Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tibetan Flatbread (Skillet Bread)

I approached this recipe with apprehension. Even trepidation. "Bread" from just flour and water? It was just too easy. 

I had learned my lesson in 2006 from the "no-knead" bread recipe that appeared in the New York Times which "minimalist" Mark Bittman praised. It was all the rage. Because I love bread and make it often, people E-mailed me that recipe and article. I literally dove into it.

Unfortunately, I was more disappointed than impressed. It tasted like . . . well . . . flour and water. And then I thought . . . what the hell? What is so wrong with a bit of yeast, kneading and waiting?

Our lives are spent kneading and waiting. Right? It defines us.

So, along comes Jacques Pepin talking about a bread you make in a pan. Mon Dieu! What would his best friend Julia Child think?

Well, I copied the recipe . . . but couldn't quite bring myself to make it . . . until I was out of bread. I just have to have bread and toast for breakfast. Period. It is my understanding that this bread is correctly identified as "Tibetan Flat Bread." There is nothing "flat" about this bread.

Wow! Okay. Drum rolls, please.




I have now made this four times in two weeks. And each time I savor each and every bite. 

This is all about the olive oil. Yeast gives bread flavor. In the no-knead recipe, there was no flavor. But here, the olive oil takes over without being overpowering. Use a quality extra-virgin olive oil. So far, I've only used all-pupose white flour. Soon I'll experiment by adding other grained flours, such as rye or spelt. Even herbs and seeds. Maybe some sugar.

The combination of steaming and frying gives this bread a tooth-satisfying, chewy-yet-crunchy texture. The edges are bliss! It's somewhere between a biscuit, English muffin, pretzel and Focaccia. And it keeps well. It also toasts beautifully. I've made thin slices to dunk into marinara sauces. Oh, my! Split it to make wonderful sandwiches! Just make it!

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1.5 - 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 - 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 - 2 tablespoons water
  • 1, 8 or 8.5-inch non-stick skillet

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the water. Mix until well-blended. It will kind of look like a thick pancake batter.

Coat the bottom of a COLD skillet with the olive oil. Pour the batter/dough into it. Wet your hands with water and pat the batter to the sides keeping it round and neat.

Drizzle the water around the perimeter/outside edge of the pan. Turn heat to medium. As soon as the water/oil mixture at the edge of the pan begins to sizzle and bubble, COVER. Lower heat a bit. Steam/cook for ten minutes.

(The first time I made this, I was kind of alarmed by the amount of oil and water. Don't be. The bread will absorb it. It's what you want.)

After ten minutes, the bread will have risen. 

Flip. The underside will have turned golden brown and absorbed the olive oil and water.

Loosen edges and flip. Cover. Cook for an additional five minutes. The flip-side will not be as pretty.

Remove from pan and allow to cool ten minutes on a rack before slicing. Because the "crust" is "chewy" kitchen shears or a sharp pizza wheel make easy work of cutting.


Anonymous said...

Gary, I can't wait to try this! Thanks Elinor

Kitchen Bounty said...

Elinor: Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Barbara said...

I have been making this bread for years. The family that I married into talked about this bread until i finaly came up with the recipe that I have used since I was told " Its just like moms!" It is what they used to take for lunch when they were in school. Though I have to admit it is nice to see it on your site. They are from Missouri.

mos said...

i’m trying to make this bread today and hope it works

mos said...

did not raise well,too heavy!

Kitchen Bounty said...

Mos, sorry to hear that ... I've never had a problem. Hope you will give it another try!

Unknown said...

Bread flour or All Purpose?

Kitchen Bounty said...

It clearly states "all-purpose."

Ben H said...

Thanks for this recipe! We've made it twice so far since discovering it this week and it's turned out perfectly.

Kitchen Bounty said...

Ben: Terrific! Thanks for your feedback.

Unknown said...

We love this bread! I like to sub 1 cup whole wheat + 1/2 cup AP or whole wheat pastry flour. Depends on your flour, but you may need to add a tiny bit more water (as usual when substituting whole wheat). I like to fiddle, so I add seeds if desired (combo fennel, cumin, coriander, caraway, anise, sesame, any/all). Spices or herbs if desired (curry, paprika, mint, parsley, I'm a wild woman). We cut down the salt by half (husband's preference). Always a delight whether plain or wild.

Allison Dey Malacaria said...

Spectacular fail. My bread/pancake was not cooked inside. I used a little less water the next time and same. Tasted like a pancake though. Thank goodness my chickens can eat the failed products. How can I get this too cook through? Not bread-like at all.

Allison Dey Malacaria said...

Just tried it a third time. Rubbery, not cooked through, and this time the water and oil burned off so quickly, it started to burn before the first 10 minutes was up. Same pan totally cleaned and cooled, same temperatures. I don't know how bread is happening here. I wish I did. It looks fantastic and so easy and we're looking for an easy pan bread.

Kitchen Bounty said...

I am sorry you are having such a difficult time. This is one of my most popular recipes and you are the first to have had so many problems. It sounds like you are cooking at too high a temperature. I would lower the heat and go from there ... The end result should, indeed, be bread, as in the photograph. It should not be "rubbery" at all. Are you covering it as it says in the recipe?

Allison Dey Malacaria said...

Yes, I am covering it and following the recipe to the letter. I mean, the last one came out a bit bready, and I think that's because I had adjusted the heat and reduced the liquid, but still, while it tasted like a salty pancake and wasn't horrible to eat with a bunch of syrup, it still wasn't what I would call a bread. It was like a rubbery, tall pancake with those fried oily edges like a pancake and everything. Oh well. But thanks for responding. I had high hopes. It's such a lovely simple recipe.