Please help me understand this bread recipe!
January 4, 2011 4:37 PM   Subscribe

My question is about a recipe for hushva nan (AKA pebbled Persian bread). The bread is awesome, but I don't really understand the recipe.

Hushva nan = a leavened flatbread with a slightly glossy sheen when "baked." [justification for scare quotes below] The process goes like this:

Ingredients: 7 cups flour, 1 T salt, 3.5 cups water (total), 1 T yeast, 1 T oil.

1. Mix ingredients together, form dough.
2. Knead for about 6-8 minutes.
3. Let dough rise until it has doubled in size.
4. Punch down dough, knead in 1/2 cup of water (about 2 minutes).
5. Let dough rise again until it has doubled in size.
6. Punch down dough, divide into 8 pieces.
7. With *wet* hands on a *wet* surface, shape into flat rounds.
8. "Bake" each round like this: one side on stove-top in a heavy pan that starts hot but finishes warm (4 minutes), the other side finished under the broiler (3-4 minutes).

As I say, the result is awesome bread. But here's what I don't understand:

a. Why knead in 1/2 cup of water at step 4? Why not just make a wetter dough at step 1? Does the extra knead contribute to the glossy sheen of the finished crust?
b. The kneading time at step 2 is shorter than most kneading times from this recipe book (generally about 10-12 minutes). Is this because there are two rounds of kneading? What if I just made a wet dough and kneaded for 12 minutes? Would I get the same result?

This recipe is from the excellent but sometimes mystifying Flatbreads & Flavors.
posted by YamwotIam to Food & Drink (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no baker, but I may be able to explain a few aspects of this. My terminology is probably kinda wrong. As I said, I'm no baker.

a. By restricting the initial water usage you are allowing the glutens to form a much stronger lattice. You are building them nice and long (horizontally) and compact (vertically). When you add the second water, you are doing two things, one, you are effectively filling in the former air holes, making the dough dense but maintaining the nice long glutens. You effectively get a strong, flexible dough, with a certain level of rigidity against the grain.

b. Don't cut corners with bread. The short answer, you would have a different type of bread, and not the type of flatbread that you want. Rising and punching and kneading in multiple steps is giving the dough time to form its structure. In this case, skipping it probably fails to create the horizontal strength, meaning that the bread (I believe) would contract and ball up - slightly. i.e. You lose consistency.

The second watering isn't going to make it shine; however it will make the surface smoother, which means any oil in pans, will in fact shine.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2011

My mother makes this bread all the time! The resting in step 3 allows for the initial absorption of water and results in a smoother (less shaggy) and more workable dough. If you added in all the water at once, you'd not only have to knead longer but rest the dough longer and the short kneading time is what makes this a flat bread.

The high water content creates the glossy sheen, not the extra knead.
posted by Siena at 6:20 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Y'all are awesome. Nanukthedog, your terminology led me to this gluten flash-o-graphic, which really helped me understand what's going on when I mix & knead. And Siena, thanks for explaining step 3 & the shorter knead time to me, that makes sense now.
posted by YamwotIam at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2011

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