Flatbread is a term that seems to have found its stride in the past decade or so, making an appearance on almost every restaurant menu in the country.
What’s the difference between a flatbread and a pizza? Your guess is as good as mine. There is no official definition that separates the two. They both have a bread crust. They both have a variety of topping possibilities. They both have certainly won the hearts and stomachs of America.
In an effort to define them differently, at least in my own mind, I’ve decided the one feature pizza must have is a chewy crust. Flatbread, on the other hand, usually has a more cracker-like crust and for a busy family, this difference can help get dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.
The beauty of a cracker crust, besides its addictive crispiness, is that the crust is rolled out and par-baked before topping. That means the plain crust gets a few minutes in the oven to set and stiffen slightly before topping. Anyone who has ever made homemade pizza knows it can be tricky to transfer a fully loaded crust from the pizza peel to the hot pizza stone. Not a problem with the sturdy flatbread. It’s already lost its stickiness in the par-baking process, so it slides right off the peel, no matter how much topping you’ve piled on it.
Par-baking gives it one other crucial advantage. Once you’ve par-baked the crusts, you can cool them, wrap them in plastic wrap and foil and put them in the freezer, where they’ll stay for a month or so until you’re ready to use them.
Frozen crusts can be topped right out of the freezer and baked. Minutes later, dinner is done. The longest part of the entire process is preheating the pizza stone in the oven. I’ve given you a recipe that makes two big flatbreads, but you can divide the crust into smaller portions to give each family member his own personal pizza. Here’s my favorite Prosciutto, Parmesan and Arugula Flatbread (I’m a sucker for salad on a pizza), but you can top yours with whatever you and your family enjoy.
Prosciutto, Parmesan and Arugula Flatbread
Serves 8 (two 12-inch flatbreads).
Note: Crisp, cracker-crusted flatbread, topped with a combination of prosciutto and Parmesan, makes for an easy weeknight supper. The crust can be made ahead and frozen, then topped and baked just before serving. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 1/3 c. unbleached flour
• 1 c. whole-wheat flour
• 2 tsp. salt
• 1 1/2 c. water, lukewarm
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) dry yeast
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• Cornmeal for dusting
• 4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the baking sheet
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 c. coarsely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
• 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, divided
• 4 c. baby arugula or spinach or a combination of both
• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
• Freshly ground pepper to taste
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend the salt evenly into the flour.
Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water and stir. Allow the water-yeast mixture to sit for about 3 or 4 minutes and when foamy on top, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir.
Turn on the processor and quickly pour the yeast-water through the feed tube. Process until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the processor and bring together into the shape of a ball. Place in a large bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Roll the ball around in the bowl to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rest for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
While your dough is resting, place a pizza stone or unglazed tiles on rack in oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Deflate the dough with your hands and cut into 2 pieces.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a floured surface to desired shape and thickness.
Sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface of a rimless baking sheet or a pizza peel. Place the rolled-out dough on top of the cornmeal. Pierce the dough a few times with a fork (to keep it from puffing up in the oven) and place the dough in the hot oven, sliding the dough off the sheet and onto the hot stone or tiles. Keep an eye on the crust and continue to poke holes into it if it puffs in the oven.
Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the dough just begins to brown, and remove from the oven by sliding the crust onto the baking sheet or a pizza peel. Slide the crust onto a cooling rack while the other half bakes, to prevent it from becoming soggy.
Repeat with the remaining half of the dough.
In a small bowl, mix together the 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic.
Brush one of the prebaked crusts with 1 tablespoon of the garlic-flavored olive oil. Top with half of the cheese and half of the prosciutto. Place back in the oven and bake until the crust is browned and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.
Repeat with remaining crust, 1 tablespoon garlic-flavored olive oil, cheese and prosciutto.
In a large bowl, toss the arugula or spinach with the lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic-flavored olive oil and pepper. Cut the flatbreads into slices, top with the arugula and serve.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 330 Fat 12 g Sodium 910 mg
Carbohydrates 42 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 2 g
Protein 12 g Cholesterol 13 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 1 carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @meredithdeeds.