Sunday, 7 April 2013

Flat Bread

We haven't baked so much bread around these parts in recent months. Our oven was replaced with a fan oven and it doesn't play ball when it comes to baking, or at least, we still haven't learnt how to use it effectively.

But these little beauties - we make these a lot.


When I came to university I came armed with three cookbooks - the first vegetarian cookbook I ever bought, the obligatory 'student' cookbook, and a sketchbook in which I had been collecting recipes, most never tested, since I was fifteen. I still have the sketchbook and I still haven't cooked most of the delights contained therein. There is a recipe however for Swedish Flat Bread, I don't know where I copied it from, but the original is not my own. I have made it many times and it has gradually become more refined - the original makes quite a stodgy tablet of rye bread. What student has rye flour to hand? Gradually, the quantities changed but the good stuff remained and this one has become my own, as much as a recipe ever can be, through use and experimentation and mishap.

A skillet cooked flat bread is the most frugal bread you can make. It is generally unleavened, though I have seen recipes made with yeast or even Bicarbonate of soda. Cooked for mere minutes on the hob, they are frugal in both money and time - and the oven can stay off in the heat of summer.

They seem to be common to all cultures too, made from a diverse variety of grains and with even more diverse spices added. To this basic recipe can be added almost any spice or herb that you want. You can add yoghurt, milk or beer in place of water, or sub in different flours or oils. They can be made into tortilla thin wraps or hearty slabs. I have done all of these things at one time or another, but I always come back to basics:

* * * * * *

Wholemeal Flat Bread (makes 4 large breads)

2 cups wholemeal strong bread flour
1 scant cup water
1/2 tbsp oil (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the salt, flour and oil together and gradually stir in the water to form a firm, slightly sticky dough.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes on an unfloured surface until it starts to feel soft and smooth. If it is still too sticky knead in a teaspoon or so extra flour.

Now flour your work surface. Split the dough into four and roll out the first ball very thinly into a round the size of your frying pan/skillet.

Cook on an ungreased skillet over medium heat for 1-1 1/2 minutes each side, pricking the surface with a fork to stop air pockets forming.

Repeat with the remaining dough portions.

* * * * * *

We serve these with soups in winter, as they can be made on the hob right alongside the stew. In summer (and spring days like today) they accompany salads, bean pate or cheeses and chutney. Sometimes I go crazy and tear them up into a salad. Regardless, they are best served straight away, but can be refreshed after a day or so by sprinkling with water and rewarming in the pan.

I am in the process of compiling the recipes I really want to pass on to our children - the things we eat regularly and the things that I feel they should be able to cook. This one I think everyone should be able to cook - one of humankind's staple foods, bread, in its simplest form. It is quite tasty, too.

2 comments:

  1. I love this sort of bread - I use the River Cottage recipe for mine - they are so quick and easy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are beautiful aren't they? I will dig out my River Cottage book and have a look.

      Next up, trying to cook them over a campfire!

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