recipe

Credit: Photography: Earl Carter

Homemade flatbread

This is a recipe I’ve had for many years – so long that I can’t remember where it comes from. It’s a leavened bread that should be used for mopping up sauce, rather than as a wrap. We make it in the restaurant, grilled to order on both sides and served with a homemade curd cheese. We use a fromage blanc, but a hung yoghurt such as labne is easier to make and could work just as well.

The dough is made in the afternoon, rolled out and placed in the fridge. The cold inhibits the yeast and slows down the proving process. If you need to make the dough ahead of time, it can last this way in the fridge for an afternoon. If you roll it out straight away and leave it at room temperature, it will prove in about half an hour. If you were going to cook the flatbread ahead of time, it should last for a few hours in a basket with a damp cloth on top to keep it fresh.

An optional technique, which we employ in the restaurant, is brushing the flatbread liberally with garlic butter as it comes off the grill. You could also use olive oil. It would be healthier to leave out this step, but nowhere near as delicious. This recipe is also a great basis for pizza-like toppings. The dough itself is different to a pizza base. The finished product is softer and more giving. This is to do with how the dough is made, and the temperature at which it is cooked.

Here the dough is topped with spinach and right at the last moment an egg is cracked on top as a fortifying measure. The flatbread is cooked on only one side, like a pizza. I would be equally happy to lay some rashers of thinly sliced pancetta on the dough as it is cooking.

Another thing I love to do is take a disc of the dough, cover it with spinach and a soft cheese such as mascarpone, and fold it over to make a sort of calzone before cooking.

 

Grilled flatbread

Serves 4-6

– 5g dry yeast
– 2g sugar
– 200ml tepid water (36ºC)
– 310g baker’s flour
– 2g sea salt, or a good pinch
– 100g soft butter
– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on a microplane or chopped finely 

In a large bowl or mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and water and let it sit for five minutes to activate the yeast.

Sift the flour into the wet mixture and add the salt, mix on medium speed or knead by hand for 10 minutes. Transfer the mix to a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave somewhere warm to prove.

Let the dough rise to about twice the size and then knock it back using your knuckles to remove the air created after the first prove. Divide the mixture evenly into four to six balls. Place the dough balls onto an oiled tray, cover with cling wrap and leave to rise again.

While the balls are proving, take the butter, gently whip through the garlic and set aside.

Once the dough has risen, gently roll out with a pinch of flour and lay on a tray in the fridge for half an hour. In a heavy-based frying pan, gently grill the bread over a moderate heat until golden and puffed, then flip and cook on the other side. Brush with plenty of garlic butter and season with salt. Serve either whole, torn, or cut at the table.

 

Flatbread, spinach, parmesan and egg

Serves 4

– 2 bunches of English spinach, picked and washed
– 100ml good-quality extra virgin olive oil
– pinch of salt
– flatbread (see recipe above)
– 8 eggs
– 120g grana padano parmesan or other good-quality hard cheese
– zest of 1 lemon
– espelette pepper or dried chilli, optional

Preheat your oven to 190ºC.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Pick, wash and clean the spinach, then blanch in the boiling water for one minute. Refresh the cooked spinach in ice-water and wring to remove as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop the spinach and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt in a small mixing bowl.

Roll the dough balls out onto a flat baking paper-lined tray – round or rectangle shape is fine. Brush with olive oil and arrange the seasoned spinach evenly over the four flatbreads, trying to create little wells for the eggs to be cracked into. Crack two eggs onto each bread and gently coerce them using the back of a spoon. Season with a touch of salt and put them into the heated oven.

Cook for about 10-12 minutes and check. Once the whites are cooked and the yolks are still slightly wobbly, remove from the oven. With a peeler, finely shave the parmesan over the top so it falls over the breads. Season with salt, lemon zest, espellete and a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 16, 2016 as "Kneads-based flatbread". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.