Monday, May 5, 2014

Olive and Green Peppercorn Flatbread

I tried this recipe to accomplish a few things. For one, I wanted to finally get to a recipe in a magazine clipping that I’ve been dragging through my life for many years. This happens a lot. Too much. For another, I wanted to find other good ways to use the brined green peppercorns I buy every spring to make this stew. I can always toss them into various dishes in place of black pepper, but I like their flavor enough to want to feature them.

The third reason I tried this recipe was to make what I hoped would be really good food, and, as happens more in my kitchen than just about anywhere else I roam, my hopes were happily realized. Olives are great in bread, which isn’t a surprise, but it’s lovely to be reminded of that once in a while. And the green peppercorns, with their ever-so-slight touch of clinging briny flavor, worked well with the green olives I used. They also contribute their own unique peppery deliciousness.

This flatbread, which I made into two circles, takes a bit of time to prepare, but most of it is hands-off waiting time. There is less yeast and a longer first rise (aka bulk rise) than in something like this sandwich bread, but a second rise isn’t needed as the breads go right into a very hot oven just after being rolled out. I used a pizza peel to transfer the dough into a pizza stone in the oven, but you could use a couple of cookie sheets if you don’t have such pizza-making equipment. Put one cookie sheet upside down in the oven and use the other, preferably one without a rim, to transfer the dough.

I really was quite excited about the taste and the texture of this flatbread. The green olives and peppercorns add a lot, of course, but the bread itself has good flavor and a pleasant chewiness all on its own. The long rising time no doubt contributes some extra flavor as the dough ferments a bit longer, developing some complexity. If you bake it just until a brown spot or two appears, it is soft and flexible enough to fold around some kind of sandwich filling, or it’s great served alongside a perky salad or a hearty soup. And, of course, it’s a delicious way to use up some of a jar of brined green peppercorns.

Olive and Green Peppercorn Flatbread
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

1/3 cup warm water (about 100 F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pitted, chopped green olives
1 teaspoon brined green peppercorns, finely chopped

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or another large bowl if you will be mixing by hand, combine the water and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast appears foamy.

2. Add ½ cup flour. Stir to form a loose batter. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.

3. Add the olive oil, salt and about half of the remaining flour. Knead the dough using the hook attachment for the stand mixer (or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface), adding as much of the rest of the flour as possible without making the dough too dry. Continue kneading until the dough is very smooth and stretchy, about 10 minutes.

4. On a lightly floured surface, stretch or roll the dough out into a thin layer. It does not have to be a regular shape. Distribute the olives and peppercorns over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up to enclose them. Knead the dough a few more times to distribute the olives and peppercorns.

5. Shape the dough into a round ball. Grease a large bowl or spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the bowl and spray or grease the top of the dough. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the sprayed dough surface. Cover with a towel and let stand for about 2 hours, or until roughly doubled in size.

6. Place a pizza stone or an inverted cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 F. Lightly dust a pizza peel (or a rimless baking sheet) with cornmeal. Set aside.

7. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Let stand about 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll one dough ball into an 8-inch circle. Place the dough circle onto the cornmeal-coated peel (or baking sheet). Transfer the dough to the preheated pizza stone by sliding it off the peel.

8. Bake at 500 F for 6-7 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Repeat the rolling and baking process with the remaining dough.

Makes 2 8-inch flatbreads.

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