If I had to choose my fondest food-related memory from my childhood, it would have to be watching my Sicilian nonni making sourdough bread in their backyard in suburban Sydney. Their ‘bakery’ was basically an extremely well-equipped garage (!) for making delicious handmade loaves. There were sacks of flour, dough scrapers, an oven peel, a kneading trough, a woodfired oven and a starter from their hometown lovingly kept alive by my nonna.
My brother and I were often impatient for the loaves in the oven to be ready. Our tummies just rumbled at the idea of dipping warm and freshly-baked loaves in passata, olive oil and oregano. To offset our anticipation and hunger, our grandparents would make us these wonderful pita-like flatbreads they called cuzzoli on the barbecue. The great thing about these cuzzoli was that they could be prepared and consumed very quickly. Munching on these definitely made the waiting game for the oven-baking loaves a lot easier!
A few years ago, my interest in bread was renewed thanks to a project I did with my pre-school classes about bread-making and The Little Red Hen. One recipe that I have always come back to since this rediscovery of homemade bread is for stovetop pan-baked wholemeal flatbreads. These are very similar to my nonni’s barbecue-baked cuzzoli. Preparing them is relatively easy as they don’t require much elaborate shaping, proofing and oven-baking like many other breads. Moreover, as someone who loves to fare la scarpetta[i], I’ve found that these flatbreads make wonderful dippers!
Here is how I made my pan-baked flatbreads today:
Ingredients (makes about 8 flatbreads)
- 250 g strong bread flour
- 250 g wholemeal flour
- 330 g water
- 12 g salt
- 7 g active dried yeast
- Pour water in mixing bowl and dissolve active dried yeast.
- Add flour and salt. Knead until dough is nice an d smooth.
- Cover mixing bowl with a damp tea-towel and leave dough to rise until doubled in size.
- Divide dough into 8 balls.
- On a clean and flour-dusted working surface, roll each ball into a thin circle with a diameter of about 15 cm. Use rolling pin if necessary.
- Heat pan on stovetop. Lay first flatbread in pan when hot.
- Allow flatbreadto cook in pan for about half a minute. Bubbles should start to appear at this point.
- Flip the flatbread over when it is slightly browned and has a few dark spots.
- Cook on the other side for another 30 seconds. The bubbles should get bigger.
- Flip flatbread again. The flatbread should puff up again.
- If you want your flatbread to have more colour, flip it over a couple more times.
- Remove flatbread from pan.
- Keep flatbread in a warm tea towel while you cook the rest of your batch. Once they are all ready, serve immediately.
[i] In Italian, fare la scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.