Monday, March 28, 2011

Pane Carasau (Sardinian Flatbread)

One of the best things about living in Oakville was being able to walk to Boffo’s, where I could buy gorgeous handmade parchment breads in a variety of flavours – rosemary, thyme, parmesan, garlic, basil. These are gently salty, crisp and herby, and the mere idea of the hand labour that goes into mixing, rolling each bread paper thin and baking gave them a mystique that I couldn’t resist. I’ve wanted to learn to make them for years, but I was so sure they would be way too much work!
But they aren’t hard – they are in fact incredibly easy!

I understand this particular flatbread originates in Sardinia, and was eaten by shepherds. Not sure I care, really, as I am more concerned about whether such goodies are going to be eaten by me.

This recipe makes about 10 breads, 10-12 inches in diameter – if you roll them really, really thin. If you don’t have the patience to make them truly paper thin, make 8 breads instead.


1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
Chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme, basil, tarragon, parmesan, garlic etc)
3 oz hot water, from tap
a little pile of sea salt sea salt
olive oil

 Equipment: rolling pin, pizza stone, pastry brush, medium size mixing bowl

About the semolina, you can buy it in larger grocery stores – Loblaws usually has some. You can find it in the baking section, and it looks a lot like corn meal but not quite as coarse. You want Semolina, not semolina flour. Here’s the package:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a pizza stone or bread stone, or ceramic tile on the bottom rack. I have a soapstone stone left over from when my countertops were installed. If you just don’t have a stone, nest 2-3 same size cookie sheets, turn them over and use that instead. The stone will need about 20 minutes to heat up sufficiently, so remember to turn the oven on before you start.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, semolina, and water. Stir with a spoon to combine into a rough dough, but do not knead. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then cut into into 10 (or 8) equal sized wedges. Cover the wedges with a damp towel.

Sprinkle a little semolina and flour on your rolling surface. Flatten one of the wedges into a circles and roll it out as thin as you can. Paper thin is the goal! Keep the surface and rolling pin generously coated in flour and move the bread around so it doesn’t stick to the counter top. An ideal flatbread would have a 10-12 inch diameter.

When the bread is about 5 inches across, add a generous amount of sea salt and your herb (or parmesan). You’ll have to decide how salty and how herby you want the final breads to be, but don’t be shy with the flavourings.
Before you bake your first bread, turn down your oven to about 400.

Place the bread directly on the hot stone. If it wrinkles or folds, just straighten it. The dough is very easy to work with.

Bake for 2-3 minutes then flip over with tongs and bake for another 1-2 minutes. The breads should be a nice pale gold, and the colour does not need to be even.

Remove the flatbread, and place on cooling rack to cool (or, just eat it up to make sure you flavourings are adjusted correctly. I’ll bet you money you’ll increase both the herb and the salt on the second try).

Once you have your seasoning sorted, you can roll and prepare another flatbread in the time it takes to bake one. Once you get into a groove, you’ll be able to make about 20 breads in a hour.
These breads are terrific alone, or with dip. I really like white bean dip, squash dip, or hummous, but baba ganoush, bruschetta, or just about anything else is great. Or eat them plain, because they really are delicious, with a pleasantly wheaty flavour



  1. Boffo's reopened on Kerr in Oakville :)

    It's a nice little shop, smaller than what they use to have but really nice and they are still making their flat bread.

    They are on the west side of the street in case you are ever in the neighborhood!

  2. These look rather lovely....sometimes I like to make homemade tortillas....superb compared the grocery store version.