nothing. When this recipe showed up in my Google Reader, I thought I'd try it.

Except then I left the recipe at work.  And then when I looked it up again at home, I decided I didn't want to deal with the stand mixer.  And I wasn't in the mood to experiment with bread dough in the Cuisinart (though it comes with a bread dough attachment thingy, and I'm sure it's not hard).  Plus, I wanted to use all whole wheat flour, since that's what I had on hand (trying to go whole wheat, healthier, blah blah).  So, um, scratch that. Try again. I found this recipe after a bit of Googling, and was pleased to find that it was a no-knead bread.  I'm not super confident in my kneading skills, to be honest, and it was already almost 8:30pm anyway.  Don't want to waste time kneading. I wasn't sure what to do about using whole wheat flour, since I've heard it can result in denser breads and such.  I turned, of course, to Twitter. Some said to sift it, some said to simply use less, or use more water, or both...and after a while I just decided to go for it.

this is what they are supposed to look like...
picture via the original recipe
Surprise! Two loaves of flatbread!
picture via my iPhone's bread.  I'll just pretend that I meant to make flatbread, and all will be well in the world!  This is where I turn to you, oh wise friends of life and the internet.  Where did I go wrong?  Here are my hypotheses - let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions for my next attempt at whole wheat bread.
  • My yeast may be is at least two years old.  I've been told that yeast keeps forever in the freezer though, and it's been in the freezer the whole time!  Could this really be my downfall?  Should I try again with fresh yeast? It didn't do the yeasty-foamy-crazyawesome thing that yeast is supposed to do (which, I admit, was disappointing. I like the science-experiment-ness of it), but I thought maybe that was because the water had sugar in it (eh? does this matter?).  The recipe didn't actually say it would do the yeasty reaction dance, so I thought maybe that was ok?  And it definitely doubled in size when it was in the bowl! 
  • I used slightly less than 4c of whole wheat flour, and about an extra 1/3 (ish. I didn't measure well. oops.) cup of water or so, to try to balance it out or something? I don't know; I heard that might work?  It seemed like it was all perfectly perfect when the ball of dough doubled in size in the bowl, but then when it was time to divide it into two balls and put them on the baking sheet, they got all flattened out like big, wet pancakes. Definitely not as compact and, well, risen, as the ones in the recipe post. They were also much wetter than I thought they should be, so maybe too much water?
  • Whole wheat flour might just bake weirdly?  Ok, so I know it's totally possible to make awesome bread with whole wheat flour (duh), so maybe I just did some wonky internet recipe mix-and-matching?
So...too much water? Not enough (or not new enough) yeast? A need to do something totally different when using whole wheat flour?  

I tasted a small piece, and it was actually good.  Perhaps I'll just stick with my "oh yeah, I was totally trying to make flatbread" story and enjoy it like a good foccacia. C'est la vie at Kim's Kitchen Sink!


  1. Since you are making me write this on your blog post in addition to gchat:

    me: re: your post
    my vote is for old yeast

    Sent at 3:39 PM on Thursday

  2. I think the flatness could be a few things working together in concert. First, as Katherine notes, I'd test your yeast for viability - here's a good explanation of how to do it:

    Second, whole wheat flour behaves very differently from all-purpose flour. Namely, it lacks sufficient gluten to make a sturdy, lofty protein structure. If you're in to the idea of bread made exclusively with whole wheat flour, you might look for recipes that are written for WWF, rather than subbing it in for AP flour. When subbing, I never use WWF for more than half the flour called for in the recipe. I don't have a lot of experience with all WWF breads, but I think a lot of whole wheat bakers tend to add additional gluten to compensate for the lack thereof in the WWF.

    The no-knead aspect of your recipe is also a contributing factor - this is tied in to the low gluten content of the flour. Without the agitation from kneading, the gluten that is present in your WWF doesn't have much of a chance to build a sufficient protein structure to make for lofty bread. Again, this isn't my area of expertise, but I recall a Mark Bittman recipe for a no-knead WW bread that came with a cautionary note that it would turn out pretty low and dense.

    But all in all, if it tasted good, then it was successful! I hope you give hand kneading a shot sometime - it's really easy and highly satisfying. For most doughs, you'll know you've done enough when you can pull off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it out to near-translucency in the center without it tearing (aka the "windowpane test").

  3. Thanks, Bria! Such good (and thorough) advice! So many contributing factors to consider - but I like your "if it tasted good, then it was successful" outlook. Just because it didn't turn out as planned doesn't mean it didn't turn out well. How's that for a life lesson :)

  4. It tasted good, thanks! ;)

    (I'd keep the whole wheat around 1/3 max when subbing into a recipe, based on observing bread machine recipes)

  5. Glad you liked it :) Yeah, I really wanted to do ALL whole wheat, but I
    might need to explore other recipes, ones that are specifically for
    all-wheat flour. Those tend to call for gluten flour, which I don't keep on
    hand. Maybe I many breads to explore! Am I going to be one of
    those people who keeps like, 5 kinds of flour in the pantry?

  6.  Yummy!! Thanks for such a wonderful recipe. Keep blogging.

  7. OMG it looks so delicious.  The is really a good recipe. Keep blogging. Thanks a lot.