There is a recipe my husband refers to, simply, as “The Dough.” This is it. It is an all-purpose, delicious, versatile dough that you can use for any type of baked or grilled or even fried bread. You can stuff it, bake it flat as pizza or focaccia, shape it into ciabatta or baguette, or, as below, grill it.
The dough takes 2 minutes to make in the food processor (in fact, it takes longer to wash the food processor than to make the dough). You can definitely knead it by hand if you have 10 minutes to spare, and then all you need to wash is a bowl and a wooden spoon. But as quickly as the dough comes together, I strongly advise you to let it rise overnight in the refrigerator for best flavor, so plan ahead. The bread will taste amazingly wheaty and complex thanks to a long, slow, cool rise.
A word of caution: once you’ve tasted grilled bread, you’ll be addicted, and if you live in a climate where outdoor grilling is only an option a few months of the year, you’ll find yourself indulging almost daily just so you can get your fill (impossible) before cool weather returns! The dough is grilled directly on the grill grates, so you don’t need any special equipment other than a bit of aluminum foil to aid in shaping and flipping onto the grill.
Makes 2 large flatbreads (serves 8 people)
For the dough:
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm (110°F) water
- extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl
For the topping:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing when serving
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade. Be careful not to use water that is too warm; anything above 120°F will kill the yeast, making the dough heavy rather than springy and light.
Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky. The dough should feel as soft as an earlobe when done; if it is dense or dry, add more water; you are better off with a slightly sticky dough than a dry one, as the bread will be much lighter and have beautiful air bubbles if your dough is a bit wet and sticky.
Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, roll to coat with the oil, shape into a ball, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rise, undisturbed, for 24 hours; this will result in a deliciously wheaty tasting bread with a lighter texture. You can certainly let the dough rise at room temperature in just 2 hours or so, but the flavor will not be nearly as good.
Three to four hours before you are ready to grill the bread, take the dough out of the refrigerator and return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.
Shape the dough: Cut two large pieces of sturdy aluminum foil (each piece should be about 12 inches long). Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each piece of foil and rub to coat the surface of the foil. Cut the dough in half and place one half on each piece of foil. Turn to coat both sides with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.
Uncover and, using your hands, flatten each piece of dough into a rectangle roughly 1/2-inch thick. Do not worry if it is not a perfect rectangle. The even thickness matters far more than the shape. Even thickness insures that the bread will grill evenly, with no doughy, thick parts.
Flip the dough.
Season with the salt. Let rest 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill to the highest setting for about 5 minutes. When the grill is really hot (about 500°F), place one bread on the grill, with the foil side facing up. Quickly peel off the foil. Repeat with the second bread. Close the grill and cook the breads about 3 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom; there should be deep grill marks on it. Cook longer if needed. Flip the breads, close the grill, and cook another 3 minutes, or until the second side is also browned; there will not be any grill lines on the second side, so what you are looking for is a golden color with a few deep brown spots.
Remove to a cutting board, brush with olive oil, cut into large pieces, and enjoy hot.