Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lemon Basil Flatbreads

Flatbreads are great. You can eat them as wraps for sandwiches, or tear them up and use them as a vehicle for dips or to sop up gravy. Call them tortillas and fill them with spicy Mexican flavors, or call them pitas and fill them with lamb and tzaitzki.

If you make too many, cut them in triangles and put them in a low oven to get crispy, and you've got chips. What's not to love?

Better yet, they're easy to make. And fast. You don't need to let the dough rise until it's competely doubled, so these can be done in much less time than a traditional bread. I've made flatbreads with little more than a brief rest after kneading, and they've been just fine. I've also made flatbreads with dough that has rested in the refrigerator overnight. If I'm being completely honest, I have to say that I like them best when they're made fresh and eaten right away - I like the texture better. Of course, everyone's tastes differ, so try it yourself. Cook some right away and save the rest to cook the next day.

Wraps are nice on a hot summer day, filled with fresh, light ingredients. Even better on a hot summer day, you don't need to turn on the oven to make these. They can be cooked on a griddle or grill, or in a cast iron pan on the stovetop. I like using a comal because it doesn't have the high sides of a frying pan to deal with, but a frying pan works just as well. Or cook them on the grill outside.

Instead of making plain flatbreads, this time I decided to add some flavor. Lemon and basil play nicely together, and make the flatbreads more interesting on their own. They'd make a nice wrap for chicken, fish, pork...or do what I did and stuff one with grilled vegetables and top with a bit of Greek-style yogurt for a nice light lunch.

Lemon Basil Flatbreads

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
12 medium basil leaves, finely sliced (chiffonade)
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, and sugar, and set aside for 5 minutes, until it begins to get foamy.

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, basil, and flour, and salt, if using, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and beginning to become elastic.

Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the oil is incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the dough will have risen, but it won't be doubled. Take it out of the bowl, knead it briefly, and divide it into 12 roughly equal portions. They don't have to be exactly the same unless you're a perfectionist. I actually like the option of having some larger and some smaller.

Roll each portion into a ball as you would for buns, then flatten each one slightly. Cover them with a clean kitchen cloth so they don't dry out as you're working with them one at a time.

Assuming you're using a cast iron pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat while you start rolling the flatbreads. You don't need any oil - these are cooked in a dry pan.

On a lightly floured work surface roll the first flatbread to a 6-inch circle. It doesn't have to be exact, and it doesn't have to be a perfect circle. Brush off any excess flour and put the first flatbread in your frying pan. A little flour clinging to the flatbread is fine, but flour that falls off in the pan may burn so you want to remove as much as possible.

Start rolling the next flatbread while you're keeping an eye on the first. It will start forming bubbles and might puff up completely. It will take a minute or so to cook on the first side, depending on how hot your pan is. When the the bottom is lightly browned in spots but the bread is still completely soft and pliable, it's done on the first side.

Turn the bread over and cook on the second side for about 30 seconds or so. Again, you're looking for a few brown spots. If the bread is puffy, press it down with a spatula so the whole surface is contacting the pan. Press gently to deflate it, and watch out for escaping steam.

If you get a good rhythm going, you can have the next flatbread rolled when the first one is finished. If you have a large griddle, or if you're cooking them outdoors on your grill, you can cook two or three at a time. And here's another time saver. If you're cooking these on your grill, close the lid and they'll cook on both sides. No need for turning, unless you want more browning (or grill marks) on that second side.

Have a clean kitchen towel ready for your flatbreads. Put them on the towel and fold the sides over to cover them as they're done, and stack them up as you have more. They're best served right away, while they're still warm from cooking. If you want to reheat them later, just heat them briefly in your dry cast iron pan. A few seconds is all they'll need.

Note: I normally use salt in all my bread recipes, but I've been asked for some saltless ones. Since this doesn't need the salt to regulate the yeast, and since it's got the flavor punch of basil and lemon, this recipe is one that could work without the added salt. However, if you don't have salt issues, add it for the enhanced flavor.

This appeared on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Yeastspotting.


Katie@Cozydelicious said...

You make me want to jump up and go to the kitchen and make flatbread right now! Sounds so easy... why on earth do I ever buy them? I'll have to start making my own. These look wonderful, and I love the lemon here.

leeapeea said...

Can I do the kneading & mixing by hand or with a hand mixer? Which one would be better and should I make any adjustments in time? I don't have the luxury of having a stand mixer...

Donna Currie said...

Hi Leeapeea!

You can knead pretty much any bread by hand, since that's what we were all doing before we had all the fancy gadgets. I don't recommend using a hand mixer, unless yours is really heavy duty. Most of them can't handle bread dough very well. If you knead by hand, you just have to pay attention to the feel of the dough, and when it's smooth and elastic, you're there. If you get tired of kneading and it's not ready yet, you can let it rest for a while and the gluten will begin to develop on its own so you don't have to work as hard.

Honestly, it's not that hard, but after a run-in with a bad computer mouse, I can't do as much hand-kneading as I used to, so I rely on the machine a lot.

You can also do the kneading in a food processor, if you've got one. It takes a lot less time to get it elastic, but you do need to watch out that you aren't overheating the dough. I've got another post about flatbreads, and those instructions were written for the food processor.

Sweet Artichoke said...

Lemon and basil are a great addition to flat breads. I would love to eat one with some parmesan, tomatoes and pesto...

GALaxy said...

I made these without the basil, and although the lemon taste wasn't really that significant, I really loved the bread. I've been looking for an easy greek-type pita for so long, and I think this recipe is pretty close to perfect! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Tried these last night! They were so good and easy!! I LOVED not waiting forever for the dough to rise!

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