They should teach in elementary school how to make basic bread. All humans should know how to create this godly attribute. Even French people and lawyers. The process of mixing flour, yeast (or sourdough starter), salt and water into a dough, kneading it and then waiting patiently for it to grow is like doing a vipassana (ancient mindfulness meditation technique).
When you start to feel comfortable with the basic bread dough, it’s time to play and experiment. Add to the dough different seeds, nuts, herbs, olives, raisins. Shape it into a loaf or boule, challah, rolls, flatbreads.
Rustic Flatbreads with Anise & Cumin seeds
- 4 cups all-purpose flour or spelt + extra for dusting
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons cane sugar (or honey)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon anise seeds
- 1 – 1½ cups lukewarm filtered water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 eggs or nut milk or honey - – for brushing
- Put the flour into a big bowl, add the yeast, sugar, salt and seeds and mix with a whisk or wooden spoon until well combined.
- Pour the water gradually into the flour bowl and the olive oil. Use one hand to mix and other to pour. The dough should be slightly sticky. It would get less sticky as you knead it. Once the gluten is developed.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, floured surface. Make sure it is at a height where you are comfortable working. If the dough is too stiff, add a little bit of warm water. If the dough is way too sticky, sprinkle additional flour over it.
- Gather the dough into a pile and begin pressing it together. Press the heels of your palms firmly into the dough, pushing forward slightly. Fold the far edge of the dough upwards, towards you, and press it into the middle of the ball. Rotate it slightly. Repeat this press-fold-turn sequence for as long as your hands can go (about 10 minutes). (You can see on my instagram how I do it)
- Shape the dough into a nice round ball, put it back in the big bowl, dust it with flour and cover with a plastic wrap or a moist clean kitchen towel. Set the bowl in a warm place (not too warm – not on top of a radiator or in the sun, in the winter I use a folded tablecloth over the plastic wrap to keep it warm – something my mom used to do) and let it rise until it doubles its size – about 45 – 60 minutes.
- Line 3 large baking sheets* with baking paper or dust them with flour (No worries If you only have 1 tray, you can place the breads on a floured surface and bake them in turns).
- When the dough has doubled its size, press it down with your palm to knock the air out. Knead it for 30 seconds and roll into a ball. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Then, using a rolling pin, flatten them into ½ inch or 1 cm thick pitas. Place them on the lined trays with a 2 inch (4 cm) gap between them.
- Using scissors cut cool patterns in the dough. Get creative. Cover with a kitchen towel and let them proof until they double in size again, about 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 420°F/210°C. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, brush with egg and put it back into the oven until the top and bottom are golden brown.Let them cool on a wire rack.