Flatbread is a joy, and it is not at all hard to make. Besides its somewhat gourmet appeal and reputation, making your own flatbread carries with it a tremendous sense of satisfaction that enhances the experience. In addition, making it at home will save you money, allow you to control exactly what goes into the product, and gives you the ability and flexibility to create hundreds of delicious variations once the basics are understood. The flatbreads that result are excellent and filling on their own, lovely for dipping into hummus or sauces, and make a fun crust for easy, individual-sized homemade pizzas. They can even be grilled.
Despite their high price when prepackaged in the stores and their gourmet appeal, flatbreads are perhaps one of the most ancient and simple uses of flour. The original recipes were often unleavened, like tortillas, but yeast-leavened varieties are popular, simple, and delicious while sharing the same ancient roots. Very little is needed in the way of ingredients for a basic flatbread: flour, water, yeast, salt, and a touch of sugar will do nicely. This recipe uses yogurt for a touch of sourness and a more creamy texture to the finished product, and it features rosemary and sea salt for flavoring, although simpler herb-and-olive-oil varieties are just as easy to make with very little modification to the recipe.
Recipe: Rosemary-yogurt flatbread -- Ingredients (for 16-20 six-to-eight inch flatbreads)
- 4 c. all-purpose flour (rec: King Arthur's unbleached, unbromated) or a combination of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour with the latter no more than half of the total;
- 3/4 c. warm water, divided into a half cup and a fourth of a cup;
- 3/4 c. whole milk yogurt, allowed to warm to around room temperature;
- 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (equal to one envelope);
- 1 tsp. white sugar, honey, or evaporated cane juice (recommended);
- 1/2 tsp. granulated sea salt;
- 1 tsp. large-grain sea salt (optional);
- 1 long sprig (about 2 tbsp.) fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or about half that dried, ground rosemary leaves.
- Mix the yeast and 1/4 c. warm water (around 90-95 F, not over 110 F), yeast, and sugar in a measuring cup and stir well. Let it sit until the yeast blooms, 5-15 minutes, where blooming means that it gets quite foamy on top.
- Meanwhile, sift half of the flour into a large mixing bowl.
- When the yeast has bloomed, add the yeast mixture, the yogurt, and the remainder of the water to the flour and begin to stir it vigorously with a whisk. It should take on the consistency of pancake batter. Continue to whisk the mixture until the whisk leaves clear, slightly enduring trails behind it as it travels through the batter (approximately 8-10 minutes).
- Set the bowl of batter aside, covered with a tea towel in a warm place for a little over an hour, until it roughly doubles in size. Tip: In cold months, a "warm place" can be found inside an oven that was set to "warm," or around 150 F, for a few minutes and then turned off. Keep an occasional eye on this part unless you've chosen a very large bowl.
- After the mixture has risen, whisk it again for a minute to "punch it down." Then add the rosemary and salt and mix those in thoroughly. About a cup at a time, add the remainder of the flour. After the first cup, whisking is still possible but difficult. After the second cup, you'll have to work it with your hands or with a dough hook attachment for a mixer. Add the large-grain salt (if you're using it) with the second cup of flour, which will leave distinctly salty areas within the bread that are quite pleasant. Work the ingredients together until it has formed a nice ball of dough that is only a little sticky.
- Alternative method: If you prefer the simplicity, you can simply combine all of the four and liquids together initially and make the ball in the first place (easy with dough-making bread machines), kneading it before letting it rise. This Examiner's experience is that a better flavor and texture are developed by the given method and that the ingredients are easier to incorporate thoroughly, but both work quite well.
- On a lightly floured surface, turn the ball of dough out and knead it for a few minutes: press it flat, fold it in half, turn it a quarter turn, repeat, over and over. Knead the dough until it no longer appears grainy when stretched (see slideshow). When it's been kneaded well for about 5-10 minutes in this manner, shape it into a ball and cut it into 16-20 equal-sized pieces (about the size of a raquetball, perhaps about 2 inches across). Cover these with a slightly damp towel if possible. Preheat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is quite hot.
- Take the balls and press and stretch them into thin rounds about 6 inches across, rolling them out if necessary. Press out only as many as will fit in your pan at once. Place them in the pan and let them cook for approximately 3 minutes on each side, turning them once with a spatula when they start to brown (don't be afraid to peek).
- Repeat until all of the flatbreads are prepared, keeping them on a baking sheet in a "warm" oven until they're all done if you'd like them served hot (otherwise, let them cool on a wire rack in small stacks).
- Serve your flatbreads with soups or stews, on their own, or with a dipping dish like hummus. They are great alongside any Middle Eastern or Indian dishes. They can also be garnished with a light sprinkling of cheese (e.g. parmigiano reggiano) just as they're flipped. Simply add it directly to the hot surface of the bread as soon as it comes up, and much of the cheese will melt to it.
See the slideshow with this article for step-by-step pictures through the instructions!
For personal pizzas: Dress the rounds as desired and deliver into a very hot oven (450+) onto a heated stone using a pizza peel. They should only need about 3 minutes to cook completely. If you don't have that equipment, cook one side in a pan and then slide them into the oven or under the broiler for 30 seconds to 2 minutes using a spatula (so long as they're not overloaded). A future article will likely cover this topic in more detail, but as a note, yogurt flatbread isn't ideal for the process (simply using water and some olive oil in the dough is better, though yogurt flatbread will give a little bit of a sourdough-like taste).
Buy it locally! King Aurthur flours are becoming more and more prevalent around Knoxville, available in most Knoxville-area grocery stores now. For great whole milk yogurt, choose Stonyville Farms, which can be purchased also at essentially every Knoxville-area grocery store. Rosemary grows very well in the Knoxville area, so consider adorning your yard with some of this versatile, delicious herb, but if you need to buy some, it is regularly available at The Fresh Market stores in Knoxville.
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