Leon flatbread

February 22, 2010

I know I’ve written about flatbread before, but when a friend who had borrowed Leon returned it I remembered that this was the flatbread recipe I always used, the one that never failed. It’s super-easy, which is generally what I like about flatbread anyway, but this one you could probably (except that I obviously didn’t) remember off by heart once you’d done it a few times. The ingredients are as follows: 500g of flour of your choice, 250ml of warm water, a sachet of yeast and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. You mix it all up and give it a quick in-bowl knead – no scraping dough bits off your worksurface! – then there’s just one proving stage and the breads cook in minutes. It’s completely non-daunting to the extent that, if you have friends coming round later, you might think, “oh, I’ll just whip up a batch of flatbread for us to eat warm from the griddle with some hummus”. Honestly, I know because I did last week, pre-pancakes. Then I made some more yesterday for lunch.

This makes quite a bready flatbread, if that makes sense. Although flat, it’s a relatively airy dough, like a bread duvet. You can’t wrap anything with it, but it’s a good solid dipping bread. The sprinkle of za’atar on top is a nice addition: I wrote about za’tar here, but if you don’t have any use herbs, spices or seeds of your choice, or just sea salt.

Flatbread  Makes 6

I generally use half white and half wholemeal flour for these – plain is fine, you don’t need bread flour. Yesterday I made them with half spelt flour, which was nice enough, but you couldn’t really tell so I think I’ll try upping the proportion next time.

500g flour
250ml warm water (hand-hot)
1 sachet instant active yeast
4 tbsp olive oil
sea salt
za’atar (optional, to sprinkle)

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. (If you have the kind of yeast you need to activate first, do that in the warm water beforehand.) Make a well in the flour and tip in the warm water and olive oil. Mix with one hand until it comes together into a ball of dough and then knead roughly with the heel of your hand until it’s smooth and well-behaved, adding more flour if necessary. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it to stand for an hour or two until well risen. It shouldn’t come to much harm if you leave it longer than that.

To cook the dough, you can either use a griddle pan or the oven. I always used the oven until last week, when having something else in there I was forced down the griddle route. Now I think I might prefer it: not only do you get the pretty stripes, but there’s less chance of forgetting about it. The downside is, you can cook more bread at once in the oven. OK, so, either heat your griddle pan or heat your oven to 220c and put it a couple of baking trays.

Take out the dough and shape it into 6 rounds. Roll each one out into a long pitta-shape, about half a centimetre thick. You may need to lightly flour your work surface. Sprinkle your desired toppings onto the shaped loaves and give them each another roll so the spices stick. Proceed by either cooking on the hot griddle pan for 3 minutes a side, or placing on  the preheated baking trays, lightly oiled, and cooking for the same amount of time in the oven.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Leon’.

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