Q: Do you know how hard it can be to find a decent flatbread?
A: It’s pretty difficult. They’re either so overly-full of preservatives and additives to keep them pliable that their texture turns almost–weirdly–chalky, or the manufacturers think the right thing to do is coat them in some gooey spray oil, so you pull them out of the bag and immediately have to wipe off your fingers. Yuck.
Related Q: Do you know how easy it is to make a decent flatbread?
Related A: It’s actually quite easy.
To be fair, this is probably an Americanized version of the noble chapati and thanks to this and one other flatbread recipe I’ve played with in the past, I’m invested in learning more. Full revelation: I should have used whole wheat flour (and will next time), and I probably could have rolled it out a little bit thinner (note to self: walk the five feet to the pantry and grab the rolling pin). But. This is an easy jumping-off point into the world of flatbreads, full of basic technique with a delicious outcome, so start here and then see what else you can do.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup flour (feel free to use whole wheat flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or coriander or ground fennel or nigella)
- 2 teaspoons crushed garlic (2, 3, 4 cloves finely chopped, who’s counting?)
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons oil (olive oil has the best taste, but use what you have)
First, combine the flour, salt, cumin and garlic in a bowl.
Make a well with the flour mixture–this facilitates the liquids incorporating into the dry ingredients quickly and evenly, so you don’t get dry patches or lumps and end up overworking your dough in order to thoroughly mix it–and put in your water and oil.
Knead your dough for 2-3 minutes, until it is a beautiful, soft, cohesive ball.
Let your dough sit in a warm, draft-free place for about a half an hour. Before you go and panic: where could that be? Where can I put it? Yes, a cabinet will do nicely. But I like to put my dough in my oven (as long as I’m not using it, of course). You know it’s draft-free. It’s about as safe and untouched as it’s going to get. Bugs won’t get it, the cat won’t be able to get it. (As an aside, does anyone else have a cat that goes berserk over raw dough? No, just me? Okay.) Cover it with a lint-free cloth (a towel that isn’t terry cloth, or a cloth napkin) and leave it alone for the next thirty minutes.
Divide your dough in quarters and roll out a ball until it’s nice and thin. Don’t try and cut corners (like I did) and stretch them flat with your hand, because it won’t get it quite as thin as they should be. Once you have a nice flat disc of dough, put it in a hot pan. It’s important to remember that you’re not frying the bread; you’re going to let the oil you’ve already added to the dough be your browning agent, so don’t put any oil in the pan.
The first side will probably take two minutes or so to cook. You’ll see that the dough will look less “wet” on the side facing up. The cooked side should have some lovely charring from the pan, which is perfect. Flip it and cook it for another minute or so, until you’ve got charring on the other side as well.
Traditionally, these are coated in some kind of butter or ghee as soon as they’re cooked, but since I was planning to serve them with a curry with a lovely sauce, I figured I could hold off on the butter. They were wonderful. Chewy and dense and crisp all at once, they brought a starch to the table that was thoughtful and fun. And easy. I cooked them while I was cooking the rest of my dinner, so they barely added any time to my cooking at all.
Happy flatbreads! Let me know how you like it.