Week Twenty-Seven: Try It Again, This Time With Feeling.
Okay, I am apparently denied the great virtue of impeccably turning out one of these breads. Perhaps you remember, but I crucially neglected to use a nonstick pan the first time around. Oh yes, it stuck. With a vengeance.
This time, there would be none of that! No siree, I got out my lovely little cast iron skillet, made sure it was nicely oiled, and made gosh darn sure it was hot before pouring the batter in. I waited until the sides of the bread pulled away from the pan, and the top was well-browned, ran a knife around the edge (just to make certain!), and inverted the pan onto the cutting board. Result?
A minute or so of pan-scraping and teeth-grinding later, this is what I got:
Argh! It stuck! But why? How? Didn’t I do everything right?
And then I cut into it, because I was too hungry to put it back in the oven; besides, the bottom was already ruined. And, well, there was my mistake right there: it was not totally cooked in the middle.
The original recipe for this bread said that it would release easily from the pan when fully cooked. When I turned it upside down and nothing happened, I should’ve known better. I should’ve put it right back in the oven, and waited another 10 minutes. But noooooo, I had to go ahead and cut it right then. Ah, folly.
But the flavor of this bread was just as good as the time before, if a little, uh, runnier. The heavenly scent of freshly-ground cumin, coriander, pepper, and cardamom hung all around, and the sweetness of roasted cauliflower pervaded through each bite. I just love curry with cauliflower, and this bread delivers it in spades. The edges (crust?) of the bread were wonderfully crisp, but they concealed a soft surprise underneath.
I said this bread was underdone in the middle, which it most certainly was. But it was actually rather nice! It came across like more of a quiche-type thing, encased in a bready shell. It was almost custardy, in the best possible way. So as a bread, it was a decided failure (again, I know!), but as dinner, it was superb, especially with a dab of homemade yogurt on top.
One problem in this case is my cast iron pan. Oh, it’s lovely, and gets the job done, but it’s a touch on the small side. It’s barely nine inches across; perfect for cornbread, but makes a too-thick “flatbread” in this case. By the time the outside edges were cooked, the middle still hadn’t had a chance to fully bake. If you have a bigger cast iron pan, and it’s well-seasoned, use it! If not, I highly suggest dividing the batter into halves, and baking in batches, for a flatter bread. Or you could even use a couple of oiled and parchment-lined cake pans – that might work even better! In any case, if it starts to over-brown on the outside before the middle is baked, cover with aluminum foil and keep baking until the middle is done.
The moral of the story is this: calling this a bread is somewhat suspect, if it’s not very thin. Curry and cauliflower are best friends. Sometimes, undercooked bread is quite lovely. Use a nonstick pan.
Curried Cauliflower Flatbread
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Makes 1 round
1 medium cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), cut into very small florets
4 tablespoons vegetable oil of any sort
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour (see note 1 below)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon curry powder (see note 2 below)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (regular or light)
1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Prepare cauliflower and place in a baking pan or shallow roasting dish. Toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss again, and roast for 15 to 25 minutes, or until quite soft and well-browned, stirring occasionally to cook all florets evenly.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt, and curry powder together. Add the milk and coconut milk, and whisk until smooth. The batter should resemble pancake batter. Set aside.
3. When the cauliflower is done, let cool for around 5 minutes. While cauliflower cools, pour the remaining oil into a nonstick, ovenproof pan or skillet, and place in the oven to heat. While the pan heats, stir the cauliflower into the batter until just incorporated.
4. When the pan and oil are hot, but before the oil smokes, remove from the oven. Carefully pour the batter into the hot pan and smooth the top into an even layer with a heatproof spatula. Return the skillet to the oven. Bake at 400º F for about 1 hour, or until well-browned and firm when pressed lightly in the center. The bread should release easily when done. Let the bread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing. Cut into wedges and serve warm.
1. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, you can substitute a mixture of 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) regular whole wheat flour with 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) bread or all-purpose flour.
2. Instead of a pre-mixed curry powder, you can use the following combination to grind your own: 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 or 4 cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the above ingredients for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking the pan often. Do not let get over-brown. Cool slightly, and grind with a mortar and pestle, or in a coffee grinder. In the same pan over medium heat, toast 2 teaspoons ground turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon paprika for about 2 minutes or until a bit darker in color and very fragrant, shaking the pan often. Combine with the other ground spices, and use as directed.
3. Did I mention that it’s important to use a nonstick pan? Use a nonstick pan. Cast iron is best.