09 November 2012

Flatbread: easier than you think

Winter is a good time for warm stews and thick bean dishes and spicy Indian food, all of which go really well with nice fresh flatbreads.

Of course, you can buy packages of flatbread at the grocery store, but they are expensive … especially once you realize how easy they are to make at home with a grand total of three ingredients.

One of which is water.

The other two ingredients are flour and oil. Salt and multiple kinds of flour are optional (I like a mix of 2 parts wheat flour to one part corn flour, but I’m not picky, I’ll use whatever is handy).

About an hour before you are going to need them (or sooner, they can be reheated in the microwave or the oven right before your meal), put about three cups of flour in your breadmaker / stand mixer bowl / regular bowl. If you want, sprinkle in a little salt, but that’s optional. Use less flour if you’re only making a few .. three cups will make enough for four people, easily.

Take your cooking oil and, while stirring the flour around the bowl, gently drizzle in a bit of oil … just enough to make some crumbs show up, about a tablespoon. This part is actually optional, though if you’re using a breadmaker or mixer I think it helps things not squeak and stick so much. Then take a glass of warmish water and just drizzle it in, again, while mixing, until you get dough forming. Let the breadmaker run through the dough setting / run the mixer with the dough hooks for 10 minutes or so / knead it with your hands until it is nice and stretchy and feels like a not-very-spongy bread dough. If you can, let it sit for half an hour or more, though you can roll them out right away if you’re in a hurry, they just might be a bit stickier to work with.

Take a golf ball sized lump of the dough and smash it down flat on a cutting board / rolling cloth / countertop and roll it flat. They always stick to my rolling pin, so I just roll it once or twice then peel it of the rolling pin and turn it 90 degrees and roll it again until it’s about hand sized. They will stick to each other, so stack with a tea towel between the individual flatbreads, or just roll them as you cook.

To cook, heat a frying pan that is lightly (lightly!) coated with cooking oil. Flop the flatbread in the pan, wait about 30 seconds, and flip. Wait 30 more seconds, then take it out and put it in a tortilla warmer (if you have one) or on a tea towel. You can keep them in the microwave wrapped in your tortilla warmer/tea towel, too (a microwave is a convenient place to keep things warm, being an insulated box with a handy dandy door).

If they’ve cooled off before meal time, reheat for about a minute in the microwave or set them in the oven on warm for a few minutes on a cookie sheet, spread out a little bit so the ones on the bottom don’t get too soft. You can also put them in the toaster (which is what I do when reheating leftovers the next day).

That’s it. Honest. Sure, you have to stand at the stove and flip the flatbreads, but I do it while setting the table or getting the last few things ready for supper. Put one in, put two plates on the table, flip it, put out two more, remove that one, put another one in, go back to the table… it works.

And all it takes is about 3 cups of flour and a bit of oil. Fresh, hot flatbreads for a whole lot less money than you’d pay at the store.

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