Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Puff pastry-like flatbread

The only meat-free thing I could ever eat at the Malaysian restaurant Penang in New Jersey was the Malaysian naan, and it was worth going there just for it. It is a buttery rich, flakey flatbread that my brother and I love. My mom would stock up on the frozen version for us from the Indian store and I would eat it when I had been good (it is rather fattening to eat every day!). I've always wanted to learn how to make it and even tried it once, without success. But when my friend from Morocco Hayat said she knew how to make it, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from her. 

I decided that this flatbread would be a perfect accompaniment to my sister's favorite - Chole - chickpea in a spicy gravy, but it can be eaten with anything, or plain or drizzled with honey or jam. 

Hayat swiftly made this yeast dough like it was second-nature to her. It's easy and there's no waiting even though we're dealing with a yeast dough. It is of course delicious, rich, flakey, buttery and perfect just on its own.

Flakey Flatbread
Makes 4

236g (1 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
22g (2 tbs) polenta or semolina
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
10g (1 tbs) butter
150g (3/4 cups) warm water

About 25g butter for greasing
About 15g (2 - 3 tbs) oil for greasing

1. In a large bowl, mix in the flour, polenta, salt, water, yeast and then massage in the butter.  Knead 5 - 7 minutes, or until smooth and springy. The dough should be quite soft yet not so sticky and it should be elastic - the test is to press a finger into the dough and watch the imprint disappear as it springs up. 

2. Divide the dough into about 4 golf-size balls. Melt 25g butter in a bowl and combine with the oil. Dab your hands in the grease and use your fingers and palm to evenly glide through the dough to flatten each ball into a square, about 6 inches by 6 inches, or until it's 1/8 inch thick.

3. Then grease the entire square, fold in half horizontally, then dab more grease, then fold again, grease, then fold again. (It's the folding with grease that gives this bread multiple flakey layers like puff pastry.) Place aside and repeat with the rest of the balls.

4. Take each folded square parcel and use your greased fingers to flatten each one into a large square again.

5. Cook in a pan on high heat for 30 seconds, then flip, and after 30 seconds, dab some grease over the bread and flip, and cook for 30 seconds, or until blisters of golden are everywhere, and dap the other side with grease as well so that it is evenly blistered.

Enjoy warm. Leftover bread can be frozen for up to a month and reconstituted in a hot pan when ready to eat again. If you have leftover grease, use for cooking other dishes.

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