Monday, March 2, 2015

Swedish rye and Turkish flatbread

This weekend I had 50-50 success with two new breads: a sweetish Swedish rye and a Turkish flatbread that I'd hoped to have with shawarma.

Swedish rye

Swedish rye 

This bread (Hensperger p. 136) has honey, fennel seeds, and orange zest for flavor. The only change I made to the recipe was reducing the salt and yeast by 40%. (The salt went from 1-1/4 teaspoons to 3/4, and the yeast from 2-1/2 teaspoons to 1-1/2.)

Before I went out Saturday evening, I set up the Swedish rye for a delayed bake ending at midnight. I was a little sad about not having warm, crusty bread in the morning, but I thought that letting the bread rest overnight might be good, since fennel seed can be sharp at first. As it turned out, the bread's crust stayed crisp longer than usual, so I got to have cool and crusty bread in the morning.

This bread has a very nice, slightly sweet flavor. My picky nephew didn't "like" it, but he didn't refuse to eat it, either. I count that as a victory. My husband also liked it very much. It might just join our list of staple recipes.

Update: This bread lasted a whole week, without going noticeably stale. A week from Saturday, I had the last of it in a tunafish sandwich.

Now on to the failure.

Turkish flatbread

The flatbread attempt came about because of an invitation to a friend's house for homemade shawarma and kefta. (He and his wife always make me a smaller, low-sodium version of whatever they're cooking, proof that they love me!) He was going to serve the meats with pita bread, which I didn't plan to eat, partly because I assumed the pita would have a tons of sodium (it's not too bad, actually) but mostly because I'm used to shawarma with flatbread. So I figured I'd make a low-sodium flatbread.

I found a recipe and video by Ana Sortun that looked perfect. The recipe is for yufka, a Turkish flatbread, and the video shows how to make it and the filling for shawarma. The recipe seems detailed enough, but the video has lots more details—like shaping the dough into a flat circle with your fingers before rolling it out—that make it worth watching. The ingredients are very basic—oil, water, flour, salt—and we reduced the salt by half or so.

I had spent most of the day at a choral rehearsal (concerts next weekend!), so my husband made the dough in the morning while I was out. He just followed the recipe directions, not bothering with the video. The dough seemed good after resting for 4 hours.

Then I took over, and things went south. I rolled out 6 misshapen circles of dough, managed to cook a couple of them, and then couldn't separate the rest of the dough from the wax paper. (The recipe recommended parchment paper, but I don't know if that would've been any better.) The dough seemed way too thin and prone to break, and after I pulled it off the paper, it was much bigger than the 9" circle they recommended.

Lots of dough and waxed paper in our compost bag

The directions for cooking seemed fine, but because the dough was so thin and doubled in spots (being too big for the pan), the bread ended up mostly crisp instead of soft. The crisp parts were fine for scooping up hummus (yes, my friend made me a batch of low-salt hummus!), but I threw away most of the bread. Oh well.

Out of 6 tries, 2 semi-succeeded; I ended up having the shawarma with rice instead

So how'd I screw up so badly? First, I didn't watch the video before shaping the dough, so I just kind of rolled the little dough balls between my palms. If I'd watched the video, I would've folded the edges of each piece into its center, before rolling it into a sphere and covering it with flour. So the shaping technique was suspect, but more importantly the dough didn't have enough flour on it.

I did look at the video before rolling out the dough, but I think it misled me when it said to roll the dough as thin as humanly possible. The dough probably wouldn't have torn if it wasn't so thin.

Next time we try this, I'll let my husband make the dough again, since he kneaded it so nicely (and I dislike kneading). I might pre-shape the dough, but I'll try to get him to roll it out, since he's used to wielding a rolling pin. (He's a great pie maker.) Then, as soon as each bread is rolled out, I'll cook it.

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