Last month I posted a few of the culinary projects I had in mind for the near and not so near future. The first one I tackled was Codruta’s flatbreads, made with a sourdough base, and filled with cheese. One bite is all it takes to fall in love with them.
The story behind the bread is the stuff of fairy tales you maybe read as a kid, and the images stayed with you forever. Picture yourself as a young boy, going for a hike in the forest with a group of buddies and a few supervising adults. Their goal is to visit breathtakingly beautiful caves in Romania. But, his guide decided to wander apart from the rest of the group, and the two of them took what was supposed to be a shortcut to the caves. You see where this is going… ;-) They got hopelessly lost. They walked, and walked some more. They searched around for hours, through a dense fog that unexpectedly came down, and made everything much worse. It got cold, rainy, and dark. The boy was wearing just a light t-shirt and ended up shivering, all wet from the rain. They finally stumbled upon a little house in the middle of the woods, and decided to take a risk and knock on the door, having no idea who could be living in such a place. A nice couple welcomed them inside. The old woman was cooking flatbreads, they smelled amazing. She offered some to the boy, and that was by far the best thing he’d ever tasted in his almost 10 years of life! And they told them exactly how to get to the caves and reunite with their group…
(Pestera Scarisoara Cave, image from Wikimedia Commons)
Thirty years went by. The boy is now a grownup man, and his girlfriend a gorgeous woman, whose passion for cooking lead her to try and recreate the flatbread of her partner’s childhood. And I am lucky enough to take a ride on their journey, and sample the delicious cheesy bread that warmed a little boy’s heart and soul.
CODRUTA’S CHEESE FLATBREAD
(from Apa. Faina. Sare)
60 g (2.1 oz) sourdough starter (100% hydration)
70 g (2.5 oz) water
60 g (2.1 oz) yoghurt
2 eggs (about 100g / 3.5 oz)
315 g all purpose flour
6 g (0.2 oz) salt
30 g (1 oz) sunflower oil
Dissolve the sourdough starter in the water, mixing gently. Add the yoghurt and beat well, then whisk the eggs in the mixture. Add the flour, stir, and let the dough sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Add salt and knead with an electric mixer until the gluten starts to develop (about 6 minutes). If the dough seems to soft, add a tablespoon of flour. Add the oil in small amounts, continuing to mix, until the dough absorbs all the oil. At this point, the gluten must be very well developed, and the dough quite elastic and smooth.
This amount of dough is enough for 12 to 15 flatbreads. If you want to make fewer, simply store in the refrigerator the dough not used. Next day it will have even better flavor. Place the dough you want to use on the same day it is made in a warm place and let it rise for 4 to 5 hours.
Pick the fillings of your choice: crumbled sheep’s cheese with herbs, or sautéed cabbage, or go for a sweet version using grated apples and cinnamon sugar.
When you want to make the flatbreads, tear pieces of 45-50 g of dough and stretch over a surface lightly coated with oil (a smooth plate works great, or a granite countertop) until it forms a circle about 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter. Place the filling in the center, and fold all edges over the filling, sealing well and making sure no big air bubbles are trapped inside. Carefully roll the circle as thin as you are able to, without tearing the surface. You can try and make it around 20-22 cm (8 inches) in diameter, but it takes a bit of practice.
As you roll each one, place it on a skillet coated with a light spray of oil (well seasoned cast iron, or non-stick), and fry each flatbread until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer it to a plate and proceed to cook the next one. Or, if you roll them a little smaller, fry as many as you can fit in your pan, but don’t allow them to touch.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: When Phil took the first bite of the bread, he immediately remembered the cheese breads from Brazil, and the feeling he had the first time he had one: pure bliss! We can testify that you won’t need to be lost in a forest to appreciate these babies, they are awesome!
Now, please go to Codruta’s blog, and check her photos to see how she made them a lot thinner than mine. I was afraid to do it, but I know next time I’ll be more daring. The dough is very forgiving, there’s enough fat in it to make it pliable. I used a Mexican type cheese (Cotija), but next time I’ll crumble it in smaller pieces, that will help stretching the dough thinner too. Because it was just the two of us enjoying the flatbreads, I halved the recipe and used a food processor to do the kneading, as the amount of dough was too small for my Kitchen Aid. Simply put the dough in the bowl of the processor and turn it on for about 20 seconds. See if it’s smooth and maybe process 10 more seconds. The dough will feel warm, don’t worry about it. It will be fine.
Next time I want to make these flatbreads filled with sauteed shredded cabbage, as Codruta told me it’s one of her favorite flavors. But, the possibilities are endless, you can even make them without any filling, and just sprinkle some spices on the dough before enclosing and stretching. A great use for your sourdough starter!
Note added after publication: I apologize for spelling Romania incorrectly at first. My Brazilian nature interfered, and I used the spelling from Portuguese. It’s all corrected now, but if you happened to catch the first version, sorry!
I am sending this post to Susan Yeastspotting…
ONE YEAR AGO: When Life gives you (Meyer) Lemons
TWO YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version