Week Forty-Seven: Miscellaneous International Breads
[Apologies for delays in posting yesterday and today; extenuating circumstances have prevented it. Further delays this week are probable, but I am still cooking, and will update as I am able!]
Today’s bread isn’t an international bread as such, as the recipe comes originally from a restaurant in the middle of Indiana (a Lebanese one, but still); however, it does give a nod to the myriad flatbreads made in the Middle East and into South Asia. The variety of these breads is really staggering; each small change of ingredients, each subtle shift of proportions, each different shaping and cooking method produces a new creation, and each one with an entirely new name.
The recipe below bears the nondescript title of Grill Bread. It was accurately described as a “rustic tortilla”, and I intended for it to stand in as a sort of EveryFlatbread. It doesn’t particularly resemble any specific flatbread that I know of, but neither is it a wholly new creation. The result that I got was respectable enough, but I did have to fiddle with the recipe quite a bit to get even that middling of a review.
Made as written, the dough was extremely crumbly and dry; it was clear that such a thing would never produce the promised “better-than-pita” texture. After adding extra moisture, I had a workable texture, but the dough was still finicky. It was hard to roll out smoothly, cracking at the edges, and drying out easily.
I’m assuming that the original recipe has a small mistake in it, either from a mathematical error in scaling down the measurements, or from willful omission to ensure return visitors to the restaurant. I prefer to think it’s the former; but the outcome was no less disappointing because of that.
This bread was just fine when warm, but after cooling, it became a bit grainy and dry on the tongue. The flavor was appropriately mild, as the bread is intended to be served with more substantial and highly-seasoned foods. Unfortunately, that pleasant mildness turned sawdusty after a few hours.
Ultimately, this recipe could be salvaged with some tweaking. But is it worth it? I think my previous successes with the sort of flatbreads I intended to give homage to today provide a clear answer: if you have a working recipe for a similar bread, use it instead. Maybe let George handle this bread.
Adapted from George’s Downtown Café, Terre Haute, IN, via Gourmet Magazine
Makes ten 6 inch breads
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) white whole wheat flour (see note 2 below)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. In a bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, and yeast. Combine the water, oil, and egg, then stir into the flour mixture until a rough dough forms. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Sprinkling with enough flour to prevent sticking, knead until all ingredients are moistened, about 2 minutes (dough may not necessarily be smooth). Shape dough into a ball, and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rest on the counter for 10 to 30 minutes.
2. Divide dough into 10 even pieces. Shape each into a ball, and flatten slightly. Cover again, and let rest another 10 to 30 minutes.
3. Keeping unused pieces covered, roll out each piece into a 6 inch round (less than 1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.
4. Preheat a heavy skillet or grill pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until just until beginning to smoke. Reduce heat slightly, and cook one piece to test the temperature. Bread should cook 1 minute on each side, and have slight char marks. Adjusting temperature as needed, cook remaining pieces of dough, 1 or 2 at at time, until all are cooked. Wrap cooked breads in a napkin or non-terry-cloth kitchen towel to keep soft and warm. Breads are best served as soon as possible.
1. Bread can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat loosely wrapped in foil in a 350° F oven until heated through.
2. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, you can substitute an equal mixture of all-purpose and regular whole wheat flours.
3. If you have a proper grill, by all means use it instead of the grill pan or skillet.