Soft and Pillowy Flatbread

Season: All | Active Time: 1 hour 20 minutes for making plain flatbreads (less if just making the dough) | Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes for making plain flatbreads (less if just making the dough) | Difficulty: 3 (Moderate) | Vegan

As far as yeast doughs go, flatbread (yes, it still contains yeast) is extremely forgiving and therefore a great recipe for people who think they can’t bake bread. This dough contains a secret ingredient—mashed potato—which keeps these flatbreads soft and pliable. I learned this trick from Hanna Rose Strauss (aka Nano), former Bon Appétit Deputy Editor Julia Kramer’s great-grandmother, whose famous recipe for schnecken, or cinnamon rolls, calls for cooked potato. Making Nano’s schnecken was the first time I’d added potato to any dough that wasn’t for potato bread, and I was pleasantly surprised at just how soft it made both the dough and the final product. Thanks, Nano!

Makes eight 7- to 8-inch flatbreads ①

Special Equipment: Instant-read thermometer, griddle or large skillet (preferably cast iron)

1 russet potato (about 8 oz / 227g), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (0.11 oz / 3g)

cups all-purpose flour (15 oz / 423g), plus more for the work surface

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (1 oz / 28g), plus more for the bowl

2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.21 oz / 6g)

Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top

Cook and mash the potato: Place the potato in a small saucepan and cover with cold water just until the pieces are submerged. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potato is very tender and a fork easily slides into the center of a piece, 12 to 16 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl; reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes inside the bowl with a large fork or potato masher until no lumps remain and set aside. ②

Proof the yeast: Let the reserved potato cooking liquid cool until it’s lukewarm but not hot (it should register about 105°F on an instant-read thermometer; refrigerate it to speed up the cooling process if necessary). Combine ¼ cup of the luke warm potato cooking liquid (2 oz / 57g) and the yeast in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve the yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Mix the dough: Add the remaining ¾ cup potato cooking liquid (6 oz / 170g) to the bowl with the yeast, then add the flour, olive oil, kosher salt, and the mashed potato. Mix with a wooden spoon until you have a shaggy dough, then scrape everything onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough, adding a bit more flour as needed if it’s very sticky, until the dough is very soft and elastic and slightly tacky—it might stick to your hands slightly but should pull away from the surface cleanly—10 to 12 minutes. You can also mix the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook on medium speed until the dough is barely pulling away from the sides, adding more flour as needed, 8 to 10 minutes.

Let the dough rise one time: Wash and dry the bowl you used to mix the dough, then lightly oil the inside. Gather the dough into a ball, place it inside the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let sit at room temperature until the dough is doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. If you’re making the Clam and Fennel Pizza with Gremolata (this page), prepare the dough through this step.

Prepare a baking sheet: Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment. Set aside.

Portion and shape the dough: Uncover the dough and use your fist to punch it down lightly to expel some of the gases that built up during the first rise.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and use a bench scraper or knife to divide it into 8 equal pieces.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, gather all the edges and pinch them together to form a teardrop shape. Place the piece of dough seam-side down on the work surface.

Holding your fingers in a cupped position like you’re playing the piano, place your hand on top of the dough and drag the dough across the surface, moving your hand in a rapid circular motion, to form it into a tight ball. Do not add flour, as this step requires friction between the dough and the surface.

Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat the forming process until you’ve shaped all 8 pieces of dough and placed them underneath the plastic on the baking sheet. (At this stage, the dough, tightly covered on the baking sheet, can be refrigerated up to 16 hours.)

Let the dough rise a second time: Let the dough sit at room temperature until the balls are nearly doubled in size, 40 to 50 minutes (note that if you refrigerated the dough, the second rise will slowly take place in the refrigerator, but if pieces haven’t doubled, let them sit at room temperature before proceeding). Transfer the baking sheet with the risen dough balls to the refrigerator. If you’re making the Feta-Za’atar Flatbread with Charred Eggplant Dip (this page), prepare the dough through this step.

Roll out the flatbreads: Remove a piece of dough from the baking sheet, keeping the rest covered and in the refrigerator, and place it on an unfloured work surface. Roll out the dough to a thin round about 7 or 8 inches in diameter (roundish is okay; the shape isn’t important!). The dough will be very relaxed and should only require a small amount of pressure with the pin, but don’t add any flour since the friction with the surface will help the dough extend.

Preheat the skillet: Heat a large, dry skillet (preferably cast-iron) or griddle over medium heat for several minutes.

Cook the flatbread: Peel the flatbread carefully off the work surface and transfer it to the preheated skillet. Cook until the bottom is lightly charred all over and the surface of the dough has bubbled up and gone from shiny and sticky to matte and dry, 1 or 2 minutes. Turn the flatbread and cook on the second side until the dough is cooked through, about another 30 seconds. Transfer to a cooling rack and sprinkle immediately with flaky salt.

Roll and cook the remaining flatbreads: Remove one piece of dough at a time from the refrigerator and repeat the rolling and cooking process until all the flatbreads are cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature.

VARIATION

Sweet Potato Flatbreads: Substitute an equal weight of sweet potato for the russet potato and cook as directed. Because the sweet potato flesh is wetter and less starchy than that of a russet, the sweet potato dough will be softer and require a few additional tablespoons of flour during kneading.

DO AHEAD
The cooked flatbreads are best eaten right away, although you can wrap them in foil while still warm and hold them in a 200°F oven up to 1 hour. The dough, portioned after the first rise and covered on the baking sheet, can be refrigerated up to 16 hours.

① You can make a half recipe of dough if you only want 4 servings. You can also make a full recipe and portion just half of the dough to make flatbreads, then cover and refrigerate the other half of the dough before the second rise to make the Clam and Fennel Pizza with Gremolata (this page) the next day.

② You can use leftover baked potato instead of mashed boiled potato to make the flatbreads. Scoop and mash 8 ounces (227g) of flesh and use tap water in place of the potato cooking liquid.

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