Flatbreads – Easy, Economical and Versatile

Flatbread with onion, garlic, mushroom, baby potato, garlic, grated parm and truffle oil
Flatbreads are all the rage in Southern California.  Nearly every restaurant, pub and club has some kind of flatbread on the menu.  Why not?  Flatbreads are easy to make, economical on your budget, easy to eat as a finger food and so versatile.  You can come up with any number of flavor combinations.  And, closely related to a pizza, everyone loves them.  I always have flour and yeast on hand so it’s easy to whip one up for happy hour, or alongside salad or soup.
Last week, I had a wonderful flatbread at the Rolling Stone Restaurant and Lounge by Chef Chris Ennis with truffled enoki mushrooms, new potato, leeks, black garlic and cheese and it was delicious.  So of course, that made me want to create a flatbread to share with you.
Basic Flatbread Dough – by Debra Crawford
Creates two flatbread crusts – approximately 14″ x 10″ depending on thickness
2 1/2 Cups Bread Flour or a combination such as 1 1/2 Cup Bread Flour and 1 Cup Whole Wheat (which is what i used above)  You can use all purpose, but bread flour makes a chewier crust because it’s higher in gluten.
2 1/4 Teaspoons of dry yeast (that is one envelope) – Note, don’t use quick rise yeast, that is for bread machines
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
3/4 Cup hot water – you can run your tap and when the water is uncomfortably hot on your wrist, it’s likely around 110 – 115, the right temp.
Cornmeal to sprinkle on the pans (helps prevent dough from sticking and gives a little texture to crust)
If you have a standup mixer put the bread hook on.  It’s the attachment that looks like a question mark:)  Add flour, salt, sugar, and yeast to the bowl.  While mixing on slow, add the hot water and olive oil.  Mix on low until the dough accumulates around the hook.  See pic below.
Dough ready to knead
If you don’t have a mixer, get ready for an arm work out and mix by hand, preferrable with a wooden spoon.  Once the dough comes together proceed as follows.
You are ready to put the dough on a lightly floured bread board to knead.  Note – if you have granite tops, the board will likely slide around and be a pain in the butt.  You can remedy this with a piece of non-skid rubber, a wet washcloth or even a couple of wet paper towels. I don’t recommend kneading directly on the granite because it’s a cold surface and you want the dough warm for the yeast.
Begin kneading dough by folding it into itself and then pressing firmly with the heal of your hand.  This should be a slow, steady motion, kneading too vigorously will tear the glutens and make a tough dough.  Dough should become smooth and elastic in about 7 – 8 minutes.  If the dough sticks to the board, add a little more flour.
Done Kneading, Smooth and elastic
Kneading
Rub a little olive oil into a bowl, and turn the dough in the bowl so all sides are lightly oiled.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1/2 – 1 hour.  I generally start my oven at this point (400 degrees) and then put the dough bowl on top, so my dough general doubles in 1/2  hour or so.
Dough ready to roll
Once the dough is done rising, divide in half.  Don’t worry if it deflates!  Lightly flour your bread board and roll the dough out thin about 1/4″ for thin or a little thicker if you like a little more crust. Transfer to a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Top as desired and then do the same with the rest of the dough.
Bake at 400 approximately 20 – 30 minutes or until nicely golden brown.    Slice and serve
Suggested Toppings and Hints
Classic Flavors
Always brush the crust with olive oil or for an exotic flavor truffle oil, then top.  Lastly top with fresh ground pepper, a little sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil before baking.
The Classic – Brush olive oil on crust, then sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, garlic, fresh basil, grated parmesan.
Earthy mushroom and potato
The Good Earth – Brush with truffle oil, then top with thinly sliced onions, garlic, mushrooms, thin slices of baby potato, fresh thyme.  (I also put fresh tomato on this in the title picture above)
Dried Herb
Dry Herb Flatbread– Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with dried basil, oregano, parsley, and grated parmesan.  This was is really good to dip in a little good balsamic vinegar.  Yum!
Southwestern – Brush with olive oil, then top with chopped chipotle peppers, monterrey jack cheese, cilantro, onions, garlic.
The possibilities are endless.  Post some of your creations in the comment section to share!
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