The heat arrived today.
We've been hearing about this monster heat wave for a week. Many of you have been suffering through it for a week or more. Even here in Maine, it's been hot.
But today, today was when we really joined the party and found ourselves so hot that we continued sweating while laying still with a fan blowing on us at night.
There's not a lot of central AC in Maine. I've never lived with it, and I don't know anyone in-state who does. For most of the year, we Mainers scoff at the idea. What a waste of energy! Whatever happened to window fans and popsicles and playing under the sprinkler?
And then, predictably, for about a week every summer, a heat wave hits and we try every remedy we've ever known and nothing works to cool us down and the heat becomes the only thing we can talk or think about, when we're able to talk or think at all.
I wanted to talk to you today about grilled flatbread pizza. It's a staple menu item at 40 Paper, and one of the things that we don't currently offer a gluten-free version of. I've trained myself to skip right over that section of the menu when I'm having dinner there, but I do admit that it's sometimes tempting to lean in close for a whiff when the boys are enjoying their favorite artisan salami flatbread, and I've felt envy more than once upon overhearing the staff rave about the roasted apple pizza.
So I was really excited to tell you that I made a fabulous gluten-free replica the other night. The dough is easy to make, grills wonderfully, is so tender and supple that you can fold it over itself without it breaking or even cracking, and tastes so good (especially with the smokiness from the grill) that Kalen and Wylie gobbled up one whole flatbread before I had time to top it. When Josh came home and saw the leftovers in two plastic-wrapped bundles in the fridge, he (wrongly) assumed that one packet was pizza from the restaurant, and the other was my version. "I can't even tell them apart!"
I like it when he can't tell the difference between the gluten-free dinners I make at home on a whim and the gluten-full food the kitchen at the restaurant sends out on a nightly basis.
So these gluten-free grilled flatbreads will soon be available at 40 Paper. Well, just as soon as we figure out a reliable way to grill them without any gluten contamination from the grill the 'regular' flatbreads are made on every day. (I'm crossing my fingers that the solution doesn't include me hunched over a portable grill in the back parking lot.) I'm so excited that we'll have another entire menu category that will be celiac-friendly!
But I had even bigger plans for you, for this space. I wasn't merely going to offer you fantastic gluten-free grilled flatbread pizza. I was going to make another batch, and show you that it could easily fold around falafel, or kebobs, or sliced steak, or a jumble of your favorite vegetables and dressing for a 'salad sandwich.' So many options with this flatbread recipe. I'm pretty sure it would also bake up fine in a really hot oven, which might be more convenient than working over coals, although certainly not more fun.
Those were my plans. Until . . .
Now, all plans are dashed, food is served cold or at room temperature at best, and there's no way I'm building another fire or turning on my oven until this weather pattern shifts. So you just get the pizza.
Which is still a really great 'just,' if you ask me.
When I was very young, I was convinced that on hot summer nights, the foot of the bed was the coolest spot for sleeping. Something about the other side of the pillow always being the cooler one must have extended, in my 8-year-old mind, to the entire bed. I remember spending many nights with my head jostling for space among all the stuffed animals and Cabbage Patch® dolls I kept against my footboard.
Tonight, with my face still shiny with sweat at midnight, when even the heat emanating from this laptop is too much for me to handle, I think I just might try it again. It's either that or the sprinkler.
Grilled Flatbread Pizza
Yields 4 flatbreads
Inspired by Elizabeth Barbone
139 grams white rice flour
100 grams brown rice flour
65 grams cornstarch
42 grams almond flour
30 grams sorghum flour
20 grams gluten-free oat flour
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp psyllium husk powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
8 fluid oz plus 2 Tbsp water
4 fluid oz plus 2 Tbsp whole milk
2 egg yolks from 2 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 packet (2¼ tsp) active dry yeast
Combine all the dry ingredients except the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
Heat the water and milk in a small saucepan set over medium heat until they feel warm but not hot to the touch, about 90º-100ºF. (Alternately, you can warm them in the microwave.)
Whisk the egg yolks, canola oil, and yeast into the warmed water/milk, then add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just to blend. Increase speed to high and mix for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into four pieces. (It will be quite sticky.) Place each portion on separate pieces of parchment or waxed paper that have been generously greased with olive oil. Use your fingers (dipping them in olive oil as needed to keep the dough from sticking to them) to spread each dough out into an oval, circle, or long rectangle shape. Your flatbread, your call. Cover the doughs lightly with pieces of olive oil-greased plastic wrap and allow them to rise in a warm location for 45 minutes. It's a good idea to have your doughs on baking pans or trays, to facilitate carrying them out to the grill.
Prepare your grill. I am old-school and use hardwood charcoal, but any gas grill will work fine as well. You want the grill pretty hot, but not screaming hot, and you definitely don't want lots of flames reaching up that will burn your flatbread before it's cooked through. Cooking over open fire is certainly an art, one that I'm just learning, and I don't have the language or experience yet to tell you exactly what temperature you need to be at. Play with it. You'll soon figure out what works for you.
Bring your risen doughs, a pair of tongs, a spatula, and a large plate out to your grilling area.
Remove the plastic wrap covering the flatbread doughs. Working with one dough at a time, use the corners of the parchment to lift it and slowly lay it face-down on the grill. You want it to go on smoothly and land flat, not in a mushed heap. Gently remove the parchment paper. (I used the spatula to help peel it off - it's very sticky dough!)
The flatbread will cook very quickly - really, it's a matter of seconds here. Use the tongs to lift the flatbread to check how it's cooking and move it around a bit if one side appears to be cooking faster than the other. You're looking for evenly-dark grill marks. At this point, you'll notice that the top of the flatbread is starting to look dry and cooked around the edges - this is when you use the tongs to flip it over. Cook the other side of the flatbread just until dark grill marks appear (I'd advise you not to let it burn, except that I like a bit of black on my pizza), and transfer it to the waiting plate. Repeat with the remaining three doughs. The flatbreads can be made up to a day in advance, keeping them wrapped airtight until you're ready to top them.
Top the flatbreads with whatever you choose, and stick them under the broiler (I used my toaster oven) for 5-8 minutes to heat the toppings and melt any cheeses. Serve hot.
Posted by Tara Barker at 2:22 AM