Yoghurt Flatbread and Tomato Skewers

Roti Flatbread Stack photo P1030060_zps2dc81247.jpg

The first time I ever made flatbread, I halved every ingredient quantity except the salt. Since then, flatbread and I never quite got along. I found every conceivable way to ruin them—burnt, tough, undercooked, oversalted, bitter—flatbread and I didn’t gel. Then I found this recipe.

Nearly every ancient society developed some sort of flatbread incarnation: pita, naan, tortillas, piadine, lavash. Why? Because they’re easy, tasty, cheap, and versatile. This one is inspired by India but isn’t completely authentic. Like naan, it uses yoghurt and yeast, but it’s cooked on a griddle like roti bread instead of in the oven. Quibbles about authenticity aside, it’s a flavourful, stretchy, addictive bread that’s right at home beside a curry, Mexican food, or sliced meat. I served mine alongside a pound of juicy Campari tomatoes, charred on the grill.

Roti Flatbread well photo P1030048_zpsd9c19fd2.jpg Roti Flatbread kneading photo P1030046_zps5f03cb64.jpg
Roti Flatbread dough ball photo P1020961_zps967ff39a.jpg Roti Flatbread dough pieces photo P1020964_zps2ff104cd.jpg

If breadmaking makes you nervous, this is a low-fuss summer recipe to push your boundaries. There’s some kneading (just enough to be pleasant), and although there’s yeast, you don’t have to wait hours for the bread to rise. The instant gratification helps, too—it’s in and out of the pan in a flash.

A word about kneading: most recipes give a time limit for it, but it depends more on the texture of the dough. If kneading skills are rusty, the best technique is to fold the dough in half, top over bottom, then press down and forward with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough a quarter turn. Fold it in half, repeat. Kneading mixes the ingredients evenly and gives the gluten a chance to develop stretchiness in the dough. See the above photos for reference, starting with a well of flour where the ingredients go in the middle, progressing to a shaggy ball, then a smooth round. Your dough should be springy to the touch and evenly coloured.

Roti Flatbread in pan photo P1020970_zps9f561db5.jpg
Roti Flatbread cooking photo P1030054_zps22e7c3ba.jpg
One of the more bubbly flatbreads.

The original recipe from Gourmet Traveller instructs, “cover dough and set aside until ready to use,” which is vague for a recipe involving yeast. I tested the recipe three times, resting one batch 10 minutes, one 15, and one 20. The 10-minute batch had the best texture: stretchy and soft. The other batches bubbled up too much in the skillet and didn’t cook as prettily (see above photo). Of this happens to you, just pop the bubbles and press them down with your spatula. No matter what the resting time, the actual amount of rising is minimal; the yeast is more to develop the flavour of the bread.

This is a flexible recipe, and I often double or triple the recipe, depending on how many we have for dinner. The flatbreads can be reheated in the microwave with a quick 20-second buzz, but they’re best when fresh. Make as many as you can eat that day, because they get stale quickly. I like to make one batch and start cooking while I mix up another batch. I get in a groove, one round sizzling in the pan, one forming under my rolling pin, and a pile of hot flatbreads on a plate that I’ve piled up like a short-stack special at a diner. They’re irresistible!

Roti Flatbread dough photo P1030049_zpse762ca23.jpg

I also experimented with the thickness. The first batch I rolled thicker and smaller rounds, and with the second batch, I rolled the dough thinner, to about 10 inches in diameter. The bread took on a crisper, crackly texture, but the flavour was just as good. The best thickness is about 1/8 inch, not paper-thin.

If you don’t have a bench scraper, by the way, invest in one. They’re usually less than $10 and are one of those tools that you use for a thousand things. Here, I use it to cut my dough into pieces, and also to scrap the floury dough bits off my cutting board after kneading. This saves wear and tear on cutting board, too, since wood doesn’t play well with hot water or soap. And the one in the link has a RULER (mine’s not that spiffy, but I wish it was), so you can measure the thickness of the dough.

Roti Flatbread with tomatoes photo P1030063_zpsafe7cbe4.jpg

Notes & Variations: Sunflower seed oil is the tastiest, but canola or peanut oil work well. Avoid olive oil, since the smoke point is too low for frying at this temperature. Ghee is another excellent and authentic choice, but regular butter will also end up burning. If you want to serve these with meat, try chicken, fish, or lamb (my favourite) on the grill. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, a sauté pan is the next best option. Watch the heat carefully as you cook the bread, since the protein in the Greek yoghurt makes them prone to burning.


Yoghurt Flatbread

Makes 6 flatbreads

Ingredients:
300g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
¼ tsp. kosher salt
130mL (scant 2/3 cups) warm water
2½ tsp. active dry yeast (one ¼ oz. envelope)
2 tbsp. Greek yoghurt, plus more to serve
1 tbsp. olive oil
Sunflower seed oil or peanut oil, for frying

Equipment:
8-inch cast iron skillet
Bench scraper (optional)
Rolling pin

Dissolve yeast and a pinch of flour in the warm water and set it aside for 3 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients together. It should turn slightly foamy.

Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl, then make a well in the center. Add the yoghurt and oil to the center of the well and incorporate it with your hands into the flour. Add the yeast mixture bit by bit as you mix, until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn out the dough onto a cutting board and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, or until very smooth. If the dough is very dry, add a little water, or flour if the dough is wet. Cover with a bowl or damp cloth and let it rest 10 minutes.

Punch down the dough (rising will be minimal) and cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll them out on a floured cutting board into 8-inch rounds. Heat ½” of sunflower oil in a cast-iron skillet and fry the rounds for 1 to 2 minutes on each side on medium-high heat, until golden but not brown. Pop bubbles in the dough with your spatula so that the bread lies flat and cooks evenly. Layer each flatbread between paper towels to absorb excess oil, and serve warm with grilled tomatoes and Greek yoghurt.

Flatbread recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller magazine.

Grilled Tomato Skewers

Ingredients:
Campari or large cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Thread tomatoes onto skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes prior to grilling), keeping ½ inch of space between each tomato.

Brush tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill on medium-high direct heat with the lid open, until tomatoes are cooked through and slightly browned, about 5 minutes (less time for smaller tomatoes). Lift skewers carefully off the grill and serve hot.

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