ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN — The favorite staple food of Kazakhstan’s consumers is traditional flatbread baked in clay ovens called tandoor or tandyr. But because of its high protein content, domestic wheat is not optimal for bread of this kind. Strong, low-enzyme flour may result in firm doughs and poor browning. It is possible to compensate for these effects with flour improvers specially designed for flatbread production. 

The Republic of Kazakhstan is one of the world’s main wheat producers in terms of both quantity and quality. With temperatures of up to 45°C in the summer and a bitter minus-30°C in the winter, the climatic conditions in this Central Asian state are a challenge to wheat farming. About 75% of the country’s total production volume comes from the North Kazakhstan provinces of Kostanay and Aqmola, where top quality wheat with a protein content of around 15% is harvested in good years. In the southern part of the country, the figures are usually somewhat lower.

Since Kazakhstan has a population of only 19 million on an area of more than 2.7 million square kilometers, the country’s own demand is easily met. A large proportion of its exports go to its Central Asian neighbors, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and also to Afghanistan and Iran.

Flatbread popular

Bread plays a major role in the diet of the Kazakh population. Whereas pan bread often is produced industrially, the much more popular flatbread comes exclusively from artisan bakeries.

According to the Kazakh Bureau of National Statistics, the yearly per capita consumption of bread is about 32 kilograms (2023). The bread is bought at one of the countless artisan bakeries, from a market stall or from a roadside trader. Even in large supermarkets there are mini-bakeries equipped with special ovens that can supply customers with fresh, fragrant flatbread all day long. 

There are two typical types of flatbread: Lavash and Tandyr nan. Both are eaten at any time of the day and at every meal. The loaves are broken into rough pieces and often dipped into soups, sauces or stews. While lavash is a very flat, tortilla-like bread made from unleavened dough, Tandyr nan is yeast-raised and memorable thanks to its fluffy edge and beautiful pattern.

Two standard flours produced

Kazakhstan’s mills produce two types of flour. The “highest type” has a lower extraction rate, resulting in an ash content of about 0.45%, and is used for flatbread. The somewhat more highly extracted “first type,” with an ash content of about 0.55%, is used mainly for pan bread.

Whereas the high protein content of Kazakh wheat is an advantage for pan bread, it sometimes is a disadvantage in flatbread production. High-gluten doughs are firm, lack elasticity and spring back when rolled out. Summers in Kazakhstan are generally hot and dry, and an extremely low alpha-amylase content makes dough preparation difficult in such cases. Falling numbers of 500 seconds are not unusual (ideal values are 300 to 380 seconds). Last year, however, the hot summer was followed by heavy rains in August and September, not only reducing yields but also grain quality. Pre-harvest germination occurred, which led to high enzyme activity in the grain and thus to low falling numbers. All-time lows of about 140 seconds were found on the market. As the climate and weather become more extreme, fluctuations in falling numbers could increase in the future.

At the bakery, low-enzyme flours result in slower fermentation, a dry crumb and unsatisfactory browning, while flours with high intrinsic enzyme activity show the opposite effect. Kazakh bakers traditionally try to compensate for deficits of this kind by adjusting the dough preparation process manually, but raw material-based solutions are becoming increasingly common in the milling industry. Flour improvers designed specifically for the production of flatbread increase the elasticity of the dough, enhance browning and simplify handling.

The following is a standard recipe for Tandyr nan:

100 kg flour (treated with ascorbic acid and enzymes, see below)

1.2 – 1.5 kg salt

1.2 – 1.5 kg yeast

Approximately 50 kg water

Addition of 1 kg sugar and 1-2 kg margarine, if preferred.

The doughs are comparatively firm, but with a resting time of about two hours and a further relaxation phase of another two hours after molding, they are malleable enough and easily shaped into flat loaves. 

Bread stamps as business cards

From this simple recipe, Kazakh artisan bakers create real works of art. A characteristic feature of the circular loaves with their raised edges is the decoration and ornamentation pressed into the dough surface with a hand-made bread stamp. These bread stamps are the business card and pride of every bakery. 

Another peculiarity is the shape of the loaf. Before the dough pieces are given their characteristic stamp, they are drawn over an inverted plate or pan base to create a perfectly circular appearance. 

The loaves are baked in traditional tandyr ovens. Fired with charcoal or gas, these ovens reach temperatures of up to 450°C. The raw doughs adhere to the extremely hot inner surface and are removed with an iron rod after baking.

Problems and solutions

A common problem in the production of Tandyr nan is the high gluten and the varying enzyme content of the local flours. In wet summers, the bakeries sometimes must contend with ropiness, too. This microbial contamination causes decomposition of the crumb and a sweetish “off” odor and taste.

After warm winters, the wheat may suffer from widespread bug damage, which makes the flour useless in the production of flatbread.

Moreover, some bakeries are interested in prolonging the shelf-life of the bread or extending their range with nan variants that have more volume and crumb, as is usual in Turkey, for example.

The following is an overview of the most common problems and challenges and possible ways of solving them:

Problem: The flat loaves do not have the desired radius; doughs spring back or shrink, decorative features do not keep their shape.

Possible cause: High protein content of the flour; gluten quality too strong.

Solution: Promote relaxation of the dough with cysteine, e.g. MCsoft. Addition of this substance reduces shrinkage of the doughs.


Problem: Dough falls off the wall of the oven during baking.

Possible cause: Dough surface too dry, too little amylase activity.

Solution: Increase the amount of water; add amylase, e.g. Alphamalt VC 5000.


Problem: Dough is weak and too sticky; low gelatinization temperature.

Possible cause: Enzymatic activity of the flour too high; amylase surplus and low falling number.

Solution: Add flour improvers to control enzyme activity, e.g. buffering agents Secalit or Rowelit, or dough strengthening ingredients, e.g. glucose oxidases Alphamalt Gloxy 100 or MCgluten Enhancer 22. 


Problem: Dough dries too quickly; inadequate browning.

Possible cause: Enzymatic activity of the flour too low; amylase deficiency.

Solution: Add amylase, e.g. Alphamalt VC 5000, and glucoamylase, e.g. Alphamalt GA 23750 or gluten strengtheners, e.g. MCgluten Enhancer, to stimulate the yeast with the resulting sugars during fermentation and promote the Maillard reaction and browning.


Problem: Poor dough stability.

Possible cause: Low salt content (typical of Kazakh flat bread).

Solution: Salt has the effect of stabilizing the dough. It is possible to compensate for a low salt content by adding glucose oxidase, e.g. Alphamalt Gloxy 5080 or Saltase.


Problem: Wish to increase the dough yield.

Possible cause: Operational considerations (increased profitability).

Solution: Full treatment of the flour, including ascorbic acid, e.g. with Alphamalt A 19560 or MCgluten Enhancer KG 33 to increase water absorption.


Problem: Crumb not as white as consumers would prefer.

Possible cause: Use of wheat flours that have a creamy tinge because of the variety. 

Solution: Treat the flour with lipases, e.g. Alphamalt EFX 100, that noticeably brighten the crumb.


Problem: Deformation of the gluten, slack doughs (index of gluten extensibility too high).

Possible cause: Infestation with cereal bugs that exude dough-degrading proteases into the wheat grains.

Solution: Inhibit the bug enzymes and stabilize the dough. The enzymes from the insects have to be inactivated by lowering the pH, and the stability and elasticity of the dough must be increased with enzyme systems (e.g. MCbest BugStop, a compound based on enzymes and organic acids).


Problem: Ropy crumb, bread has a sweetish off-taste.

Possible cause: Microbial contamination that may occur during transportation or storage in very hot, humid summer weather. The heat-resistant bacteria cause the crumb to decompose.

Solution: Add an acid/mineral complex with a buffer effect. Regulates the pH of the dough and thus inhibits the growth of the bacteria (e.g. MCrope D).


Problem: The flat loaves are to have greater volume and a larger proportion of crumb.

Possible cause: Operational considerations (e.g. changes or additions to the range).

Solution: Add hemicellulases, e.g. Alphamalt HCC 2. Alternatively, or additionally add lipases, e.g. Alphamalt EFX Swift.

Sven Mattutat is a product manager with Mühlenchemie. He may be reached at [email protected] for more information on this topic.