PROJECT 2012: ROMANIAN FLATBREADS

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 - Sala Biserica

(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.

ENJOY!

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

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48 thoughts on “PROJECT 2012: ROMANIAN FLATBREADS

  1. Wow, what a story… something of a fairytale indeed… I can’t believe the young soul was only 9 at the time and handled himself so beautifully… I have no trouble imagining that those flatbreads were the best things he had ever tasted! Amazing how these unplanned moments in our lives – in this case, an act of kindness – get seared into our hearts forever.

    These flatbreads look fantastic Sally – I love the rustic charred appearance and the fact that they contain cheese… wow. Just visited Codruta’s blog – gorgeous indeed!

  2. Sally is this sourdough discard that you used? Funny because I recently got a book from the library and there is a recipe called Khachapuri which is basically a yeasted version of this dough. The dough was a pleasure to work with. I am teaching a flatbread class at a wood fired oven at a nearby folk school and I did a practice run of this recipe in their oven…WONDERFUL!
    I cannot get Google translate to translate Codruta’s blog…what am I doing wrong?

    • I am sure you can use discard, but I refreshed mine a couple of times just for this purpose – I wanted it at the peak of bubbliness ;-)

      as far as translating her blog – look on the right section of her blog, two sections down from her picture, and you will see “Translate this blog” and you can select the language from a drop down menu

      works like a charm, although you obviously butcher a bunch of slang and colorful expressions – still, it is better than not being able to read it at all! ;-)

    • My Brazilian background interfered – the country is spelled Romenia in Portuguese. I should have noticed the spell check getting mad at me, but those things sometimes get mad for the wrong reasons…

      I will change that right away, though…. ;-)

      • I can understand having to ignore the spell checker when writing. I used to have to reset all my auto-correct settings when I wrote fanfiction to deal with times when I WANTED it spelled the way I wrote it. :)

        I liked Codruta’s cheesebread which remind me of my own childhood experiences though there are no caves in my story only memories of a little girl waiting til her mother finish making cheese strudel and then rolling out a few of these breads with the trimmings from the strudel to fry just for her to enjoy with some jam spread on the outside. The contrast between the sweet cold fruit jam and the hot salty, oily cheese bread was amazing.

    • Having tried several, I have settled on the recipe in Peterson’s “Baking” for the dough. My favorite filling is cabbage. I bought poppy seeds to try next time.

  3. Sally, your flatbreads look really amazing! and I’m not exagerating, I would like to grab one ot two from your plate :) And you told the story with so much charm… way better than I did (and I thought I was inspired when I wrote it! :) no wonder I love your blog so much! my boyfriend is so proud and joyful now, he read your post twice and all the comments (hmmm… I don’t think he does this on my blog :-)))
    Donna, the original recipe (the one that my boyfriend ate years ago, and the one I took my inspiration from) is a yeasted version (with milk and an incredible amount !!! of oil in it).
    I’m sure this type of dough can be found in many regions of the world, it’s a simple enriched dough, after all. My main contribution however, was to adapt it to a sourdough version (and to replace milk with yogurt (for more flavor), to reduce the amount of fat, etc.)… to make it healthier without compromising the taste. I feed my starter dailly and I usualy make the dough with the discard.
    Sally, thank you again for your flattering words and thank you for trying my recipe and writing about it. I’m curious to know if you and phil will enjoy the cabbage filling version.
    We’ll keep in touch, codruta

  4. ps. I forgot to say.. I’d like to try your Brazilian Cheese Bread, but I don’t have muffin tins, just 4 individual larger tins… well, we’ll see if they work :)
    codruta

    • So glad that you both enjoyed the post!

      as to the Brazilian cheesebreads, that particular version works better in muffin tins because it is a bit too loose to bake freely, but I am not completely sure you could not do it free form. If you have large muffin tins, you can either make them big and bake a little longer (we do have larger “cheese breads” for sale, although I enjoy the tiny ones better – or maybe place two small ones inside the tin? They would bake together and get glued, that could be interesting

      Now, I have another recipe, more traditional, that calls for shaping them as small balls and baking free on a piece of parchment paper.

      I will fish it out and send you by email, just in case, ok? It calls for ingredients that might be harder to find for you, though. If I remember corectly, two types of tapioca flour, one called “sour” and one called “sweet” – they are found in Brazil, but I’ve never seen them in the US or France.

      • I can use some small tins that I use for fruits tarts, but I guess that at some point I’ll get tired of improvising and I’ll buy some real muffin tins.
        The traditional recipe that you mentioned about sounds interesting, I’ve seen tapioca flour here, but I don’t know if is sour or sweet.
        take care,
        codruta

    • I’ve corrected it 24 hours ago. Please re-read. ;-)

      and, as I mentioned in the post after correcting it, the name in Portuguese is ROMENIA, that’s the reason I got it wrong.

      To give you another example, Brazil in Portuguese is spelled Brasil, so I cut some slack for Brazilians who might make a “typo” in English.

    • Adriana, let’s not nitpick over tiny details, shall we? The mistake was unintentional and Sally already explained the source of confusion.
      We better concentrate on the recipe and enjoy the wonderful post. :)

      • I’m going to do some Indian cooking soon and I’ll be including an easy spinach paratha that you might be interested in trying. Will let you know when I post it if you’d like.

        • I KNEW there was a comment from you waiting to be answered, I missed it twice, but here I am

          yeah, let me know when you make your paratha – I really want to try it, and having a tried and true recipe helps a lot

          will be anxiously waiting… ;-)

    • I love the fact that once you make them, they are ready in minutes, and you eat them right away, hot from the stove. Bread baking is wonderful, but that deal of waiting for the bread to completely cool before slicing… not easy, my dear… not easy!

  5. Thank you for sharing that story Sally. I loved reading it as much as I loved the recipe.This flat bread sounds like a real treat and I can’t wait to give it a try

    • MC, you should make it with some of your fantastic sourdough starter… but make sure to check COdruta’s site, because she put my rolling of the dough into severe shame!

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