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I'm very new to bread-making in general; don't assume I'm necessarily doing anything right.

During my last attempt at making quick (baking-powder-based) flatbread, I was attempting to flatten and knead the dough after having let it rest. What happened was that rather than bending or spreading as one would expect, the dough kept cracking/breaking into pieces here and there.

I have several questions related to this, feel free to answer any/all of them:

(a) What mistakes might have been made ahead of this point, in the recipe or the technique of preparing the dough, to cause this?

(b) On the other hand, what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future?

(c) Given a hunk of dough with this tendency on the table, what can be done to salvage and/or rectify matters? This can be in terms of kneading technique, or adding anything to the dough to make it more cohesive.

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    You don't typically kneed a quickbread (although, I admit, I've never done a flatbread as a quickbread) -- they're typically more cake-like, and kneeding will create gluten which can make them tough. – Joe Sep 13 '10 at 12:13
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    This was an odd variant of a naan recipe that I found in a cheap curry cookbook, and I wanted to try it before I start experimenting with yeast; I've yet to make any kind of yeast bread, and from what I've read it seems to be trickier. More temperature regulation and time in particular, and more needing to know what one is doing in general. – Walter Mundt Sep 13 '10 at 15:31
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    Yeast bread does take longer, but it really isn't trickier. Any normal room temperature will work fine; a lot of the trickier stuff you've seen is to get from good bread to great bread. And there is nothing wrong with good yeast bread, especially if you're used to quickbreads. – derobert Oct 1 '10 at 20:56
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It sounds like it didn't have enough liquid in it. Assuming we are talking about a normal wheat-flour bread dough, I can't think of anything else that would lead to cracking and breaking. Properly hydrated bread dough should be quite moist and elastic, and the only way you can "break" it is to stretch it hard and fast with a pulling motion.

Fixing this situation is hard. You can try to knead more water into it, but it has a tendency to just slip off the surface. Try spreading it out as thin as possible, spraying or rubbing on a little water, folding and kneading and repeating the process.

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    That's more or less what I ended up doing. I took a bowl of hot water, and coated the surface of the dough with it, particularly the areas that had broken. After kneading a bit the process had to be repeated; a few cycles of this were enough to make the dough workable. – Walter Mundt Sep 13 '10 at 6:27
  • @Michael- I agree it's hard to add water if you are kneading by hand. If you are using a mixer it is much easier it just takes a little bit of time to work in the water and you should have a splash guard for the bowl. – Sobachatina Apr 27 '11 at 20:56
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I've found the easiest way to re-hydrate your dough is to simply keep dipping your hands in warm water as you're kneading until you reach the desired texture. If you hydrate too much and your dough becomes sticky, add more flour again.

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I had that problem and found a adding both oil (just a little and working that in) and water (same) and repeating the process as needed with water only until the dough became more elastic and less resistant. I worked quickly because yeast has a timing issue (as do I!) and it is a challenge for me to get it just right. I managed to do this without overshooting and having to add more flour which I don't like to do. It seemed to do the trick and bread still rose beautifully.

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Cracking is caused by insufficient elasticity, which is usually caused by insufficient moisture.

Adding more moisture into the recipe would almost certainly help you out there.

You can go with a 70% dough hydration for example, utilizing the stretch and fold technique to achieve stability. This would give you bread with large uneven holes in your crumb, like a rustic bread or a ciabatta.

I heartily recommend checking out a book called Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish. He also has a very good book on Pizza, if that's of any interest.

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