Easy Panfried Flatbread

Easy doesn’t begin to describe this amazing flatbread. I first came up with this recipe when, after making cheese-filled focaccia di Recco, a delicious specialty from Liguria, I had a bit of leftover dough. I decided to pat it out and pan-fry it, and the result was a semi-flaky, light-on-the-inside, browned-on-the-outside bread that instantly became a favorite in our home.

Because this dough has no yeast, you can make the dough up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate it until you are ready to shape and cook it, and it won’t over-ferment.

This bread is so good alongside salumi and cheeses, dragged through peppery extra-virgin olive oil, or dipped into the juices from a perfectly ripe summer tomato. You can also use it instead of flour tortillas to wrap up pretty much anything you like, from roasted vegetables to grilled beef or fried fish. I urge you to try it. All you need is a hot skillet (preferably nonstick), some parchment paper to pat out the dough (no rolling pin needed), and a few minutes of time.

Serves 4 (makes two 12-inch breads)

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed

Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water, and mix until the ingredients come together around the spoon while you mix, forming a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic and silky. The dough should feel as soft as an earlobe; if it is too firm, you have added too much flour or not enough water, and the bread will be dry and dense. If that is the case, brush the dough with a bit of water and continue kneading until silky and smooth.

Place on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature (or in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before shaping).

To shape the dough: Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths (or use aluminum foil if you prefer). Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon of the remaining olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes; the gluten strands need to relax in that case, and it won’t help if you try to stretch the dough further at this time.

Flip the dough, and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon of the remaining olive oil. Flip again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with 1/8 teaspoon of the remaining salt.

Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over high heat for 2 minutes, but do not heat it so high or so long that it begins to smoke.

Carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Flip and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.