How flat was my bread

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It was another “meh” experience, I’m afraid. Turning to the incredible new Gourmet site for inspiration last weekend, I found a lovely photo of Algerian flatbread and knew, just knew! that I had to base a meal around it. The description alone of the flaky, seasoned breads sounded good enough to eat, and the technique promised to be satisfyingly repetitive and exacting, very appealing to the OCD side of my personality.

Since I’m too lazy to do the kneading thing anymore, I adapted the recipe just a touch to take advantage of Sir Mix-A-Lot, who appears infrequently here, but always saves the day when he does with his untiring arm and stylish good looks.

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I set the mixer to low speed and let it do its thing to the dough for about 5 minutes, instead of the 15 minutes of hand kneading called for in the recipe. I’m completely smitten with this machine. After letting the dough rest for an hour in an oiled bowl, I was ready to start the fun stuff, so on to the preparations!

Step 1: ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! Hmmm…where’s my big shoe?

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Step 2: Spread the dough with cumin, paprika and turmeric-spiked oil.

ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! … ROLLOUT! (That song’ll haunt your dreams. You can thank me in the comments section.)

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Step 3: ROLLUP! … ROLLUP! … ROLLUP! … ROLLUP! (See what I mean?)

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And then there was more of the rolling out (continue humming along), but I’ll spare you the picture. If you’re curious, just scroll up to the second image. It looked just like that, only orangier.

Step 4: Cook the flatbread in a hot, dry cast iron pan until puffed and browned in spots, like so…

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And that’s that. They were pretty easy to make, but I dunno. They tasted a little, ahem, flat. (Sorry!) I think it’d be a pretty easy fix just to add more salt to the dough; with all of the spices in there, they were pretty flavorful otherwise.

I’m so glad I took the recipe’s advice and served the flatbread with shrimp charmoula. Holy moly, that was good stuff, definitely good enough to make again soon, even if the bread doesn’t accompany it.

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recipes after the jump

Algerian Flatbread from Gourmet

3 cups finely ground whole-wheat flour (preferably Indian atta or King Arthur whole-wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric

Make dough:
Stir together flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Slowly stir in water until a soft dough forms. If necessary, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.

Form dough into a ball and coat with 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough stand at warm room temperature 1 hour.

Stir together cumin, paprika, turmeric, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl.

Form flatbreads:
Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and, keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap, flatten 1 piece of dough into a disk. Roll out disk as thinly as possible (into a 9-inch round) on a lightly floured surface with a 6-inch wooden dowel or a rolling pin. Spread 1 teaspoon spiced oil on dough with your fingertips, then roll up tightly into a long cylinder and coil into a tight spiral. Transfer to a large sheet of parchment paper, then loosely cover with plastic wrap.

Make 11 more spirals in same manner.

Finish and cook flatbreads:
Tape another sheet of parchment to a work surface and on it roll out 1 spiral of dough into a round approximately 6 inches in diameter. Heat a dry large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot, then cook flatbread, turning once, until puffed and browned in spots, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel. Roll out and cook 11 more flatbreads, stacking them on plate.

Shrimp Charmoula from Gourmet

1 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled, leaving tail fan attached, and deveined
3 large shallots, finely chopped (1 cup)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small leek (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh serrano chile (optional), seeded and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons mild honey
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Cook shrimp in a large pot of boiling water until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool.

Cook shallots in 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until very tender, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash leek and pat dry.

Add leek, garlic, and chile (if using) to shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add paprikas and turmeric and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice, honey, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 cup oil.

Toss shrimp with sauce in a glass or ceramic bowl and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours. Season with salt and serve in sauce.

  1. Your post title stirred a childhood memory, of Pops singing the BeeGees in his tighties (also known to him as “jackies”) using a spatula as a mike.

    An adapted version:(this sounds best in falsetto)
    When it’s me you need to show, how flat is your bread?

    How flat is your bread, how flat is your bread?
    I really need to learn…

    Cuz’ we’re living in a world of yeast
    Rising the dough
    When they all should let us eat
    We belong to veg and meat

    How flat is your bread, how flat is your bread?
    I really need to learn…