Staying Cool By Getting Flat


It’s summer and the weather is HOT.  The Pacific Northwest has been setting record temperatures for the last couple of days, with highs in the low 90’s Fahrenheit (roughly 32C).

After a long hot commute home from work and school, I can imagine most families don’t feel like firing up a stove or oven to make dinner.  I frequently see my friends and neighbors hopping into their air conditioned lazy-mobile and driving to a nice air conditioned eatery of their choice.

It’s a luxury eating experience for a mere $50 – $80 (a four person family at a mid-priced restaurant, plus tax, plus 15% tip).

However, our family doesn’t eat out.  We make all our meals at home.  This ensures we eat well on a reasonably small food budget.  It’s one of the ways we were able to accumulate a net worth of over $3 million dollars and reach financial independence (FI).

The only trouble is, with temperatures this hot the absolute last thing I want to be doing is slaving away in a hot kitchen making dinner for the family.  We don’t have AC in our house, so cooking over a hot stove can be sweltering during the summer.

Well, when the going gets HOT, this is when we flex our frugal muscles the most!  How can I keep cool and still manage to cook a restaurant quality meal at home?

One of the tricks I employ is switching to summer dishes — those that require no heat to prepare.

Green salads from our economic garden are popular on the ‘summer menu’ and I also bring into rotation cold noodle dishes and cold tofu dishes.

hiyayakko
Hiyayakko is one of my favorite Japanese cold tofu dishes. It’s easy to make too!

For meats and vegetables that need heat, I try to grill outside as often as possible.  Keeping the cooking heat outside really helps keep the house cooler.

I’ve definitely professed my love for the grill in past posts — from how to find cheaper propane, to making a better taco.  Sometimes I’ll even setup a slow-cooker outside to avoid heating-up the house.

These are all great tips for cooking when it’s hot outside, but somethings just have to be done in the oven, like breads and pizza, right?

RIGHT?

 

Enter The Dragon Flatbread

Now to be clear, I’m NOT a baker.  The idea of putting together bread ingredients, kneading, proofing (waiting hours for the dough to rise), forming the bread, letting it “rest”, and then slowly cooking it in a hot oven is not my idea of a good time.

Temperature and humidity are also factors in making a proper bread…. Frankly it’s all too much work for too little payoff.  I don’t have time for that nonsense.

But what if we could make fresh bread for our family’s evening meal, and it only took 10 minutes?  Even better — you don’t even need an oven to make it!

Welcome to the wonderful world of flatbreads!

Long before mankind got all fancy and sophisticated with burping fungus (yeast), nearly every hot country in the world made flatbreads.  Usually outside and over some kind of open flame… aka not in the house.

Flatbreads are typically unleavened breads, meaning they’re flat without all the air bubbles that come from yeast eating sugar.  (I should also mention that flatbreads are healthier due to the lack of refined sugar)

Of course, unleavened bread is dense.  So either it’s made extremely flat, or a chemical leavening agent is used in modern times.  Baking powder is the most common.

baking powder
I use this kind of baking powder. You can find at your local grocer or on Amazon.

Today I’m going to employ both methods to make a really nice flatbread for pennies AND I’m going to make it on the grill!

 

Mr. Tako’s Bacon Avocado Flatbread

If you study the world’s flatbread recipes, from Mexican wheat tortillas, to Indian chapati, and of course Italian Piadina — you’ll find that most flatbread recipes are incredibly similar.

Traditionally they contain 4 main ingredients: flour, salt, water, and some kind of fat (oil, butter, lard,etc).

My flatbread recipe uses all those traditional ingredients and adds baking powder:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour (can be substituted with gluten free versions)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of baking powder
  • 3/4 cup of warm water (approximate)

Combine the dry ingredients first and mix thoroughly.

dry flatbread ingredients

Then, add the oil and water.  Knead for a couple of minutes with your hand or mixer.  I prefer fewer dishes to wash, so I just use my hand.

ddough ball
I knead the dough with my hands on a flour-dusted cutting board.

Right about now is when I go start my grill and get my cast iron pan warming-up.  We’re going to cook this on the grill afterall!

cast iron on the grill
You can cook directly on the grill rack, but I use my cast iron.

Next, seperate the dough into golf-ball sized balls.  Once rolled-out these make a flatbread about 6″ in diameter.  This size fits nicely in my cast iron pan.

Any of the dough I don’t intend to use, I freeze for later use.  (They thaw and cook up great!)

dough balls.
This recipe makes about 7 servings.

Next, roll-out a dough “golf ball” using anything round.  If you have a rolling-pin, use that.  If not, use a can of beans or a water glass.  Anything round works.  We’re not trying to be fussy here.

Try to make the bread as thin as possible.  Dust with flower as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, and place it on a plate.  It takes a little practice.

uncooked flatbread.
Rolled out nice and flat. Ready for cooking.

 

Cooking The Flatbread

By now, my cast iron pan is usually quite hot on the grill.  Off to the side of the grill I usually put down a couple strips of bacon.  If you don’t have room on your grill for bacon, you can always cook it in the microwave.

cast iron with bacon
Might as well use the hot grill to cook some bacon!

Next, I tend to add a couple drops of olive oil to the pan to keep things from sticking but it might not be needed depending upon your pan.  Wait for the oil to heat up.

Place the flatbread into the pan and let it cook until it starts to brown on the bottom.

bubbling flatbread
My flatbread is getting a little bubbly here. It might be ready to flip.  I should check for browning.

Once the bubbles appear, check for a very slight browning on the underside.  The flatbread should still be quite flexible at this point.  Flip the flatbread over.

It should look something like this.

toasted

Next, I add about a teaspoon of olive oil and dust the flatbread with oregano and some cheese (I like parmesan and mozzarella for this).

flatbread with cheese
Add whatever toppings you like. I like oregano, olive oil and cheese.

Close the grill or cover the pan to create an oven-like environment.  Obviously we want the flatbread to be not too crispy and not too soft.  There’s a Goldilocks area of doneness with flatbreads.  Usually this is around 2-4 minutes on my grill, but grill temperatures vary significantly.  Watch it close!

Once the flatbread is toasted on both sides, remove it from the heat.  The bacon should be pretty close to done now too.  Chop the bacon and add some thin slices of avocado on top.

If the bread seems a little dry (will depend upon your cheese) drizzle a little extra olive oil.  I like to crack some fresh ground pepper over the top too.

bacon avocado flatbread   bacon avocado flatbread
Cut into smaller pieces and serve.  It’s a deliciously easy summer meal!

 

Finish?

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into flatbreads.  With a little practice this flatbread recipe can be made in 10-20 minutes for mere pennies without toppings.  With toppings, it might cost around $1-$2.

It’s an incredibly cheap meal that might cost $10 to $15 in a restaurant.  In fact, I challenge you to find a flatbread this good and this cheap in a restaurant!

My recipe uses avocado and bacon because they’re two of my favorite toppings.  If you don’t like those toppings, feel free to use whatever makes your tastebuds happy.

Sans toppings, this flatbread recipe also goes great with chili, chowders, and Indian curries.  It’s a very generic flatbread that’s incredibly versatile.

flatbread uses
This flatbread goes great with curries, soups, stews and can even be used as a low-cost pita bread substitute!

Hmmm… I wonder what else flatbread could be used for?

 

[Image Credit: Hiyayako @ Wikimedia]

11 thoughts on “Staying Cool By Getting Flat

  • July 18, 2018 at 2:58 AM
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    I’m impressed. That actually looks great (and not too complicated to do). Chef Ramsey might have to look out as there is new competition in the kitchen.

    Wow no AC during a heat wave can’t be fun. Well hopefully you can stay cool and keep posting informative bits like this

    Reply
  • July 18, 2018 at 3:50 AM
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    Mr Tako, you wound me! Homemade bread is absolutely worth it. (As I sit here eating my fresh homemade toast). I mix 4 ingredients in the morning and leave for work, get home and roll it and shape it so it rests during dinner. Pop it in the oven during the last of evening prep and pull out fresh loaves just before bed. Easy peasy and like 5 minutes of actual work.
    That said, I cannot beat 4 minutes for flatbread! And it is extremely versatile in all the ways you mention. Lacking a press, I’ve not had the best of luck with tortillas, but pita bread is a favorite. Store bought can’t come close to the moisture and flavor of freshly made. And if by chance it lasts more than a few days, you could crisp it up extra for chips.

    Reply
    • July 18, 2018 at 8:24 AM
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      Nothing personal, I’m just not a baker! I know some people love to make fresh bread as often as possible, but not me! 😉

      A simple flatbread is as close to “real” bread as I get.

      Reply
  • July 18, 2018 at 5:51 AM
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    Ever try an air fryer? Cool on the outside; quick minimal oil quick cooking.

    Reply
    • July 18, 2018 at 8:27 AM
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      One of these? https://amzn.to/2L4PxDS

      They might be a bit more efficient than a regular fryer, but your still pumping BTU’s into food inside the house.

      Whatever energy isn’t used to heat the food will eventually heat the house.

      Reply
  • July 18, 2018 at 6:09 AM
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    I’ve been wanting to make our own bread, but alas the time constraint has won that battle for now. But this doesn’t seem all that time consuming. I’m passing on this recipe to the cook of the family, Mr. Wow. What a great idea! And I’m like you, bacon and avocado are amazing!!

    Reply
  • July 18, 2018 at 9:59 AM
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    I live in the Portland burbs and we’re roasting over here! Last night we had sushi bowls to use up some leftovers and to keep the house cool. (Instant Pot rice for the win!) I’ve been craving something pizza-esque, but haven’t wanted to turn on the oven an I think you’ve sold me on this flat bread.

    I don’t usually have much luck with baking bread, but I’ve been making this focaccia recipe a lot lately. No kneading and it freezes really well. You might try it when the weather cools down again just in time for soups this fall! 😉 http://www.farmbelly.com/recipe-journal/2018/5/28/salties-famous-focaccia-bread

    Stay cool!

    Reply
  • July 21, 2018 at 9:12 AM
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    Ooh that Hiyayakko looks great! I love cold, simple, dishes for the summer. And the flatbread is a great idea as well! Since we can’t lug a bread maker with us around the world, making flatbread on the pan is a great idea. I’m stealing that 🙂

    Reply
  • July 22, 2018 at 9:16 AM
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    I am trying to perfect slow cooker bread but that project is on hold until the cooler weather. I guess you could put your slow cooker outside and make bread in it.

    Reply

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