Turkish Flatbread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    two

    loaves

Appears in

I tasted this bread at Alaysa, a Turkish restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, in 2002. At the back of the dining room there sits an immense wood-burning oven, and while we were having lunch we could see the bakers were all hard at work, dividing the risen dough and shaping the small disk-shaped loaves. As soon as a dozen or so were formed, they were arranged on a large wooden peel and went straight into the oven. One of the bakers told me that they normally make several thousand of these a day to supply their own restaurant and others in the neighborhood. Achieving the right texture of a light open crumb in the baked bread requires working with very soft dough. Don’t hesitate to flour the work surface or your hands to make handling the dough easier, but please resist the temptation to work more flour into the dough—it will toughen it.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons ( envelopes) active dry yeast
  • cups warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans dusted with cornmeal

Method

  1. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to combine.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water and whisk in the oil. Add the liquid to the food processor and pulse to form a soft dough. Let the machine run continuously for 10 seconds.
  3. Invert the food processor bowl over an oiled mixing bowl to turn out the dough. Carefully remove the blade and transfer any dough on it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Invert the rested dough to a floured work surface and use a bench scraper to fold the dough over on itself several times, as in the photographs. Return the folded dough to the oiled mixing bowl (you might have to oil it again first) and turn the dough over so that the top is also oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, depending on the temperature of the room.
  5. Invert the dough from the bowl to a floured work surface without deflating it too much. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Flour a 9-inch (23-cm) diameter cake cardboard or tart pan bottom and arrange one of the pieces of dough on it. Gently tug and press the dough into an 8- or 9-inch (20- to 23-cm) disk. Slide a metal spatula or long, thin-bladed knife under the dough to make sure it hasn’t stuck, then slide it from the cardboard onto one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  6. Dust the top of each bread lightly with flour, using no more than 1 teaspoon. Gently dimple the top of each with your fingertips at about -inch (4-cm) intervals, without pressing beyond the center of the bread. Cover each loaf with a towel or plastic wrap and allow them to rest until the dough starts to puff a little, about 20 minutes.
  7. After the breads are formed, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 450°F (230°C).
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, then switch the pan in the lower third of the oven to the upper third and vice versa, turning each pan from back to front at the same time. Bake until they are deep golden and firm-spongy to the touch, 10 to 15 additional minutes. Slide the breads from the pans onto racks to cool

Serving

These flatbreads, served in wedges, are a perfect accompaniment to Middle Eastern meze or hors d’oeuvres. Split and filled they make perfect sandwiches.

Storage

Keep the breads loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. Wrap in plastic and freeze for longer storage. Defrost the breads and reheat them at 375°F (190°C) for 7 to 8 minutes, then cool before serving.

Variations

Mixed-Grain Turkish Flatbread: For more deeply flavored bread, substitute ½ cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup whole grain rye flour for 1 cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour.

Sesame Turkish Flatbread: Omit the flour before dimpling the top of the bread. Quickly paint the top of each bread with water and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds immediately before baking.

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