Makes 4 flatbreads (serves 4 to 8)
Active time: 30 minutes (you’ll need to let the bread rise for at least an hour, though)
The inspiration for this was pretty straightforward: I saw a blonde lady on the Cooking Channel make something just like it! And it just so happened I had some dough that I was going to use for pizza, but a flatbread became a much better idea. After all, it’s springtime! My grill was calling to me and the thought of lots of fresh greens over a creamy, springy spread sounded too good to resist.
But what’s the difference, really, between a dressed up flatbread and a pizza? Not much, I suppose. I could easily call this a grilled pizza and not get too many sideways glances. But it probably comes down to this: I call something a flatbread when it’s shaped all funny and the toppings are added after the dough is baked instead of before.
The end result is perfect for an evening around the picnic table, or fire escape, or wherever you may be (but definitely try to eat outdoors.) A beautiful charred bread, all aromatic and crispy outside, made especially so from a handful of cornmeal. The spread is nicely thick, creamy and garlicky, but still light and refreshing with bits of red pepper and scallion. It’s a cinch to put together in the food processor! Sort of ends up like a vegetable cream cheese, so if you’re in the market for something to put on your bagels, this may be your answer. And on top is a lightly dressed salad (totally casual – olive oil and lemon), making this meal perfectly seasonal, fun to eat and pretty as all hell to look at. I also threw on a few toasted walnuts because everything should have toasted walnuts.
~Bread flour is a newer pantry ingredient for me. Usually I use all-purpose because it’s always on hand in my kitchen, and probably yours, too. But I love the crusty chewiness that higher-protein bread flour gives flatbread, and so if it’s not an ingredient you usually keep on hand, give it a shot and see what you think! The difference might be just enough to convince you to keep it around always for emergency pizzas.
~ What I really love about this rustic flatbread method, is that you don’t hafta’ worry too much about getting perfectly shaped breads. Aim for something oval, and whatever happens after that is beautiful serendipity. The dough is nice and firm, too, so the trip from countertop to grill top isn’t incredibly harrowing. It should make it there in one piece and without too much trouble.
~There are so many fun things you can do with flatbread, it quite literally can be your canvas! Try it with edamame pesto, romesco sauce or even hummus. Top with arugula or kale or really anything in the world you can think of. Throw on some olives, toasted pine nuts, chopped sausages, tempeh bacon…google it up and see what other people are doing, steal those ideas, transform them and come up with your own enticing creations.
~ I knead bread in a standing mixer, but of course, you can knead by hand! It will take a bit longer, naturally.
~ Medium grind corn meal is used here. The coarse grind is a bit too grainy for me and the fine ground is hardly detectable. But if you don’t see what size grind your cornflour is on the package, don’t sweat it, it’ll come out yummy no matter what.
~ If you prefer to bake the breads, you can do so in a 450 F oven, for 12 to 15 minutes. Place directly on a baking stone for the crispiest results, but a large baking sheet will work, too!
~ For the best time management, make the spread while the dough is rising. It’s as easy as throwing together hummus.
For the Flatbread:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 2 cups bread flour (or a little less, see directions)
- 1/2 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the Scallion Spread:
- 1/2 cup cashews (unroasted)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound extra firm tofu, drained
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional, but it makes it a bit more creamy)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
For the salad:
- 6 cups baby mixed salad greens
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Big pinch salt
- A handful of toasted walnuts
- Additional thinly sliced red bell pepper (the remainder of the half you used for the spread)
Make the spread:
In a food processor, chop the cashews into coarse crumbs. Add the garlic and pulse to incorporate. Crumble the tofu in your hands and drop it in. Add the lemon juice, olive oil (if using), nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and blend until relatively smooth, a little texture from the nuts is great.
Add the scallions and red pepper and pulse until they’re chopped into tiny bits. You don’t want them to be completely pureed, make sure that there’s some crunch from the red peppers.
Taste for salt and seasonings. If it needs anything else, don’t puree again, just remove the blade, scrape everything into the bowl and gently mix in with a fork. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the flatbreads:
Add water and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fit with a dough hook. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes to bloom.
Mix in the olive oil then Add one cup of the flour along with the salt. Mix on low until well incorporated, and then turn the speed up to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
Add another 1/2 cup of flour and the 1/2 cup of cornmeal, and mix well, starting on low and then switching to medium speed. Then add another 1/2 cup of flour, again starting on low and switching to medium. Knead on medium for about 5 minutes. You may occasionally have to get in there with your hands if the dough starts climbing up the hook. It should become smooth and elastic and slightly tacky. At this point, incorporate flour by the tablespoon, with the mixer running. When it starts to seem dry, stop adding flour. This could be anywhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. Knead again on medium until it is elastic easy to stretch, about 8 more minutes.
Meanwhile, drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil into a large mixing bowl. The dough will double in size, so make sure you have enough room. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, tossing it around to coat with oil. Cover the top in plastic wrap and put in a warm place. Let dough rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
When dough has doubled, fire up your grill. Keep the flame high and close the lid. If you have a thermometer, it should be at about 500 F.
Punch the dough down, give it a quick knead and tear it into 4 equal-ish pieces. On a large cutting board, form each piece into an oval that is about 8 inches long and 5 inches across. I just use my hands for this, but you can use a rolling pin if you prefer.
Place the dough on the grill. It should take about 3 to 4 minutes for the bottoms to get grill marks and become firm. If it takes a little longer that’s cool, but definitely check one after 3 minutes. Use tongs to flip the bread over and cook for another 2 minutes or so, until grill marks appear.
Remove breads from the grill with tongs and place on the large cutting board. Keep covered with a kitchen towel to keep warm until ready to use.
Prepare the salad:
At the last minute so that they’re as fresh as can be, use a large bowl to toss the salad greens with lemon, olive oil and a big pinch of salt.
Use the back of a spoon to spread the Scallion Spread onto the flatbread. Top with handfuls of dressed greens and scatter on toasted walnuts and red pepper, if desired. Slice in half with a pizza slicer, if you like, and serve! (Confession: we did not slice these in half, we just gobbled them down.)