It is always a thrill to take a class with Jeffrey Hamelman, Director of King Arthur Bakery in Norwich, VT, and author of Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes but to watch him bake in a wood-fired oven in a beautiful orchard with a soft breeze swirling around fruit-laden appletrees takes the experience to a whole other level, especially when the first breads start sliding out, blistered and bubbly, and the air fills with the seductive fragrance of fire-burnished dough.
Flatbreads go way back: people were baking and eating them long before the first leavened bread came along. And of course they remain the dominant bread in many parts of the world. In my early years as a baker, I read with tremendous interest Jeffrey Alford’s and Naomi Duguid’s Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas. I travelled with it to many exotic destinations without ever leaving my kitchen. I even used it to prepare for a two-week camping trip by boat up and down the rivers, lakes and canals of southeastern Ontario where I knew we would be without access to real bread. I had decided to make Norwegian crispbreads as I was pretty sure they would travel well. The recipe called for whole-grain flours and there was none to be had on our side of the River. Determined to tackle the wilderness on whole-grain power, I had gone to Tara Natural Foods in Kingston, Ontario and stocked up. I remember driving back to our cabin, feeling virtuous. I made stacks of crispbreads and sealed them inside plastic containers. They were excellent and wholesome and I have the book to thank for saving us from the sponge-like sandwich bread to be found at mini-marts along the waterways. Plus there is something eminently festive about flatbreads, the way they pop out of the oven, ready to eat and share with a crowd.
True to the international spirit of flatbreads, Jeff had decided to take us on a little tour that morning. We baked:
- A spinach-filled flatbread from Lebanon
- Another savory flatbread, this time from Tunisia
- Tarte flambée from the Alsace region of France
- Socca, traditional chickpea flour crêpe from Southern France, also to be found in Liguria, Italy, under the name of farinata, and probably my personal all-time favorite
- An anise-chocolate flatbread from Spain
For ease of reference, each flatbread will be posted in a separate post. I’ll start with the Lebanese flatbread and work my way down the list. It may take a while to cover all of them but come they will!