Saturday, November 7, 2009

Flatbreads, flat out

Have you ever gotten into baking bread? I mean, really worked at it, baked often, improved recipes, tried new techniques... When I was fifteen, I discovered focacia. And fell in love with it. I tried to follow pack mixes, I made loaves from scratch. I was hooked. So hooked, that when our kitchen was being renovated I needed to stop the builder from removing the oven from the wall as I had a focacia cooking inside. That could have been a tragic moment!

While I still enjoy a slice of focacia or two, I don't make it often now. Rather we bake bread for daily consumption. Stuff that can be sliced and placed into the toaster. Stuff that works as a sandwich. Stuff that is made for vegemite and butter.

But I still love a baking challenge. Not too long ago, I tried Martha Stewart's recipe for baguettes. This had some moderate success. I will also turn to How to be a Domestic Goddess when needing to create a yeasty produce. This recipe though, is from a faithful magazine. The Aussie success that is Delicious. I have no recollection of buying this particular magazine, although for a while I was receiving the second hand copies from my cooking sis Rach. I have used this particular issue often. It has been chewed by one of my hunry felines and chunks of the cover are missing. It contains the recipe inspiration for one of my favourite salads - rocket, boconccini, roasted capsicum and onions, olives, a citrus dressing! It has a pistachio and zucchini cake I long to bake. And it has these little babies.

These flatbreads are easy to prepare, perhaps a little fiddly to shape, but a rewarding bake. They are really not too much effort, and are far superior to the comercial versions from expensive delis. They only prove once, bake for less than 10 minutes and also keep for up to a week. The chilli flavour is subtle - add more if you are keen. But the subtleness makes these flatbreads versitile, ensuring they work work with most toppings.

Herb and Chilli Flatbreads

Makes 36 or so

1 tsp dried yeast

Pinch sugar

1 ¾ c. plain flour

2 tsp dried herbs – oregano, thyme, etc

2 red chillies, finely diced

½ tsp salt

Spray oil

In the bowl of your mixer, combine yeast, sugar ¼ c. flour and ¼ c. tepid water. Leave to sit and bubble for around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the remaining flour into a bowl. Add the herbs and chilli. Stir to combine. Attached the dough hook to your mixer, add the flour mix to the bubbling yeast. Stir on a low speed to combine somewhat. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium, slowly add around ½ c. more of tepid water, adding a little at a time. When the mixture is coming together as a dough, stop adding water. Beat the dough for three minutes or so, until deliciously soft and smooth. Remove the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel (or glad wrap if you use it), and leave in a warm spot to prove for an hour until doubled in size.

Ensure the oven is divided into thirds. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Line three trays with baking paper.

Punch down on the dough to deflate it. Divide into two pieces, and roll into logs. Cut slices off the logs around 5 mm in diameter. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pieces into little ovals of dough. Place onto the lined trays, around 12 ovals per tray. Repeat, using up all of the dough. If desired, spray the ovals with oil. I often forget to do this – in the pictures, the pieces are not golden brown as a result of my forgetfulness. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes, until cooked and beginning to golden. Rotate the trays in the oven after 4 minutes of cooking to ensure even browning.

Rest on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with a chunky dip, with a cream cheese spread on top or some other delicious topping. These little flatbreads will keep fresh for up to a week in an airtight container.

Adapted from Delicious Magazine February 2007.

They are also tasty with a gin and tonic (add a spritz of lime if you please) for afternoon tea.

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