This is the flatbread I make when I entertain boyfriends at home and want to dazzle them with my culinary skills without looking like I’m trying too hard. Actually, it can very well be a pizza. Or focaccia. Even naan. It’s a no-knead dough master dough recipe that appeals infinitely to my fear of bread baking and sometimes lazy ways. I really love cooking–except the times that I don’t.
There are some people that have an inborn talent for working with bread and pastry doughs. They are the Michael Jordans of the baking world. Certainly every European-born woman I know makes it look simple, but were it that easy, people wouldn’t line up to pay thirty dollars for a Neopolitan-style pizza, and the French wouldn’t routinely come to near blows in heated discussions about where to buy the best croissants. The answer to this dilemma of gluten-filled kitchen failure is no-knead dough.
Really, there’s not much to it. You put the the flour and yeast in a plastic container and shake it like nobody’s watching. You add some water, mix it up and let it sit around. Voila. Instant doughy heaven. Okay, well, not exactly instant. The key here is a long fermentation process–the more time you let it sit the better. But at least you don’t have to wreck your hands pummelling the stuff, seized by the terror you might overdo it and ruin the elasticity in your ignorance–as I myself am wont to do. Until I discovered the no-knead way, I’d sneak off to buy frozen pizza dough, which was never as good as the homemade stuff.
This recipe produces enough dough to make a couple of pizzas, a lot of pizza rolls, or four fair sized flatbreads. I like to double it and make a big batch for the fridge, cutting off some dough when I need it.
Now, about this flatbread. I adore mushrooms–I hardly ever eat any sort of pizza-like concoction without them. However, part of entertaining is aesthetics, and it’s hard to ignore that mushrooms kind of look like little slugs after they’ve been baked in the oven, which is why I’ve started decorating my flatbreads with drizzles of gremolata and shavings of Parmesan.
Have you heard of gremolata? It’s basically a garnish concocted from garlic, parsley, and lemon zest and is a beautiful addition to a variety of pasta, meat, and what have you. It’s best when it’s fresh, of course, but I encourage you to make a jar of it and keep it in your fridge. If you are anything like me you’ll soon be standing at the refrigerator, dipping into it with a spoon as if it were ice cream.
Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Flatbread with Watercress Gremolata
Ingredients for the * master dough:
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
3/4 tablespoon granulated yeast
3/4 tablespoon kosher salt or 1/2 tablespoon table salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
for the flatbread:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 1/2 cups mix of organic baby mushrooms
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese, plus more for sprinkling
cornmeal for dusting pizza stone
for the gremolata combine:
1 large clove garlic, minced
zest from 1 large lemon (use a microplane grater to avoid zesting the pith)
1 cup watercress, stems removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1) Gently scoop flour and level off with a spatula. Put into a large plastic storage container with a lid (not airtight) with yeast, sugar, and salt and mix together. Add all the water and olive oil at once and mix with a wooden spoon. Wet hands with lukewarm water and press the mixture together until it forms a ball. You may have to do this several times until the dough is moist and without dry patches.
2) Cover with the lid and let sit for at least 2 hours, until it rises and the top begins to collapse or flatten. You may let it rise up to 5 hours this way. The length of the process will be determined by room temperature. For a dough that is less sticky and easier to work with, refridgerate overnight or for a minimum of three hours. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 12 days.
To make the flatbread:
1) Put a pizza stone in a cold oven; turn heat on to 500F and heat for half an hour. While the oven is preheating, sauté mushrooms in 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil until golden. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and drain on paper towel. In the same pan, melt remaining butter and oil; add onion and stir to coat. Lower heat to medium and once the onion starts to turn golden, add a pinch of sugar to boost caramelization process. Stir frequently until onions are a deep golden brown colour. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
2) Divide dough into four chunks. On a lightly floured board shape each chunk of dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Flatten the dough with hands and stretch out into a long, rounded rectangular shape, using a floured rolling pin if necessary. If stretching is difficult, let it rest for a few minutes.
3) Sprinkle pizza stone with cornmeal. Place flatbreads on pizza stone and gently dimple with fingertips. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle with Parmesan and scoop mushrooms and onions randomly on top; set back in oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Let cool slightly before cutting into pieces and drizzling liberally with gremolata and sprinkling with extra cheese.
* Master dough recipe courtesy of food.com