Making Fast Flatbread

Making Fast Flatbread

Flatbreads bake in minutes. The dough need not be special because the crucial factors of making flatbread are how the loaf is rolled and the speed at which it bakes. To create the blistered surface and inflated pocket of a classic flatbread, roll the dough to no thicker than 1/4". At this thickness, most of the air bubbles in the dough are dispersed horizontally. When the flat loaf is laid on a hot surface, such as the floor of a preheated oven, or an inverted baking sheet, the bottom surface sets up instantly.

Air trapped in the dough expands, and all of the bubbles sitting side by side flow into one another, forming one big air pocket. The air pocket begins to grow, causing the still-flexible top of the loaf to separate from the bottom. This is the principle behind pita pockets.

Flatbread loaves are baked one or two at a time and then cooled and stacked. As they cool, the air pockets deflate and the breads become flat, but the pockets are still there, allowing each flatbread to be opened up into a vessel that can hold any number of fillings.

To make flatbread at home, divide 1 pound of bread dough into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. On a floured board, flatten the balls with your hands and roll with a rolling pin into flat rounds, approximately 8" in diameter and 1/8" thick. Place the flattened bread rounds on a lightly floured cloth. Cover this with another floured cloth and set in a warm spot to rest about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a baking sheet, upside down, in the oven and preheat for 5 minutes. Place one or two rounds at a time on the back of the hot, dry pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

The bread will swell in the middle and color lightly; do not overcook to reach a dark brown color. Remove from the oven and wrap in a clean cloth to keep moist. The swelling will disappear when the bread is removed from the oven. Continue with the remaining rounds.

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