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Monday, 8 September 2008

no rise focaccia: turn it into flatbread (BBBwB)

go directly to the recipe

BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: focaccia dough that failed to rise and made into flatbread that resemble pitas; YeastSpotting post; Bread Baking Babes wannaBe; information on Bread Baking Babes; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Here’s a big surprise (cough), I can’t stop being a

Bread Baking Babe/Buddy wannaBe (BBBwB)

flatbread made from focaccia With apologies to Magritte and his estate:

This is not rosemary focaccia.

I mixed the focaccia dough at around noon. It was around 25C in the kitchen. The dough hadn’t even budged by 5:00pm. Still no sign of any rising by 6:00. Because we had all that rosemary, I briefly toyed with making lavash or those fabulous flat wafer thin Italian breads that have rosemary baked into them. But I’ve never made anything like that and the way things were going, I thought it best to cut my losses and go with something I knew how to do.


So I decided to cut the dough into 8 pieces and try making pitas. And T had the brilliant idea to toss the rosemary leaves in hot oil to make rosemary flavoured oil for dipping.

As I was beating myself up that I had failed yet again, I wracked my brains trying to think what was different.

  1. I had rehydrated the yeast with cold water.
    That shouldn’t have been a problem. It was plenty warm enough in the kitchen
  2. I had added leftover sludge after feeding the wild yeast.
    That shouldn’t have been a problem. It wasn’t that acidic. In fact there was no sour taste to the dough at all.
  3. Maybe I had added too much salt.
    I don’t think so. It didn’t taste too salty.
  4. I had added malt to the yeast.
    No, if anything that would have helped rather than inhibited the rise.
  5. The flour is relatively new.
    If at least 4 loaves of bread hadn’t been made from that bag of flour, I’d have blamed the flour.

Nope. I couldn’t see what the problem could have been. But the dough rolled out beautifully and I cooked the discs chapati-style on the stove. They all puffed. There are pockets.

Does that mean I made pita? Can I be a BBB even though I used focaccia dough instead of the BBB’s pita recipe and even though I baked them on the stove instead of in the oven?

Before you answer that, STOP. I’ll answer for you: No, sorry, not yet. Better luck next time.

Why am I so certain the answer is “no”?

Here is what I did to not make rosemary foccaccia or pita:

Focaccia Flatbread resembling Pita?
based on our recipe for focaccia

makes 8 discs

  • ¼ c (60ml) lukewarm water*
  • 1¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • pinch malt powder
  • 1 c (250ml) water
  • left-over sludge after feeding wild yeast (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c (250ml) whole wheat flour**
  • 2½ c (625ml) unbleached all-purpose flour**
  • fresh rosemary leaves
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • coarsely ground salt (optional)


  1. In a smallish bowl, mix yeast and malt powder with ¼ c lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist). Let stand as you mix the other ingredients or until it bubbles (5 to 10 minutes).
  2. In the meantime, put the room temperature water and oil into a large mixing bowl. Add the flours, salt and left over sludge from feeding wildyeast (if you have it). Stir well with a wooden spoon. Forget to add the yeasted water. Make sure that you don’t notice that you’ve forgotten so you can beat yourself up about having done something very very wrong.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Wash and dry your mixing bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  4. Hand knead the dough for 8-10 minutes til the dough is smooth and silky.
  5. Put the dough in the clean mixing bowl. (It is entirely unnecessary to oil the rising bowl!) Cover and notice that no matter how long it sits in a no-draft place 1 to 1½ to 2 to 3 hours, it won’t budge. When the dough refuses to double, after you stop cursing and crying, you can decide not to make focaccia after all and switch to making pita.
  6. Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 8 even pieces. Make 8 balls. Lightly flour and cover with a damp tea towel and let sit for about half an hour. (Or don’t bother waiting and just go ahead and shape them right away.)
  7. Using a wooden rolling pin, roll each ball into a flat disc – about 6 inches in diameter and 3/8 inches thick. As you roll out the dough, make sure it is not sticking to the board and that there are no holes. Keep the rolling pin lightly dusted with as little flour as possible and the board the same way. It’s best to keep the rolled-out discs apart but if you’re very skilled, you can lightly flour them and stack them.
  8. Place a disc of dough on the UNOILED hot tava (griddle or cast iron pan). As soon as you see little bubbles form, turn it over using tongs. As soon as there are little bubbles on the reverse side, lift the bread off the tava with the tongs and place it on the wire rack. It should puff up. Turn it over once or twice to ensure that it puffs up completely. Don’t be worried to see a few dark brown spots on it. (If you are lucky enough to have a gas stove, you can hold the bread directly over the flame.)
  9. Put the finished bread on a serviette covered warm plate. Cover with a lid. Keep the plate in a warm oven. Roll out the next piece of dough and repeat til you have 8 rotis. Turn the finished pitas over as you put a new pita on the stack.
  10. And what about all that fresh rosemary?! And the olive oil for drizzling over the focaccia before baking it? No problem: Heat the oil in a cast iron frying pan. Throw the rosemary leaves into the oil and remove from heat. Let sit until it’s time to dip the bread into the oil which is beautifully flavoured and scented with rosemary. Add coarsely ground salt to the oil if desired.

As you taste the flatbread that looks like pita and marvel that it actually doesn’t taste so bad, keep wondering why on earth the dough didn’t rise.***

*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.

Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!)

** The all-purpose flour is “No Name” unbleached (about 11.5% protein). The whole wheat flour is “Five Roses” (about 13% protein).

*** This morning, T found a little dish of creamy looking water on top of the stove. There were a few fruit flies doing the breast stroke in it. The liquid smelled faintly of apples.

flatbread made from focaccia Hmmmm, if there was no yeast in the dough, these can’t really be called “pitas”, can they? I think they have to be considered as “chapatis” because they are yeast-free.

And THAT’S why my focaccia dough refused to rise.

I forgot to add the yeasted water to the dough!

Quel moron.

And THAT’S why I’m still a BBBwB. Do they make special panties for BBBwB’s too? Are they the really ugly kind that are heavy duty white cotton and go right up to the waist with a “comfort” waistband that is so far from being lace that it’s laughable?

At least bread dipped into rosemary oil is good. It’s not quite as good as rosemary focaccia though.

Bread Baking Babes/Buddies wannaBe

BBBwB Ilva (Lucullian Delights) is the host of August 2008’s Bread Baking Babes task. She wrote:

Thursday, August 28, 2008


[I]t is really easy to make, I had no problems at all […snip…]

[T]hose of you who would like to join us and be a Bread Baking Buddy should bake the pita, post about in on your blog and then send [Ilva] the link to the blog post before midnight (your) on the 10th of September [2008].

For complete details on how to become a BBB, please go to:

Take a look at the Bread Baking Babes’ pita:



I’m not sure if this is an acceptable post for YeastSpotting. My “for” argument is that it is acceptable because T spotted the yeast languishing on the stovetop several hours after the bread had been baked.

For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf


  • Susan from Food Blogga

    Hey, you improvised and created something great out of a mishap. That deserves two thumbs up!

  • CAM

    mmmm, rosemary non-pita! Looks fantastic! I’d love to try it! Eating it, that is!

  • Bellini Valli

    It obviously was delicious so just think of it as an awesome pita recipe to make again :D

  • MyKitchenInHalfCups

    See, I figure if I do enough of this crazy stuff, one day I’ll have an accident that produces a marvel ;0)

    Call them whatever but they look like good happy dinner to me.

    Left out the yeasted water . . . I left out salt a couple of days ago.

    I ALMOST left out the salt yesterday. I remembered about 20 minutes after I had finished kneading. It was very interesting kneading the salt in. I sure hope that I managed to distribute it evenly. -ejm

  • Jude

    Your posts always crack me up. Maybe you can call it “deconstructed rosemary focaccia” or something.

  • Jeanne

    Oh you crack me up – maybe you could take this Magritte theme a little further – The Empire of Yeast, perhaps? Either way, the non-focaccias sounds heavenly :)

    Oooh, good idea, Jeanne. Should I make the clouds in the new version into storm clouds? -Elizabeth

  • Holly

    You have a great blog. I love love love foccacia!

  • Holly

    But I love flatbread even more.

  • Anne Lossing

    Good recovery … the sign of a great cook!

  • ejm

    Thank you all. The resulting flatbreads were pretty good. And the rosemary olive oil was a revelation. But, but, but… the flatbread WASN’T focaccia. :stomp:


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