Flat out of cheap, fast, and healthy menu ideas? I'll tell you how to make flatbreads. They're fun, use less flour, and make it easy to pile on the vegetables and fresh ingredients! See two flatbread recipes.
Pita, naan, tortilla, puri, roti, focaccia, lafah, appam, cong yu bing, chapati, dosa, paratha, mana’eesh, lavash, fatir, yufka, injera, blini, socca . . . Some variety of flatbread appears in nearly every ancient and modern cuisine around the world.
It’s easy enough to understand the ubiquity of flatbreads:
They use a minimum of ingredients: flour, water, perhaps a pinch of salt. The more elaborate ones might add leavening, a little oil, maybe an egg.
They don’t need elaborate kitchen equipment, just a container for mixing and a heating surface.
They often serve as the main or only eating utensil, too, with the rest of the meal scooped on top, rolled up or stuffed inside.
They’re traditionally made from grains or other dry seeds that have a long storage life and can be freshly ground before using.
Because they’re thin, flatbreads themselves keep longer than moist, risen loaves.
Furthermore, nothing beats their versatility as a scaffold for meals, snacks, or lunchboxes. Consider:
Cooks can lay out a variety of herbs, sauces, cheeses, cooked beans, veggies, or other ingredients for slathering/topping, rolling up inside, or stuffing a flatbread, allowing people to choose what suits them best. Great for families with picky eaters. Great for buffets, picnics, and potlucks.
You can serve flatbreads hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as an entree (burritos, tacos, enchiladas, gyros, falafel-stuffed pitas) or a side.
You can cut them up and double-bake or fry them until they become crisp, then use them as crackers.
Stuffed or rolled up, flatbreads don’t get as soggy as slices of loaf breads when tucked into lunchboxes or backpacks. Pack sauces or dressings separately in small, airtight, plastic containers.
Although most supermarkets sell many kinds of flatbread, scratch cooks can make a big batch at home and freeze what they don’t use right away—a dozen flatbreads don’t take much room in the freezer.
Flatbreads come in two basic types: those rolled from a stiff dough, and those made from a thin, pourable batter. Here’s one basic recipe for each.
1. Whole-Grain Flatbread Recipe
2 cups warm water
1 T. yeast
½ T. salt
enough whole wheat flour to make a stiff dough
Optional: Replace some of the wheat flour with other flours, ground flax seed, chickpea flour, ground nuts, or seeds (sesame, poppy, fennel, etc.).
Cover with damp towel and allow to rise in warm place for two hours or more
Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat
Roll two-to-four-inch diameter balls of dough into very thin rounds. Plop rounds onto hot skillet, cook on one side until bubbles form on surface; flip over and cook another minute or so. Alternatively, bake on a cookie sheet or pizza pan at 450º until surface bubbles and browns slightly. Cool on wire rack.
2. Socca (Chickpea Pancakes) Recipe
This flatbread recipe is high fiber, high protein, and also gluten-free
1 cup chickpea flour (I grind whole chickpeas and other hard seeds in a dedicated electric coffee grinder.)
1 cup water
½ t. salt
2 or 3 T. olive oil
½ t. black pepper, cumin, or rosemary
chopped, sauteed onion
Mix ingredients well to eliminate lumps. Cover bowl and let batter sit for 2-12 hours.
A few minutes before cooking, put a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or pizza pan in the oven and heat to 450º. Alternatively, heat a skillet over a high flame.
Pour a thin layer of batter into sizzling hot pan. Bake (finish off with a minute of broiling) or pan-bake until well-browned and crispy around the edges. Best served hot, with toppings of your choice.