May 05 2010

An Exercise in Flatbreads

Published by at 4:47 pm under Dinner,Starters

Nothing says light, springtime tapas to me like a flatbread, which have been popping up on appetizer menus for the past several years. After sharing a stand-out one with my sister, mom and aunt in Denver recently, I grew excited about trying to make one on my own. 

After having done it, I’m convinced flatbreads are the perfect dishes for entertaining. Make a couple of different ones for hors d’oeuvres, or serve as a side dish with a salad and protein. It’s fast, simple and seems way more impressive than it should for the work you put in. 

I had a feeling from the beginning of the toppings I wanted on my flatbread. But my assistant likes to experiment in the kitchen as much as I do, and I’ve been getting the feeling lately that my bossiness is starting to stifle his creativity (and test his patience). Thus, I decided a “Make Your Own Flatbread” night was a good compromise against my kitchen tyranny. 

After the thyme flatbreads were made, the topping began. I dressed mine with some torn red chard leaves, caramelized onions, kalamata olives and prosciutto — with just a couple of tablespoons of parmesan sprinkled on top. My assistant covered his with fresh mozzarella, topped with long strips of prosciutto. Observe:

After all was said and done, he admitted defeat in a side-by-side taste test, conceding that layers of cheese were perhaps not the best way to go. He mused, “I guess I didn’t understand the point of the exercise.”

In his defense, layers of cheese are almost always a great thing.

Thyme Flatbread with Red Chard, Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto

For the flatbread, I used Smitten Kitchen’s Crisp Rosemary Flatbread as a base, because I liked that there was no yeast and I wouldn’t have to wait for the dough to rise. Here’s my adaptation of her recipe, with my toppings and preparation: 


Ingredients (Makes 2 flatbreads):

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. thyme leaves, plus more for sprinkling, chopped

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling

Sea Salt

1 cup (packed) torn red chard leaves

1/2 red onion, julienned

1 tsp. sugar

3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved

1/3 lb. prosciutto

4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stir together flour, chopped thyme, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a  spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface several times. 

Divide dough into 2 pieces and place each on a greased baking sheet. Use fingers to flatten it into a circle or rectangle — whichever you like. You could also use a rolling pin to roll it thin, but mine worked fine with just my hands. Drizzle a bit more olive oil, thyme and sea salt on top.

Saute chard in a medium skillet for 3 to 4 minutes until it begins to wilt, but not until it’s fully cooked. 

Saute onion in olive oil for about five minutes, then add sugar. Cover and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes or until onions are translucent and slightly brown. 

Top flatbreads with chard leaves, arranging them evenly on the surface. Add caramelized onions and olives on top of that, also distributing evenly. Top with prosciutto slices, and sprinkle cheese all over. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges are crispy. 


2 responses so far

2 Responses to “An Exercise in Flatbreads”

  1. Billyon 22 Jun 2010 at 8:19 am

    Have you got any secrets to making a good pizza crust without tossing? I tried a rolling pin and it stretches and shrinks. I would like to be able to make a thin crust, but I can’t seem to master the tossing/twirling technique.

  2. Livon 22 Jun 2010 at 8:55 am

    I definitely have not mastered the tossing either, though I’m very impressed by those who have! My only tip would be not to skimp on the time you spend kneading the dough before you let it rise and roll it out. Do it for a full 10 or 15 minutes. From what I understand, the kneading helps form gluten, which makes the dough bind together and discourages tears.