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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bread - Day One: Flatbreads and Crisp Breads

Breads - Day One

Flatbreads and Crisp Breads

Baked 07.07.14

It's bread week! And what better place to start than with flatbreads and crisp breads, a few of the oldest forms of bread seen around the world. 

These very basic breads are made from nearly identical doughs - simple combinations of flour, water, yeast, oil and salt.  The unique characteristics of each come from slight variations in how the bread is proofed (allowed to rise) and baked.

Flatbreads and Crisp Breads:
  • Ligurian Focaccia
  • Habibi Pita
  • Middle Eastern Flatbread
  • Grissini Breadsticks

Flatbreads and Crisp Breads

Ligurian Focaccia

What is a "Focaccia"? It would seem that is a subject of some debate.

Some are very thin, crispy flatbreads made from pizza dough that is covered in oil and salt, then baked in extremely hot pizza ovens. 

The Ligurian Focaccia is a thicker variety made from an olive-oil enriched dough that is tender, rich and full of flavor. In addition to a generous amount of oil and salt, the Ligurian Focaccia is commonly topped with olives, onions, sun dried tomatoes, potatoes and rosemary.

I topped mine with onions, rosemary and potatoes. The potatoes were a great addition - cut razor thin, they crisped nicely as the focaccia baked.

Ligurian Focaccia with Rosemary, Onion and Potato

Habibi Pita

Pita is a Middle Eastern bread widely recognized for its flat disk shape and hollow "pocket".

The bread is formed from small balls of yeast dough which are rolled into flat disks. The disks are allowed to proof briefly and are then baked on a baking stone for just a couple of minutes in high heat. The high heat causes the moisture inside the dough to evaporate quickly, and the bread inflates like a balloon. When the bread cools, the hollow interior becomes the characteristic pocket.

Half of my Pita were pocket-perfection - they puffed up immediately on the hot stone. However, several Pita were in a cooler corner of the oven and never inflated. They were tasty, but sadly they will be forever pocketless. 

Habibi Pita

Middle Eastern Flatbread

These distinctive, sesame seed covered loaves once again start with a simple yeast dough. 

The loaves are formed by repeatedly pulling the outer edge of the briefly-proofed dough up and over the center of the loaf. The bread is allowed to rise a second time before it is dimpled (fingers pressed into the surface of the bread) and sprayed with water before baking.

The final product is thicker and more hearty than Pita, but it is not as rich as an oil-infused focaccia.

Middle Eastern Flatbread

Grissini Breadsticks

Who hasn't encountered these Italian restaurant favorites on a multitude of occasions, a mindless snack while you wait for your entree? 

The breadsticks are formed by hand-rolling dough into long, straight ropes (although you can have a little fun forming different shapes or, as I did, make a few braided sticks). The distinctive crunch is achieved by baking the bread at a lower temperature (approximately 325 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the 450 degrees used for Pita) for up to 20 minutes. This process slowly removes the moisture from the dough without burning the exterior.

Grissini Breadsticks

In the end, a successful first day. And to avoid killing myself too quickly with carbs, seeing as there are four more days ahead of me, I decided to have a little salad for lunch. Granted, I shoved it inside one of the pitas!

Salad Filled Pita and Focaccia

Bread Week in Review:

  • Day One - Flatbreads and Crisp Breads
    • Ligurian Focaccia 
    • Habini Pita
    • Middle Eastern Flatbread
    • Grissini Breadsticks
  • Day Two - "One Step" Breads
    • White & Whole Wheat Bread
    • Golden Sandwich Bread
    • Old-Fashioned Raisin Bread
    • Pain de Mie (French Sandwich Bread / Pullman Loaf)
  • Day Three - Rolls and Individual Breads
    • Bagels
    • Sicilian Sesame Rolls (Muffuletta Rolls)
    • Pretzel Rolls
    • English Muffins
  • Day Four - Pre-Fermented Breads
    • Ciabatta
    • Tuscan Olive Bread
    • Challah
    • Zopf (Swiss Braided Bread)
  • Day Five - Whole Grain Breads:
    • Deli Rye
    • American Pumpernickel
    • Semolina
    • Spelt & Caraway

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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