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.