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
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.
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.
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