How to make good no knead artisan bread with Indian Atta flour

LoafNest no-knead artisan Atta bread

Flour is a flour is a flour.

Right?

That is not right!

Artisan no knead atta bread

While professional bakers use their own system of grading flours, for the home bakers among us, we are typically happy with whole wheat flour and white bread flour to choose from.

But there is a whole world of flours out there and we invite you to explore it with your LoafNest, for different flavors of bread. 

In this article we talk about one such flour that you might want to try. It is called the 'Atta flour'.

If you are familiar with Indian bread, you already know what is Atta flour. Atta is a whole wheat flour that is used widely in Indian cuisine to make unleavened flat breads like Roti, Chapati and Paratha. While it is whole wheat flour made from hard wheat, it is different to normal whole bread flour in the various ways.

  • Atta flour is very smooth and fine in its texture. Even though it is whole wheat, the texture of the flour is more close to unbleached white flour.
  • It is made with a special way of stone milling as opposed to the roller milling used for bread flours.
  • The milling breaks down the starch in the wheat more. Atta has about 15% starch damage compared to 4-5% starch damage in bread flour. This makes the flour and breads taste somewhat sweeter.
  • Atta has relatively high level of ash (burnt starch) at about 1% which gives the flour a unique flavor and a slightly darker color.
  • Because of the high starch break down, the flour can absorb significantly more water than a bread flour.
  • Atta has high gluten that holds the dough together even when rolled into very thin breads.
  • The wheat for atta is cultivated only in certain geographies giving a unique character to the wheat and the flour.

For all this reasons the atta flour is great for making unleavened flat breads. But when it comes to bread making, there is a catch. Atta is notoriously difficult to make bread with.

Atta is notoriously difficult to make bread with.

Normally breads sold in India and neighboring countries is not made with Atta. It is typically made from maida, the white flour equivalent of atta. Even leavened Indian breads like Naan are always made with maida.

Home bakers who have tried to make bread with atta typically find that the loaves are dense, gummy and quite unpalatable. So, how can one make excellent artisan quality bread with atta?

We thought this was a challenge worth taking up with LoafNest. We are quite happy with what come out of the LoafNest.

No Knead Atta bread Home made

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Atta flour: 500 g (see notes below on picking the right flours)
  • Water : 500 ml
  • Salt : 8-10 g
  • Instant dry yeast: 0.5 g
  • Chopped Almonds : 25 g (optional)

Method

As ever, we will use our no-knead, no-mess, no-shaping LoafNest flow for this bread too.

  • Mix water, salt and yeast in a large bowl
  • Add flour and mix well with a fork. You can mix half of the chopped almonds with the flour at this step. There is no need to knead.
  • Cover the bowl with a plate or cling film and set it at room temperature (~20 C) for 12-18 hours.
  • After the flour has doubled in size, smells very sour and is full of bubbles, it is ready to be baked.
  • For baking, pre-heat the LoafNest casserole at 230C (450F) for 45 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the hot casserole from oven, place the LoafNest liner into the casserole and pour the dough into LoafNest. You can top the dough with remainder of chopped almonds.
  • Cover the LoafNest and return it to the oven and continue to bake at 230C (450F) for 50 minutes.
  • Remove the loaf and peel the liner.
  • The loaf is ready to cut when it has completely cooled down and does not feel warm to touch.

Notes

  • Note that atta flour absorbs a lot more water than a typical bread flour. Hence the amount of water in this recipe is same as that of wheat.
  • A Indian/South-Asian store is the best place to get atta flour. You can also try online stores if you do not have a local store selling atta. In some places non-atta flour is labelled and marketed as atta flour. To be sure that you are getting the atta flour, make sure it is made in India or Pakistan and made with traditional stone grinding milling. It is also recommended to go with known brands of atta flours like Aashirvad, Annapoorna, Shaktibhog or Pilsbury.

Soft smooth crumb of atta bread made with LoafNest

Results

We were happy with the atta loaf we made!

The flavor profile was quite different than a typical whole wheat bread. The unique flavor of the atta flour was really distinctive resembling that of a freshly made roti. This was in addition to the complex flavors of long fermentation. The crumb was airy and on par with a typical whole-wheat flour bread. The crust had a nice crunch on par with typical whole wheat bread too. The crumb had a smoother texture, and not big airy holes, which might be due to very fine texture of the atta flour.

Overall, with LoafNest we were able to make atta bread that had all the wholesome good qualities of a whole wheat loaf with the uniqueness of a smoother crumb texture and a nice atta flavor. We surely think it is worth a shot!

Let us know in comments about your atta bread adventures!

Comments

Suganya (not verified) Thu, 05/23/2019 - 05:37

Hi, thanks for the aatta flour bread recipe. Am definitely going to try it out. Before that, my questions are:
1. I bake my breads in a breadmaker. Do I just dump everything in it and choose the wholemeal bread option?
2. I noticed there isn't vegetable oil/olive oil/butter in your recipe. Can I add ghee since it goes very well with chapathi flour.

Appreciate your response.

trfl Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:08

In reply to by Suganya (not verified)

Hi Suganya,

Atta can be quite challenging for breadmakers since their programs are not designed for it. We have tried it in past with some bread makers but the outcome was not great. Atta loaves turn out a bit dense and gummy in bread makers. But may be you can try one or two loaves with your bread maker and let us know how it went?

Of course, you can add ghee with atta loaf.

-trfl

Dizz (not verified) Wed, 09/18/2019 - 21:15

This was very interesting to read! I never considered using 100% atta in a loaf. I do use up to about 40% although more commonly its 20% in my home baked sourdough loafs. The rest is maida, the other indian flour which is basically strong white. I have no trouble getting gorgeous texture, rise and delicious chewy, tangy caramelised crusts.

My sourdough starter has always been with maida (the regular strong white). I ve just extracted some I'm try to convert to atta. Its not going too well, it doesn't seem to rise but it does give off a lot of hooch after a while. But its only been a couple of days so I'll stick with it a while more.

trfl Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:12

In reply to by Dizz (not verified)

Dear Dizz,

Indeed, adding in maida increases the total gluten content in the flour making it easier for the dough to raise and not collapse during baking. We embarked on a challenge to use pure atta and found it to be difficult with traditional methods. With LoafNest, we believe we have achieved the best combination of easy method and great texture.

Sourdough starter (maida, full wheat, rye or otherwise) can be tricky to get right and maintain. But hope it is going well for you after some trials.

-trfl

Slavica Krekic (not verified) Wed, 10/23/2019 - 07:18

I am surprised that you would say that Atta flour is smooth almost as unbleached flour. None of the brands in our town where thousands of East Indian people live and shop are smooth flours. Golden Temple is even more gritty than Desi brand. They are both very course, natural color, nice wholesome smell, but certainly not smooth. I have been using them for years, and the reason I like them is because they are coursely ground.

trfl Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:28

In reply to by Slavica Krekic (not verified)

Dear Slavica,

Depending on wheat type (hard/soft, Indian/American/European), milling type (stone ground, roller milled) and extraction rates (how much of full gain is left in the flour), flours have different textures.

When we say atta we mean stone ground flour from north Indian Durum wheat berries with extraction about 75-85%. Due to stone grinding the traditional atta has more starch damage and hence can absorb more water. Also it has less springy gluten.

Indeed your observation is right that desi atta is less gritty than other brands sold as atta. It is not uncommon to use the word atta for flours of non-traditional type described above. It it works for your taste, that is all that matters!

It may be interesting for you to see if you notice difference between desi brands and other brands in terms of water absorption and ability to stretch/roll. Traditional atta should be able to absorb more water and be less springy to stretch (hence easier to roll out make rotis or chapatis)

Please share your experience!

-trfl

Priyanka (not verified) Fri, 01/03/2020 - 11:33

The picture looks great and I am eager to try this recipe! Could you please confirm the amount of yeast? Is it really just 0.5 gram?
Would you be able to comment on using this recipe in a bread-maker?
Thanks!

trfl Thu, 02/06/2020 - 11:18

In reply to by Priyanka (not verified)

Hi Priyanka,

Yes, for LoafNest we use a low yeast - extended raise method. That way yeast have time to develop slowly and give complex flavor. In this time also gluten can develop without kneading. Hence we use 0.5 gram of yeast in LoafNest method.

However, you can always add more yeast but depending on how long you allow the dough to raise, you may need to knead the dough.

For bread machines, atta flour can be quite challenging. At least, our past efforts in bread makers with atta flours have been not great for artisan breads. 

-trfl

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