Homemade Flatbread

I almost hate to admit this, but the first time I ever had flat bread was at Taco Bell.  They’d just introduced their gorditas, and I’d never had anything like it.  Thicker than a tortilla, but not dry like a pita.  I loved it.  Of course, as so often happens in life after college, I fell out of love with cheap fast food– so long 59 cent tacos, 99 cent junior bacon cheeseburgers, and Arby’s five for fives.  Dude, can you believe those prices?  I used to fill my car up with gas for $14, too.  Getting so old.  But I digress.

What was I saying?  That’s right, flatbread. Billowy.  Soft.  Thick, but not too thick. Surely something so good had to be difficult to make.

Turns out, it  isn’t.  And I am honestly bread challenged.

Homemade Flatbread

Ingredients adapted and method taken from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook recipe for “Pan-Grilled Flatbread” (618-19)

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups bread flour

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast

2 tsp. sugar

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 cup water, room temperature

¼ cup full fat sour cream

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. butter, melted (optional)

Kosher salt (optional)

Directions:

Combine the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

On low-speed, using the paddle attachment, briefly mix in the water, sour cream,

and oil until “a shaggy dough” forms.

Change the paddle out for the dough hook and knead the dough for approximately 8 minutes, checking after 4 to see if more flour is needed.

Forgive the blurry pictures, but this is what the dough should, presumably, look like.

The dough begins as a sticky mass that sticks to pretty much everything.

After a couple of minutes, it begins to pull from the sides, but still seems a little on the shaggy side.

It becomes smoother, but still sticks to the bottom.

It becomes much smoother and more compact.

Finally, it looks like this: smooth and compact.  According to the Cook’s Illustrated instructions, the dough should no longer be on the sides of the bowl, but will still be attached to the bottom.

Mine was exactly like that, so I didn’t add any extra flour.  Cook’s Illustrated states that if you do need more flour, you should add 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough does clear the sides.

Transfer the dough, which is really, really, really sticky to a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover it with plastic wrap

and let it rise until it’s doubled—about 45 minutes to an hour, depending.

Because it was really cold in my house (65 degrees F—thanks so much, freaky arctic cold snap), while the dough was kneading, I set my oven to 170 degrees, let it come to temperature, then turned it off.  Then I put the covered bowl in the oven and used the residual heat to proof the dough.

Lightly flour whatever work surface you’ll be rolling your dough on, and transfer your dough to that surface.  As I wrote earlier, this dough is exceptionally sticky.  I found it helpful to have a small bowl of flour next to me so I could occasionally dip my hands into it, shaking off any excess.  A dough scraper was also very helpful.

If you’ve never been very successful with making bread, like me, it’s really helpful if you can find Martha Stewart’s videos from Martha Stewart’s Baking series that comes on PBS.  Segments can occasionally be viewed on her website.  The one thing I saw her do once—it was either with biscuits or bread dough, something sticky—was to use a bread scraper to turn the dough on a floured surface until the dough became workable.

Divide the dough in half to make 2 pieces.  Then divide each of those halves in half for 4 pieces.

Then do it again for 8 approximately equal-sized pieces.

Shape each of those pieces into a ball that you roll into a roughly shaped 4-inch round.

Allow the dough to rest for approximately 10 minutes before rolling it again to a 6-inch round.  Lightly re-flour your surface and pin as needed, but try not to use too much flour—just enough to keep the dough from sticking.

While the dough is resting between each rolling, set a dry cast iron pan over medium heat, allowing it to get hot.

Once your pan and dough are ready, one round at a time, transfer the dough round from the counter to the hot pan.  I had to use the dough scraper to carefully remove the dough without tearing it.

Cook the bread on the first side for 30 seconds.

Flip it, and cook for another 2 minutes.

The flip and cook for another 1 to 1 ½ minutes.  I used a timer for 7 of the 8 pieces.  I ended up overcooking the one piece I forgot to time.

Cook’s Illustrated writes that each side should be “speckled and deep golden brown in spots.”  I don’t know that mine was golden brown, but it looked good to me.

Cool the flatbread on a wired rack.

If you’ll be using the bread immediately, brush pieces with melted butter

and sprinkle it, if desired, with Kosher salt.

If you aren’t using it immediately, wrap the bread in aluminum foil

and keep it at room temperature for up to 2 days.

According to the original recipe, you should be able to re-heat the flatbread by warming it unwrapped in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  I’ll let you know if it works well.  UPDATE: It works like a charm.  It was divine freshly made, but it was almost as tasty reheated this evening with dinner.

Yield: 8 6-inch flatbread

What to do with them?

I topped 2 of mine with shredded iceberg, sliced Roma tomatoes, bacon, and ranch dressing.

Perfect lunch.

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