January 27, 2010
Here are some ways you can impress your friends at your next dinner party:
1) Prepare a 6-course dinner Iron Chef style alongside your very own local Iron Chef (ahem, Michael Symon).
2) Invite Julia Roberts (a la Notting Hill). Clive Owen would be just as smashing. Yes, actually, I highly recommend inviting the latter.
3) Serve beluga caviar as an appetizer and top the entree with shaved white truffles.
4) Perform that tablecloth trick with your great-great-great-grandmother’s antique china dishes.
5) Carve an ice sculpture fountain in the shape of the Rockies from which some fancy beverage flows freely (no, not Coors Light).
What? I’m just getting started! These are all too impossible, you say? Hmm. Ok, yes, I see what you mean.
I’m sure if you invited Michael you’d have to invite Mario. But then Bobby would feel left out and, well, that is just too many cooks in the kitchen.
Julia is probably indisposed, on the set of some movie. But let’s keep working on Clive. I feel hopeful.
I don’t like caviar either. White truffles…well…we’d have to charge about $10,000 per guest.
Yes, you’re right. Great-great-great-grandmother’s antique china dishes are no longer with us. Oops.
The ice sculpture fountain. Right. Where would you put it? I agree. Impossible. And messy.
So where does that leave us?
Make your own crackers! Of course! Well, crispy flatbread, to be gastronomically precise. Your friends will be just as impressed as if, say, Clive were to walk through the door. Scout’s honor.
I adapted this recipe from one published by Gourmet in 2008. Instead of rosemary I used thyme because I had a boatload left from another recipe (a flop, I might add). I also used whole wheat flour in place of about half of the all-purpose flour, just for kicks. It doesn’t taste “wheaty” in a bad way and I don’t know I would notice it at all had I not prepared it myself. It adds a subtle earthiness. Anyways, it works here, and I agree that substituting whole wheat flour does not always work.
I also made two batches of this on two separate days. For the first batch I followed the directions near exactly. The end result was so so, but they almost tasted like stale saltines. Not as crispy as I had hoped for. I refrigerated the dough of the second batch overnight (not intentionally, but because something came up mid-knead and I ran out of baking time). The chilled dough was much easier to roll thin. And I think the key is rolling it as thin as possible, thus helping ensure a crispy end product. I also baked with convection heat for a little less time. The second batch was much crispier and exactly what I was looking for. A crisp flatbread with just the right amount of salt and a hint of herb.
I’d serve the whole flatbread on a platter and let people break it apart (or on the original slightly browned parchment if you’re going for a more rustic look). This version, with thyme, would be delicious topped with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey. I’m sure a variety of fresh herbs would work in place of thyme. By the way, this is way easier than that tablecloth trick. Really.
Crisp Thyme Flatbread(Adapted from Gourmet)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 T fresh thyme leaves, divided
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for topping
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (convection if you have it). Place a heavy sheet pan on the middle rack.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flours, 1 T thyme, baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt. Create a well in the center and add the water and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir until dough forms. Knead 4-5 times with hands.
Divide dough into 3 balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight (optional, but it makes rolling easier).
On a sheet of parchment, roll out 1 piece of dough as thin as possible using a rolling pin (you should have about a 10-inch round; go for “rustic looking”). Brush a bit of olive oil over the entire surface. Scatter 1 tsp thyme over dough, pressing in slightly, followed by a good sprinkling of kosher salt. Slide dough (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) onto a rack to cool. Repeat with the two remaining dough balls, one at a time, using fresh parchment each time.
Serve warm out of the oven or cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Makes 3 10-inch-ish flatbreads.