Last weekend, while enjoying a lovely home-cooked meal at a friend’s house, I found what I’ll likely refer to as my favorite bread recipe for the next year or so. She served this lovely flatbread with feta cheese and wine on her back porch, and after my first bite, I basically pointed to the bread and asked how I could make it happen in my kitchen. Happily, it’s super-easy, and I’m including it here for experienced bread-bakers and yeast-o-phobes alike.
I’ve been meaning to try making flatbread ever since stumbling across Mark Bittman’s whole-wheat take on it several months ago. My friend’s recipe comes courtesy of the excellent cooking blog Smitten Kitchen, courtesy of Gourmet magazine, and I doctored it only slightly, using half whole-wheat flour in place of the white flour. I can confirm that both versions were totally terrific.
Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which adapted it from Gourmet, July 2008
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I subbed a cup of whole-wheat flour for some of this, and it turned out great)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.
Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.
Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper (I used tinfoil, and it turned out fine) into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).
Lightly brush top with additional oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment (do not oil or salt until just before baking). Break into pieces.
Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
I enjoyed mine slathered with a soft cheese called “quark,” which I purchased at the Takoma Park farmer’s market last weekend. The placard advertising the cheese said it’s a traditional, European farmhouse cheese that many Europeans ate daily for its supposed health benefits. That’s why I ate it—for health.
In other news, I will never again joke that my primary goal for the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim is, “don’t die,” after reading that a swimmer did, in fact, die in the water that day. Check out the full report in The (Easton, Md.) Star Democrat (ironically, the first paper I worked for), and the Washington Post obituary—I got the chills reading both, and have been thinking about C. Grahame Rice and his family ever since.