We got hit with a day of nearly 100-degree temperatures. The second floor of our house, with its fashionable skylights, is heating up way faster than even the most valiant air conditioner can combat. Temperature up there (where my office is) hit somewhere in the mid-80s this afternoon.
A brief rain just before dinner cooled nothing off, but left it even more humid. We’re expecting temperatures in the 90s for a good week. And it’s not even July yet.
Global Warming? Climate Change? Don’t be ridiculous, Fellow FoodBeest. They just moved Texas up to Illinois when we weren’t looking.
So when it’s too hot to cook there are a few options:
Eat raw. Fruits. Cold soups. Salads.
And so that’s what we did.
I had been looking at grilled flatbreads for a while and today was the day.
They’re great because they’re so versatile, quick to cook and easy to eat.
Here’s what I learned
• Make the crust really thin, Fellow FoodBeest. The old saw that you can’t be too thin is true here. You want a cracker consistency; nothing chewy.
• Cook ‘em until they are seared but not burnt. It’s a fine line. You want crispy; not charcoal.
• Top ‘em with whatever you like. And then be creative. You want — you want whatever you like.
What It Takes to Make Grilled Flatbread
1 packet dry yeast, (1/4 oz)
½ C lukewarm water
3½ C unbleached flour
1¼ t salt
1 t sugar
1 C lukewarm water
How To Make Grilled Flatbread
Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water, add sugar, stir and let stand for 10 minutes until it gets frothy.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt, mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Make a well, add the yeasty water and about half the additional water; mix and gradually add more water a few tablespoons at a time using a rubber spatula (it can be very sticky until well mixed) until firm and elastic and just a little sticky to touch.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead for 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 2-3 hours. I put it in an unused, unheated oven for most of the afternoon.
The dough will nearly double in size. Punch it down, knead it lightly, roll it out into a rope and then pinch off handfuls to form into balls about the size of tangerines—somewhere between a ping-pong ball and a tennis ball.
Place balls on a lightly floured surface a few inches apart, cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. They will increase in size again.
On your lightly floured working surface, squash a ball flat and round with your hand and then roll it out, flipping and turning it until it is a round of the desired thickness: less than 1/4 inch thick and about 5 inches across. Unevenly and oddly shaped is good here. Think rustic.
Set aside, covered, for another 10 minutes.
Heat your grill (We usually prefer the flavor of charcoal but this time we used gas because it’s easier) and grill at a medium heat until dark sear marks appear on one side.
At this point you can either flip it and grill the second side or – if you are using cheese you want to melt – you can top it before grilling the second side.
We used about half of the dough, wrapping the remaining balls carefully and freezing them for next time.
Here are some suggestions
Sauté two thick slices of chopped pancetta or good, thick-sliced bacon. Add 4 oz. sliced wild or crimini mushrooms and two minced garlic cloves. Sauté until soft. Add 2 T port or sherry wine to deglaze the pan. Top the flatbread with the mixture and add a little shredded mozzarella before you grill the second side.
Cook both sides of the flatbread. Rub one side with a cut garlic clove and brush with olive oil. Spread with good ricotta cheese (I used fresh ricotta, just because it is so much better) and top with tomatoes (I used sweet yellow cherry tomatoes), and sautéed garlic scapes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.
Grill the first side. Top with some roasted cherry tomatoes. Brush flatbread with olive oil, top with tomatoes, goat cheese and chopped olives or capers. Grill second side.
Other things to play with:
Any cheese you like
Zucchini (or zucchini blossoms)
You get the idea. Choose what you like. Be creative. Go ahead and make it as simple or complex as your mood dictates. Have fun.