Of course everyone loves flatbread, that little triangle of flavor, a pretty tidbit to savor while sipping on that weekend glass of champagne. Well, how about homemade flatbread for dinner? Now stay with me. Don’t run away scared at the idea of making dough. The last two weeks I’ve had major computer problems. I had to get a new computer and people, let me tell you I loved my desktop. If I can go from an enormous, gorgeous screen to a tiny 13″ laptop you can pull on your big-girl panties and rustle up a little dough. It’s easy, forgiving and a great way to relax and unwind. So pour yourself a nice glass of wine and let’s talk. Here are some things you’ll appreciate about making your own dough. The most obvious is you know exactly what’s going in AND what’s not. Have you ever looked closely at the list of ingredients in a loaf of bread at your grocery store’s bakery? What’s fumeric acid? Do we really need sodium stearoyl lactylate? Or azodicarbonamide coating? I think not. And don’t kid yourself into thinking anything is baked there. It’s all brought in baked and frozen then warmed up in their ovens to look and smell good. Even the frostings for their cakes are trucked in. The frosting comes packaged in big, plastic buckets. With a laundry list of chemicals, preservatives and artificial colors that you don’t even think about when you pick up little Taylor’s “Elsa” birthday cake from the movie “Frozen”. How do I know all this? Well, I did a little poking around on the computer and Chiquita in the bakery told me the rest. No lie. I’m hoping that homemade is looking a tad more attractive to you now. Many of us don’t have the need anymore to order birthday cakes at the grocery store; I’m just advocating awareness regarding what you’re eating and what you’re giving your precious family. Shall we move on to taste?
There is nothing…NOTHING that can hold a candle to the flavor of “made at home”. You know exactly what went into your baked good and how much. Plus, many bread recipes, this one included, can be played with. Different flours, the addition of herbs and spices plus the variety of toppings make planning dinner a breeze and, if I may say so, a pleasure. Let me point out as well that YOU dictate the thickness of the flatbread so if you enjoy thin and crispy you can have it. Thick and chewy is right at your fingertips…literally! With meat or without it is your choice. Here are some combinations we enjoy.
Fresh mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in olive oil, spinach, cooked, drained and chopped, roasted garlic, fresh marjoram and mint leaves and Gruyère cheese.
Caramelized shallots, roasted peppers, crumbled Feta cheese, orange zest, fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian sausage (turkey or pork), hot chile peppers.
Ground lamb, a little tomato, some sautéed eggplant and onions, toasted pine nuts, raisins and a pinch of cinnamon.
With a choice of seafood, meat, vegetables and cheeses the combinations are endless. Keep in mind that the flatbreads can be baked with nothing on them but a faint spritz of olive oil and maybe a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. From there they can be cut into triangles and used to dip into hummous, eggplant dip or, my favorite, the salty, creamy taramosalata. Store the cooled flatbreads in a zip top bag with the air squeezed out. In the following days you can crisp them back up again by placing them in a 300° oven for a few minutes. If they’re not eaten in a day or two keep them either in the refrigerator or freezer as they don’t contain any preservatives so their shelf life on a counter is pretty short. Here’s the recipe for your basic flatbread. Feel free to play with it. After you’ve tried it out or now if you feel like it, mix up your flours. I don’t recommend using all whole wheat because the bread will come out kind of hard and incredibly heavy. The more whole grain flour used, the more toothsome the final product will be. Therefore, if soft and fluffy is what you’re after then stick with the all-purpose. My family and I prefer a crisper, nuttier bread so I typically use 3 cups all-purpose mixed with 2 cups white whole wheat. When you’re ready to bake them off have your family or friends top their own flatbreads from the topping bar you so generously put together for them. So have fun with it. And have another glass of wine!
- 1 envelope yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2-1 2/3 cups warm water, no more than 115°
- 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour plus more to spread or your combination of flours totaling 5 cups
- 1 tablespoon salt
- olive oil to oil resting bowl and later to spread
- Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in a large mixing bowl or stand-up mixer bowl. Gently mix and set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
- Add yoghurt to yeast mixture and mix to break up yoghurt. If using a stand-up mixer use the paddle to mix.
- In a separate bowl mix flour and salt together. Add to the yeast/yoghurt mixture and continue mixing with the paddle if using the stand-up mixer. If mixing by hand, it will be very wet and sticky but the more you mix the drier the dough will become.
- If making by hand continue kneading vigorously until smooth. If using a stand-up mixer, change from paddle to dough hook and continue kneading for 5 minutes until smooth.
- Lightly coat a large bowl with a bit of olive oil, place dough in bowl and turn dough over so both top and bottom are lightly covered with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 1/2 hours of until at least double in size.
- After dough has risen, punch down and divide into 10-12 equal pieces. Using your hands, and you can oil them if dough is still a little sticky, roll into smooth balls and set aside, covered, for 20 minutes to rest.
- Lightly cover work surface with some flour and roll out dough to desired shape and thickness. Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.
- Add toppings, or if baking plain flatbreads, drizzle with a bit of good olive oil and a quick scattering of sea salt.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until barely golden around the edges. Keep an eye on them if your baking sheets are dark. They cook WAY faster.