Grill Bread

Week Forty-Seven: Miscellaneous International Breads


[Apologies for delays in posting yesterday and today; extenuating circumstances have prevented it.  Further delays this week are probable, but I am still cooking, and will update as I am able!]

Today’s bread isn’t an international bread as such, as the recipe comes originally from a restaurant in the middle of Indiana (a Lebanese one, but still); however, it does give a nod to the myriad flatbreads made in the Middle East and into South Asia.  The variety of these breads is really staggering; each small change of ingredients, each subtle shift of proportions, each different shaping and cooking method produces a new creation, and each one with an entirely new name.

The recipe below bears the nondescript title of Grill Bread.  It was accurately described as a “rustic tortilla”, and I intended for it to stand in as a sort of EveryFlatbread.  It doesn’t particularly resemble any specific flatbread that I know of, but neither is it a wholly new creation.  The result that I got was respectable enough, but I did have to fiddle with the recipe quite a bit to get even that middling of a review.

Made as written, the dough was extremely crumbly and dry; it was clear that such a thing would never produce the promised “better-than-pita” texture.  After adding extra moisture, I had a workable texture, but the dough was still finicky.  It was hard to roll out smoothly, cracking at the edges, and drying out easily.

I’m assuming that the original recipe has a small mistake in it, either from a mathematical error in scaling down the measurements, or from willful omission to ensure return visitors to the restaurant.  I prefer to think it’s the former; but the outcome was no less disappointing because of that.

This bread was just fine when warm, but after cooling, it became a bit grainy and dry on the tongue.  The flavor was appropriately mild, as the bread is intended to be served with more substantial and highly-seasoned foods.  Unfortunately, that pleasant mildness turned sawdusty after a few hours.

Ultimately, this recipe could be salvaged with some tweaking.  But is it worth it?  I think my previous successes with the sort of flatbreads I intended to give homage to today provide a clear answer: if you have a working recipe for a similar bread, use it instead.  Maybe let George handle this bread.

Grill Bread
Adapted from George’s Downtown Café, Terre Haute, IN, via Gourmet Magazine
Makes ten 6 inch breads

4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) white whole wheat flour (see note 2 below)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1.  In a bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Combine the water, oil, and egg, then stir into the flour mixture until a rough dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a work surface.  Sprinkling with enough flour to prevent sticking, knead until all ingredients are moistened, about 2 minutes (dough may not necessarily be smooth).  Shape dough into a ball, and cover lightly with plastic wrap.  Let rest on the counter for 10 to 30 minutes.

2.  Divide dough into 10 even pieces.  Shape each into a ball, and flatten slightly.  Cover again, and let rest another 10 to 30 minutes.

3.  Keeping unused pieces covered, roll out each piece into a 6 inch round (less than 1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.

4.  Preheat a heavy skillet or grill pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until just until beginning to smoke.  Reduce heat slightly, and cook one piece to test the temperature.  Bread should cook 1 minute on each side, and have slight char marks.  Adjusting temperature as needed, cook remaining pieces of dough, 1 or 2 at at time, until all are cooked.  Wrap cooked breads in a napkin or non-terry-cloth kitchen towel to keep soft and warm.  Breads are best served as soon as possible.

1.  Bread can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.  Reheat loosely wrapped in foil in a 350° F oven until heated through.

2.  If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, you can substitute an equal mixture of all-purpose and regular whole wheat flours.

3.  If you have a proper grill, by all means use it instead of the grill pan or skillet.

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