Rustic Tuscany Flatbread

Rustic Tuscany Flatbread
What is it about fresh, warm, home-baked bread that is so comforting? This Italian flatbread recipe is surprisingly easy to make, and its delicate flavor goes with almost everything. It cooks up so fast; you’ll want to make this for dinner a couple times a week.

3 cups organic flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. dried rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup ice-cold water
Extra kosher salt for sprinkling
Extra olive oil for brushing

Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and use a fork to gently blend them. Make a well in the center, and pour the oil and water into it. Mix gently until completely blended. If necessary, add a teaspoon or two of cold water; then knead with your hands until dough is smooth.

Pull out a wad of dough about 2 1/2 inches across – slightly larger than an egg or a ping-pong ball. Place onto a lightly floured surface and spread with your fingers into a flat disk about 8 inches across. The top will be uneven.

Heat a large nonstick frypan over medium-high heat. (We used one of those grill pans with the ridges in the bottom, which gave the bread in our photo the sear marks.) When pan is hot, brush the flat dough disk with olive oil and place oiled side down in the pan. Heat for about 2 minutes until a few brown spots appear on the bottom. Brush top with olive oil, flip bread over, and cook another 2 minutes. Slide out of pan onto a plate with paper towels on it, and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Serve while warm.

What do you all think about maybe adding some flecks of sun-dried tomatoes to this recipe…or pine nuts? I also think this bread might be delicious with a homemade veggie burger.

artisan bread

Love the flavor and texture of artisan loaves from the bakery but tired of paying sky-high prices? Make your own for a fraction of the cost! Yes, baking your own bread can be time-consuming, but it’s also very satisfying. And once you taste that warm, crunchy crust fresh from your oven, you may never go back to store-bought breads.

Here’s a basic recipe to get you started. No kneading is required. Feel free to experiment with some variations: Try topping with coarse salt, sprinkling some dried herbs into the dough, or adding some special ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped olives, or sprigs of fresh rosemary.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet yeast (~ 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 tsp. sugar
3 1/4 cups organic, all-purpose unbleached flour (if using whole wheat or bread flour, increase the amount of water by 1/4 cup) plus a bit more for dusting
3/4 Tbs. coarse kosher or sea salt
Olive oil

1. Mix 1/4 cup of the warm water with the yeast and sugar. Let stand for about 8 minutes until yeast is foamy.

2. Add remaining warm water. Mix flour and salt in until well incorporated (try adding the flour 1 cup at a time). Dough will be “wet” or rather sticky. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise for 2 hours in a warm, draft-free area. (If our house is cool and drafty on baking day, we place the bowl inside the oven on its lowest setting with the door propped open a bit.) Note that the dough may be hard to work at this stage.

3. After the dough rises, place it on a tabletop lightly dusted with flour. Divide dough into two small rounds* if desired, or just make one loaf. Add a little more flour if the dough is sticky and hard to work. Sprinkle flour on top of dough, and tuck sides under to create desired loaf shape(s). Place dough on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Allow it to rest for approximately 40 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 450°. For best results, add 3/4 to 1 cup boiling water to a broiler tray on the bottom rack. This creates steam in the oven and improves the texture of your loaf. (As a precaution, cover your oven window with a dish towel while adding the water container, and be very careful to avoid splashing water on the window to prevent cracking it.)

5. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown. Oven times and temperatures vary, but with practice, you’ll be able to produce a picture-perfect loaf every time.

*A small round loaf of artisan bread is sometimes called a “boule” (from the French word for ball).

beer batter bread

This bread recipe is so easy, it’s perfect for a fast weeknight meal. Try pairing it with BBQ Veggie Chili.

2 cups self-rising flour*
3 Tbs. sugar
1 12-oz. can or bottle of your favorite beer
Olive oil

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. Heat oven to 350°. Combine flour, sugar, and beer. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes. Brush top of loaf with olive oil; return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until loaf is golden brown.

*If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand, make your own. For each cup of self-rising flour, sift together:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

pizza dough

Making homemade pizza is definitely more time-consuming than popping a frozen pie in the oven, but once you taste your homemade creations, you may never go back to the store-bought varieties. Even if you’ve never made dough from scratch, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

1 .25-oz. package active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
3 cups flour, divided (plus extra for dusting)

2 14-inch pizza pans, greased with olive oil, or a pizza stone

1. In a large bowl, add warm water to yeast and sugar. Set aside for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, grease a medium-size bowl with olive oil. Add olive oil, salt, and 2 3/4 cups flours to yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined and dough pulls away from side of bowl.

2. Sprinkle flour over a work surface; slowly incorporate remaining 1/4 cup flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). If dough sticks to your fingers, slowly add more flour.

3. Place dough ball in greased bowl; turn to coat. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size. (I like to heat the oven on a warm setting while I prepare the dough. When the dough is ready to rise, I turn off the oven and place the covered bowl in the oven, leaving the door ajar.)

4. Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured work surface. Fit dough into prepared pizza pans. Cover with pizza sauce and your favorite toppings. Bake at 450° for about 15 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is lightly browned and toppings are thoroughly cooked (you may want to switch to the broiler setting for the last few minutes of baking to thoroughly cook the toppings). Pass out the napkins and enjoy!

rosemary focaccia bread

If you’ve never made homemade bread, this is a good introductory recipe. It’s easy! The dough needs time to rise, so save this recipe for a leisurely afternoon. Use fresh rosemary for the best (and most fragrant!) results.

4 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (.25 ounce) active dried yeast
2 tsp. salt
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Additional olive oil for brushing
Kosher salt for sprinkling
Extra sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnishing

1. In a small saucepan, heat olive oil, rosemary, and garlic until aromatic. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together water, active dried yeast, and salt. Add olive oil, rosemary, and garlic and stir. Add 4 cups of flour and stir until combined. Knead the dough in the mixing bowl with your fingers for about 3 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough is soft, not sticky. If it’s still sticky, knead in extra flour until the dough is soft.

2. Cover bowl tightly and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour. (I like to preheat the oven on the warm setting, turn the oven off, and let the dough rise in the oven with the door slightly open). Gently poke the dough with your finger. If your finger imprint remains, it’s ready.

3. Brush oil on a 10″ x 12″ rectangular baking pan. With oiled fingers, stretch the dough evenly over the baking pan. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Brush top of dough with olive oil and decorate with rosemary sprigs. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.