Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kneading some quiet time

I have to admit that for years, I was initmidated by yeast breads.  I conjured up catastrophes in my mind's eye, and just avoided them.  While I still don't make them that often, when I do, I'm reminded again why I love the process.  There's something so other-worldly about watching a few simple ingredients grow into a bread dough, and the smell...that's reason enough to make yeast breads.  And yeast-cinnamon rolls...? Drool-worthy and worth every second.  But that's not what we're here for.  Focus, Christine!

I've also discovered that kneading is one of the best activities on Earth.  The slow, steady push-twist-pull; the feel of a ragged, sticky mess turning into an elastic, smooth's meditative.  And did I mention the smell?

We had company over for dinner last night, and while I could have just picked up some amazing french bread at the Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams (that place rocks) I thought it would be nice to make a flatbread recipe that I've made once before.  It's from Cooking Light's Jan/Feb 2002 issue, and I just made it for the first time last Christmas. 

The recipe is Flatbread with Oven-dried Tomatoes, Rosemary, and Fontina, and the first time I made it I stuck pretty closely to the recipe.  Unfortunately, I didn't oven-dry my own tomatoes; I just used some sun-dried tomatoes that I had in the pantry.  They turned into bitter tomato crackers on top of the flatbread.  Blech.  Fortunately, we just picked them off and the bread was fine.  But it was a good reminder to think through to the end result when I'm cooking.

It was also a good reminder that when it's not tomato season, I can sub in something else.  I could have gone to the store and bought Roma tomatoes...but I don't really want tomatoes that were grown 1500 miles from here and trucked in just so I can have tomatoes in February.  I don't care how oven-roasted they are, nothing beats a home-grown tomato in season.  (Though, in the interest of full disclosure, I usually do buy trucked in tomatoes by the end of winter.  My intentions are good, but my will-power is not always up to the task when it comes to wanting a tomato, even a mediocre one, between October and June.  Because seriously, that's eight months...!) But I couldn't leave the bread naked, either.  I mean, this is a PG rated program, after all.

I decided to caramelize a red onion with some garlic and rosemary, and put that on top.  And while I was at it, I took C.L.'s advice to try subbing provolone for the fontina.  Bellissimo!

Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Rosemary, and Provolone
adapted, barely, from Cooking Light

2 tbsp olive oil
4 rosemary sprigs (I used 2, because I only had 4 total)
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour (I subbed in about 1 c of whole wheat)
1 pacakge dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp very warm water (120-130 degrees)
2 tsp chopped fresh or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt, divided
olive oil, to grease the bowl and brush a little over the dough
1/4-1/3 c caramelized onions (see below)
1 c provolone cheese, shredded

1.  Place oil and rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan; heat over low until you smell the rosemary.  Turn heat off and let stand 15 minutes.  Gently squeeze oil from rosemary and discard sprigs.

2.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine 1/2 c flour and yeast in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add 1/2 c warm water; let stand 20 minutes.  Add rosemary oil, 2 cups flour, 1/2 c plus 2 tbsp warm water, chopped rosemary, and 3/4 tsp salt; stir until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tsp at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

3.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, turning to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, one hour or until doubled in size.  (Press two fingers into dough.  If indentation remains,dough has risen enough.)  Punch dough down; form into a ball.  Place directly on baking sheet.  Let rest five minutes.  (While dough rises, make caramelized onions.)

4.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

5.  Roll dough into a 12-inch circle.  Brush surface with olive oil.  Arrange onions on top, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Sprinkle with cheese; press lightly to help toppings adhere. Bake at 500 for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Caramelized Onions

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium to large red onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp salt (from 1 tsp in bread recipe)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onions, garlic, rosemary, and salt; coat with the oil, and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and barely caramelizing, about 15 minutes.  Lower heat if they seem to be cooking too fast.  Stir in pepper. Set aside until ready to top flatbread.

1 comment:

Missie said...

I will definitely have to try this! After another beautiful day, we grilled out for dinner. :)