We’ve discussed sourdough and quickbreads so far this month, and now I want to talk about a dietary staple in cultures around the world that can get overlooked in the arena of great home baking projects: flatbreads. If there’s a culture that doesn’t have some way of turning water and some sort of grain into a quick-cooking flatbread, I have not been introduced to it. Pita, naan, lavash, tortillas: these are just some of the options you’ll commonly find in grocery stores. The world is so big, though! If you’re doing a project with your kids to learn about another culture, google the culture’s flatbreads and try cooking one of them. It’s about the simplest way to travel around the world in your kitchen, and I always come away amazed by both the common human experiences that bind us together and the unique cultural experiences that make us individuals.
Beyond the educational opportunity, flatbreads are almost universally yummier when they’re fresh. Shaping them tends to take a little extra effort because you’re shaping individual portions (which helps with the speed of cooking). Shaping is also an excellent task to give to young cooks, and you can learn a ton about bread texture from the exercise. Here are a few more familiar flatbreads for you to play with.
Pita bread these days is often associated with Greek food, common use-cases being a dipping base for hummus or a wrap for a sandwich. However you enjoy them, they are worlds better served fresh from the oven. The trick to getting the pocket is to preheat everything properly. If you don’t have a baking stone, use a baking tray, but either way: preheat the baking surface.
Too Good Tortillas
If you’re in the northeast, there’s a pretty good chance that masa harina (the corn flour used to make tortillas) is not in as short supply as flours you might be more comfortable with. Tortillas, like pita bread, are vastly improved by being enjoyed fresh. Using only two ingredients and cooking in about a minute, tortillas are even simpler and faster to make than pita bread. Leftovers (if you actually have any) can be turned into crunchy chips. Masa harina tends to come in a big bag, so you might want a few more ideas of what to do with it. I recommend Chicken & Corn Tamale Pie and Pupusas Revueltas.
Pizza is a flatbread that is never seen undressed. Is a naked pizza even a pizza? Probably not. It’s worth pointing out, then, that pizzas from the pizzeria often come loaded with added salt, saturated fat, and even added sugar in the tomato sauce: all nutrients that lose points under the Guiding Stars algorithm. That being said, pizza is one of the best ways to bring a weird assortment of vegetables together to form a delicious whole, so it’s a great dish to play with if you’re cooking from a farm share. Provençal Onion Pizza, Black Bean Pizza, and Rainbow Pizza are three different kinds of inspiration for topping this easy, delicious, better-for-you dough.
You probably know how to make pancakes. Your older kids might even be comfortable making them with little to no supervision. Did you know just how flexible pancakes can be? You can make them with buckwheat, a gluten-free flour that is easier to find in some places. You can make them vegan if you’re low on eggs and milk. You can make them more filling and nourishing using whole grains and sweet potatoes. Or, and this is my personal favorite, you can pour the batter over fried bananas for a sweet, all-fruit topping.