Flatbreads have been used for centuries in a multitude of culinary cuisine, and with a variety of types of flatbread, it’s a versatile addition to any restaurant. In fact, its roots date back to ancient Mesopotamia where Sumerians discovered that you could roll minimal ingredients into a paste and bake it into a flat, hardened bread product! The simplicity of a flatbread lies in its typical ingredients: flour, water, and salt. The bread can be rolled into a flat dough and be either unleavened or slightly leavened like a pita bread. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start to add in other ingredients to give it your own flare! For instance, an Italian joint may want to add oils and herbs while a Mexican or Spanish restaurant may consider adding jalepenos or chili powder.
With so many types of flatbreads to choose from, let’s first get a grasp on one standard recipe to get us started! This one comes from Cooking Thin on The Food Network Channel:
1 package active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3/4 cup water (might need more)
1 teaspoon oil
In the bowl of a food processor combine the yeast, sugar, flour, salt and thyme. Pulse to combine. Add the water in a steady stream until the dough begins to form a ball, turn it on to a board and knead with the heel of your hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Coat a bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Put in a warm spot to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough, scrape it onto the counter and knead it lightly into a smooth ball. Cut into 20 pieces and with a rolling pin roll out to form very flat 5 to 6-inch circles.
Preheat a stove top grill pan over medium high. Do not oil. Place bread on hot grill and cook without touching it until you see bubbles on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until bread has puffed up. Serve immediately.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to start looking at variations that could pertain to your restaurant’s theme and enhance your menu!
Nan - A flatbread with Afghan origins
Focaccia - A slightly leavened Italian bread typically topped with herbs
Pita - Graecian in origin, pita bread has a hollow pocket in the center, great for filling with sandwich materials!
Matzo - White plain flower and water comprises this simple Israeli bread
Arepa - A flat, unleavened patty made with cornmeal, typically seen in Mexican establishments
Tortilla - A necessity in any Mexican restaurant!