When I looked up how to spell flatbread (one word or two? was the question – flatbread, one word, is the answer), I was surprised to see the note, "traditional in Scandinavia". Do you think of flat breads – ahem, flatbread – as universal? So do I.
Nonetheless, my flatbread recipe is from Finland, a rustic favorite from when I lived there as an exchange student way back forever ago. It's a tender savory quick bread, just right to serve warm with a bowl of soup or alongside a salad or, with tea, say, for breakfast.
There’s nothing quite like hot bread to say “welcome home” to a hungry family. Finnish Whole-Wheat Flatbread is plain cooking at its best. It’s best hot, too, so make only enough for the meal at hand and perhaps for snacking within the next day.
Nervous about kneading? Don't be! Busy cooks often do two things at once: think of kneading as feeding your family and exercising your upper arms at the same time!
If you’re new to kneading bread, it’s really quite simple. Sprinkle a plate-size area of countertop with a tablespoon of flour, keeping another couple of tablespoons within reach. With your hands, form the dough into a flat round and place onto the floured area. Palms down, grasp the dough lightly. Press it firmly away from you with the heel of one hand. Then fold top of the dough toward you. Turn the dough a quarter turn. Repeat the press-fold--turn process in continuous motion – you’re kneading bread!
Soon you’ll feel the dough become thicker and more pliant as the leavening (that's the baking powder and baking soda which make the bread rise) begins to work. If the dough starts to stick, just sprinkle a little more flour on the countertop.
ALTERNATIVES for BAKING Don't like the rustic bread look? The bread will appear slightly more "together" when the dough is arranged for baking on a lightly buttered 12” pizza pan or in two 9” cake pans or in a rectangular pan such as a 9x13.
VEGAN FLATBREAD For a vegan version, use shortening instead of butter, this is how I first made the recipe back in 2003.
RECIPE HISTORY This column was first published in print in 2003, I've updated the recipe just a bit to reflect my kitchen style of 2012 and for publishing the recipe online for the first time.
FINNISH WHOLE-WHEAT FLATBREAD
Time to table: 55 minutes
Makes 12 wedges, easily halved for 6
- 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 185g
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour or bread flour, fluffed to aerate or 95g
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Additional flour, for kneading
- For the top, good salt such as Maldon
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
With the large holes of a cheese grater, "grate" the butter to create the perfect size pieces for flaky, tender bread. With your hands, toss the butter into the flour mixture to coat and distribute; work quickly, you don't want the heat of your hands to soften the butter.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in buttermilk and with your hands, work in until just moistened. Knead the dough for two or three rounds right in the bowl, then pull out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 - 5 minutes. Add flour to keep from sticking but use as little as possible, the more flour, the heavier the bread. As the leavening begins to work, you'll feel the dough begin to firm up and "poof".
Shape dough into a flat round with smooth edges and arrange on the parchment paper. With a benchknife or the dull side of a knife, "score" the dough into twelve pieces (or as many as you want), cutting into the dough without cutting all the way through. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is turning gold. Remove from oven and brush lightly with olive oil. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve immediately.
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