What’s satisfaction? Making your own flatbread and finally succeeding. No lies: the first couple of times you try, unless you’re a bread-baking natural, it will likely be a bit of a fail. They’ll taste good – but they won’t puff up right; they won’t stay supple when you store them; they’ll look more rectangular than round; or any of a dozen other minor mishaps that can happen on the flatbread baking curve. And then: genius! Never again will you be able to return to the store-bought variety!
There are a couple of tricks that can help along the way, these include:
- Work in metric. Weights are more accurate than volume and kitchen scales are cheap. They’re also your friend.
- A stand mixer with a dough hook is a brillant aid to knead sufficiently and get the right dough texture. It works by hand too, but it requires a fair bit more time and muscle.
- Roll dough discs between a couple of sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. Is it wasteful? Probably. But it’s also far easier when you’re starting out.
- Get a baking stone. A perfect puff is next to impossible without one.
- Preheat the stone sufficiently. At least a half-hour in the preheated oven.
- Place the cooked flatbreads on a plate lined with a tea towel, fold the tea towel over the finished bread to cover and then top with another overturned plate. This keeps the bread warm and also keeps the steam in – avoiding the flatbread drying out.
- To store the cooked flatbreads (if they don’t all immediately disappear), let them cool in the plate-and-towel setup. When room temperature, place the stack of breads in a large plastic freezer bag and seal well. Place in the fridge.
Yield: 8 flatbreads
What you need:
- 420 grams red winter or spring wheat flour
- 215 grams filtered water
- 35 grams sourdough starter
- 15 grams olive or sunflower oil
- 7 grams salt
What you do:
- Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook and turn it on the lowest setting. Once the dough comes together, let it knead the ball for 5 minutes and turn it off. (If working by hand, mix all ingredients together in a bowl and knead for 10-12 minutes on a hard surface or in the bowl until smooth and elastic).
- The dough will seem pretty small and hard and if you’re like me, you’ll ask yourself how this thing will ever rise or be tasty. Have faith. Oil the ball of dough and place it in a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with a lid. Let it rise in a warm and draft-free place for 18-24 hours, until doubled (yes, it will double).
- Preheat the oven to 500F with the baking stone as low in the oven as possible (take out the top rack). When the oven reaches its setting, let the stone heat 30 minutes.
- Turn the ball of dough out onto a clean countertop and slice it into 8 equal portions. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 10-30 minutes.
- Flour the work surface and your hands and one portion of the dough. Press it out into a roundish shape and then use a rolling pin to thin it out. For a chapati-like flat bread, aim for an 8” round about 1/8” thick. For a pita-like bread, ami for a 6” or 7” round about 1/4” thick. But you don’t need to be too precise about it – it’ll taste fine either way.
- Drape the dough disc over your hand and quickly slap it down onto the baking stone. Cook 2-3 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the flatbread over and cook another 1-2 minutes. It should puff up in lots of spots – if not completely all over.
- Serve immediately or place the cooked flatbreads on a plate lined with a tea towel, folding the tea towel over the finished bread to cover and then top with another overturned plate.
- Repeat steps 5 through 7 for each of the dough portions.