Way back in 2006, I became a devotée of no-knead bread, popularized by Mark Bittman in a classic article. There are two secrets to this manna from heaven. First, you use only a tiny bit of yeast and let the dough sit for a long time so that it slowly ferments. Second, you put it in a Dutch oven so that the steam creates a gorgeous crust. It’s the best homemade bread I’ve ever had. Something of a religious experience.
I have great compassion for those who suffer from gluten intolerance. I would be a very unhappy bunny without those elastic molecules of protein that interact with yeast to give good bread its special texture: light and full of bubbles, yet chewy and substantial. Yes, this was the true secret of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter, goddess of grain: sour dough in moist heat is transfigured into a life-sustaining and most pleasurable meal.
My problem is that I often don’t remember to put up the dough the night before. The other day I wondered whether I could make a “halfway” version of the recipe and use it for flatbread. I mixed the dough in the mid-morning, and let it sit until time to make dinner. By then it had the nice bubbly surface and yeasty scent that indicated plenty of fermentation. The texture was moist, even wet, but not shaggy. Instead the gluten in the dough had developed, making it springy and glossy. I dumped it out on an oiled pan, flattened it, added toppings, and slid it in a hot oven. It made a fragrant bread, puffy around the edges and thinner in the middle.
Lazy Woman’s Flatbread
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 cup plus 1/4 cup water
small pinch of salt
grated cheeses (I used my odds and ends, about four 1-inch cubes)
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
rosemary, about 1/4 cup leaves loosely packed
In the morning, mix the flour with the yeast and salt. Add 1 cup water and stir. Keep adding the 1/4 cup slowly until the dough is fully moistened; you may need slightly more or less water. Scrape it together into a ball and cover loosely with plastic wrap topped by a tea towel. Allow to sit in a room-temperature spot until it’s time to make dinner.
When you check on the dough 8-9 hours later (the longer, the better), it should have leveled off in the bowl and produced lots of bubbles on the surface. There will be a delicious yeasty scent. Take a sheet or jelly roll pan and film it generously with olive oil, then dump out the wet dough and flatten it into a large rectangle with oiled hands. Top with the garlic, the rosemary and finally the cheese.
Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes, keeping an eye on things, or until the cheese is toasted and the crust golden.
- Breaking Ground and Breaking Bread: A Tradition 30,000 Years in the Making (kitchenexcavation.wordpress.com)