Monday, December 14, 2009


Does anyone out there make bread at home anymore?  I do.  Well, not often but certainly around the holidays.  Or when I am having a dinner party (which doesn't seem to be often any more - I must be getting lazy).  And sure, you can make a pan or two of homemade rolls but why go to the trouble of shaping and forming them when all you have to do is whip up a quick dough in your electric mixer, let it rise, throw it in a pan, pat it out, top it with whatever and stick it in the oven.  Voila!  You have just made flatbread which is both a showstopper and a cinch.

What I am giving you here is a basic flatbread recipe.  It's the one we used at Watershed when I worked there and it is easy and delicious.  Don't be afraid of it because if you follow the recipe, it will turn out beautifully every time. 

Flatbread (adapted from Watershed Restaurant, Decatur, GA)

1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees.  Use a thermometer.  Don't guess)
1 packet yeast (not rapid-rising)
2 lbs. unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 1/3 cups water, room temperature
1/4 cup extra-virgin oil, plus more for rising
1 tablespoon sea salt

Place the 1/3 cup of water in the bowl of electric mixer.  Add yeast and mix briefly to blend then let sit for 5 minutes.  Add flour, remaining water, olive oil and salt.  Turn on mixer just to combine then turn mixer off and let sit for 10 minutes.  Then mix on low speed for 8 minutes.

Oil a large container or bowl.  Place dough inside and cover.  Place in a warm place (not in the oven, however) and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Here's what it looks like before and after rising

Generously grease a baking sheet (I use a half sheet pan) with olive oil.  Place dough in pan and press out as much as possible.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Keep repeating until dough covers the entire pan, about 30-40 minutes.  Dimple well with your fingertips and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Spread topping over.  Bread is ready to bake when it has risen to the edge of the pan.

Place in oven preheated to 375-degrees.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, turning pan once until browned, golden and done in the middle.

Cool slightly, then use run a large spatula around sides and underneath flatbread until it comes loose.  Turn out onto a cutting board and cut with a serrated knife as desired.

Serves 12-16.

Oh, but now for the fun part!  You can top this with just about anything you like and you can serve this in several different ways:

1)  Cut it into small squares or rectangles and you have a terrific appetizer. 
2)  Take it a step further, cut those squares in half, spread with goat cheese or whatever you can think of and now you have gorgeous little mini-sandwiches. 
3)  Slice the entire thing lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips.  Lay strips flat on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil or butter, bake at 350-degrees for 8-10 minutes and you have crunchy and crispy flatbread sticks.  Serve as an appetizer or alongside a steaming bowl of soup or pasta. 
4)  Add a sweet topping (like the roasted grape idea below) and serve warm squares of it with a soft, runny cheese for dessert, along with a yummy dessert wine.

Here are two ideas to get you started:

Fresh Herb Topping

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Lots of kosher salt

Mix well and spread over unbaked flatbread dough.

Roasted Grape Topping

1 bunch (about 4 cups) red seedless grapes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons lemon or orange zest
1/2 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place grapes in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, chopped thyme and kosher salt to taste.  Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in oven preheated to 350-degrees for 15-20 minutes, shaking pan once.  Remove from oven and let cool. 

Scatter roasted grapes over unbaked flatbread then sprinkle over pecans, rosemary, zest and sugar.  Season generously with salt and pepper then bake as directed above.  (Note:  this would also be delicious with crumbled goat cheese sprinkled over as well).

This is what I made last week.  Crap, why did I give it away?  What was I thinking?

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