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Practicing the basics: flatbread

Flatbread is a very simple bread that we don’t intend to rise much, so it contains just a bit of yeast and it can be made very quickly. There are many kinds of flatbread; in fact, most cuisines contain at least one (pizza, naan, pita, tortillas, pancakes, etc.)

This recipe is for a Mediterranean style flatbread, not too different from thin-crust pizza. It provides lots of opportunities for experimenting with toppings.

Suggested reading:

Makes about 8 servings. Time required: 2 hours 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water (around 100-105 degrees F)
  • 3 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. za’atar spice mix

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl. This is a classic recipe direction to combine the dry ingredients together first, then the wet ingredients together, then bring them all together.

Add the warm water and stir until it forms a wet dough. Wet is fine for now — it will absorb more water as it rests.

Cover the bowl and let dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours. It won’t rise much; there is no added sugar to feed the yeast, and for that matter there isn’t much yeast. But it will develop a bit of flavor, and the flour will absorb more water.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Flatbreads are usually baked quickly at high temperatures.

Place 1 tsp of olive oil on a quarter-sheet baking pan. Using a paper towel, wipe it around to lightly coat the entire inner surface. You could use non-stick spray, but it tends to leave a residue on baking pans anywhere that the food doesn’t touch.

Move dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times, sprinkling with flour if still sticky. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. The dough might still be a bit wet, but a little flour sprinkled on will take care of that. The additional 5 minutes of rest will let the gluten relax a bit in preparation for the next step.

Move the dough to the baking pan, and stretch it out by pushing with your fingers until it almost entirely fills the pan. Make sure it is a consistent thickness. If the dough starts resisting, let it sit for a few minutes before trying again.

Brush the remaining 2 tsp. of olive oil onto the dough, making sure that it doesn’t pool anywhere. You want a nice, thin, shiny layer across the entire top.

Sprinkle the za’atar spice across the top of the dough.

Bake at 550 degrees until crisp and edges begin to brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for at least 5 minutes, then slice into portions. Serve warm.

Tips and suggestions:

  • Substitute your own mix of herbs and spices for the za’atar. It’s kind of hard to go wrong.
  • Anything you might put on a pizza you can put on this flatbread — just be careful about toppings burning in a 500 degree oven.