Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Cumin Flatbread

Some time last weekend, in between long stints in front of the computer formulating sentences as I was making sense of my readings for the theory chapter of my Master's thesis, I tried to make flatbread. My longtime friend, uproarious glamour queen Julie, invited me over for a night of relaxation: raspberry daiquiris, "nibbles", and good, old-fashioned bantering and chattering. I didn't want to turn up empty-handed and decided that finger food was going to come in the form of mezze. Well, the flatbread didn't work out then (I had an amount of flour by weight when I didn't have a scale, and more yeast was needed), so I tossed the idea of making all the mezze dishes on my own out the window. I didn't have time to look at what I did wrong and just decided to cut my losses.

But I have one of those inquiring minds, even when it is overloaded. I cannot say that I did exhaustive research, but what I can say is that with more information about flatbreads, I felt comfortable enough to embark on my own path. Of course, this is quite a basic bread to make. I know that baking bread is a combination of chemistry, weather, and feel, to name a few contributing factors to a successful product. In addition to the niggling query I had, I was fuelled by the Daring Bakers' bagel exercise (feel free to read my friends' posts: Jasmine at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, Freya at Writing At the Kitchen Table, Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice, Kelly-Jane at Cooking the Books, Pille at Nami-Nami, and Sara at i like to cook) and Bruno's baguettes at brunosdream.

I knew that I was successful as soon as the bread wasn't becoming stickier but smoother (the opposite of what happened last weekend). Reconfirmation came when I punched the dough down after it had proved for an hour. It gave way like a marshmellow. The indentations of my knuckles left the appearance of slept-on memory foam. I knew from here on out that the bread would turn out well.

I am not going to offer any substitutes because my recipe is based on seven different recipes, which allow for too many variants should you want to diverge from my path. I understand that choice is a good thing, but I fear sending you down a misguided path on account of my inexperience. Keep extra warm water and flour at the ready in case you need them to: 1) create a firm and soft dough; 2) to stop the dough from being too sticky. This recipe makes 6 flatbreads.

Cumin Flatbread

For the bread:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may end up needing more)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons heavy/double cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups warm water (you may end up needing more)

For the glaze:
1 egg
1 teaspoon warm water
1 teaspoon heavy/double cream
1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1) Combine the flour, yeast, salt and ground cumin in a large bowl, then make a well.
2) Combine the cream, olive oil and water in a measuring cup.
3) Stir the dry ingredients into the centre with a wooden spoon as you slowly pour in the liquid. If, for some reason, a firm but soft dough is not being produced, add more warm water - only 1/8 cup at a time.
4) When you have a firm and soft dough, turn it out onto a foured surface.
5) Flour your hands.
6) Knead the dough, lightly adding more flour until you have a smooth and elastic dough. It took me about 7 minutes to get to this stage, but I understand it can take as long as 10 minutes.
7) Lightly oil a bowl.
8) Put the ball of dough into the oiled bowl, and roll it around so it, too, is oiled.
9) Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm, though not draughty, place to rise to the desired lightness ("to prove") for one hour.
10) Punch the dough down then leave for 10 minutes.
11) Preheat the oven to 210 C/425 F.
12) To make six flatbreads, tear the dough into thirds, then each third in half.
13) To get the appearance of Jasmine's slipper, form each piece into an oval then roll flat with a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
14) Place on baking sheets approximately 3cm/1.1" apart. Leave covered to proof again for 20 minutes. You may need more than one baking sheet, in which case you will have to bake in batches.
15) Using the back of a knife, cut a decorative design into the bread. I did a wave-like pattern so that I could break the bread more easily (by following the lines, I mean).
16) In a small bowl, beat together the ingredients for the glaze, except for the cumin seeds.
17) Brush the glaze onto the flatbreads just before baking and sprinkle with cumin seeds.
18) Bake for 8-10 minutes until the loaves are golden and slightly puffy, though cooked through.
19) Cover for a few minutes when they first come out so they don't get too crusty. (Thank you for tip Ms. Lawson, per How To Be A Domestic Goddess.)

The flatbread is chewy and easy to tear apart. The cumin is a comfort when the warmth of the bread is lukewarm, and it can support any mezze or zakusi plate with which you may want to pair this bread, for example: argan oil and dukkah, hummus bi tahini, muhammara, or charkhlis pkhali (a Georgian beetroot, coriander and walnut puree).

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The bread definitely looks delicious, and I love caraway's lookalike cumin with almost everything! (And raspberry daquiri is pretty much the only cocktail I ever order). Hope the theory chapter goes well!!
Shaun, that looks great. I think I will make this with the hummus (first attempt) that I am planning to make this weekend. And have a nice vacation in the USA. Should be lovely weather there now.
Pille - You have given me an idea for my next flatbread: caraway seeds. I have not tasted them ground before but could leave that step out altogether and just strew them on top. It had been a while since I last had raspberry daiquiris, but I haven't lost my touch. As for the theory chapter, the rough draft is almost done. I will revise it over the weekend before submitting a first draft to my advisors - wish me luck!

Nora B. - Thank you so much for stopping by. This flatbread is a breeze to make (really) and would be perfect with your hummus. My favorite hummus recipe is one from Claudia Roden's "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food". Please let me know if you would like the recipe e-mailed to you. It is very warm in California right now, which I can not prepare myself for, but a few days of it will be a nice change from the bitter coldness in New Zealand...but after a few days' of too much heat, I might be singing another tune - can never win!
That looks so very delicious. I am seriously thinking of trying bread again.

I was thinking of you the other day when I made the bagels, my little one came up to help and said 'Are we making hot cross buns?'. She must have seen your pictures!
The flat bread looks wonderful and sounds easy enough even for me. I've got to get my own act together and do a daring baker event one of these days.

Thanks for sharing.
My, my look at the baker. You now have no excuse to try making the dhal puri :)
That's really handsome bread, Shaun. I love the zig-zagging; it looks like an ancient tradition. Great dip ideas, some of which I'd never heard of. Do you have a particular favorite? I don't know which one to make first.
I must say you are brilliant! All my bread baking attempts have failed miserably. My heart is shambled by the results...I need to find the courage to try again!=)the bread looks yummy.I wish it were wheat-free!
I should try the flat bread some day as yours looks scrumptious.
Shaun, your flatbread looks fantastic! I love cumin... I bet it adds a nice touch to this recipe.


Kelly-Jane - It's so funny how we end up touching other people's lives, isn't it? I often think of you when I see pretty plates and table settings (I take the scenic route on the way home from university and walk through a posh department store). Give this flatbread a whirl - it is easy and flavorful. You don't have to use cumin, of course. A Nigella recipe had nigella seeds strewn on top and no spices inside.

Ruth - This really is a breeze. As you can see, I'm taking the bread-baking thing in baby steps. I will do this a few more times to get comfortable with the process of bread-making (paying proper attention to proving, etc).

Cynthia - Well, the dhal puri might be a little while off yet but not too long, I hope. It looks really delicious, and I'm so curious to taste it. Do you know of any non-Jamaican restaurants in Los Angeles? I should do a proper search for Caribbean restaurants and then call them to see if they make dhal puri!

Susan, lovie - The zig-zagging is not only decorative but also very functional as it allows for tearing bits of bread to dip into oil and dukkah or hummus. A particular favorite? No. They all appeal on different days, and sometimes they are served all at once, especially if people are over for wine and nibbles.

Victoria - I do think of you when I read recipes because it seems like you have to make more of an effort to modify a recipe than most people. I suppose there is no such thing as wheat-free bread...

Rose - Thank you so much for visiting this little blog. This flatbread is perfect to have at any time and is a breeze to make (really, if I can do it, anyone can!).

Bruno - I, too, have a massive weakness for cumin. I have been inspired by Pille's comment above and may try it next with caraway seeds.
Hi Shaun - thanks for dropping by my site. Welcome to Auckland. Nice to see our little food blogging community growing.
You know, the last time I ordered a raspberry daquiri, you'd of thought I'd walked into the bar without trousers - that's Palmerston North for you! Your flatbread looks relatively straight forward to make - I shall give it a whirl this week. Thanks Shaun.
Tasty, Shaun. I think I'd make a success of this.. well atleast I'd give it a try!
Shaun, these are just beautiful. I've made charkhlis pkhali before, to great success. I imagine your warm, and frankly perfectly spiced breads would merge very well with its complex, but fresh flavours.

How's the weather in Auckland?
This post was a lucky find for me. Firstly, I was intending on making flatbread next week. Altering the recipe I was going to use based on your advice.
And secondly, I've found another great food blog. :)
I've never made flat bread before but I do love them. I can just imagine how tasty this must have been!
Barbara - Thank you, also, for stopping by my humble food space. I have to get used to being in Auckland again...so many new food spaces have opened up. Thank goodness for "Cuisine" magazine!

Nigel - I'm making the flatbread again this weekend. It really is a breeze to make and is so substantial. As for the daiquiris, I have to say that I don't trypically order them in bars (in which I usually have a pinot noir or a sidecar) - though lately a vodka martini with cherries instead of olive in my chosen poison.

Amanda - Seriously, if I can make this turn out, you will not have any trouble. And, of course, you don't have to use cumin.

Lucy - Welcome! I'm glad you, too, know of the great joys of charkhlis pkhali. It is one of the first dips I thought of when making flatbread. When I left Auckland a storm was building up, and there has been a lot of rain since (including seriously bad flooding in the northern part of the country). I'm in LA for a couple of months, and I hope things will have settled down upon my return, though Spring is notoriously wet there.

Wendy - A warm welcome to you! I'm glad that the find was "lucky". This flatbread recipe has worked really well for me, and I hope that you find success with it - please let me know.

Veron - Once you return to the normalcy of home cooking (I know you're at "school" right now), give these a go. They do not require a lot of energy or even that much patience.
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