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Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas

Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas

by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid

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"Two people caught in the grip of wanderlust," as Alford and Duguid describe themselves, this American- Canadian pair has traveled for nearly two decades, singly and together, throughout Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and North America. As they have pursued their passions for travel photography and culinary research, they have found around the world


"Two people caught in the grip of wanderlust," as Alford and Duguid describe themselves, this American- Canadian pair has traveled for nearly two decades, singly and together, throughout Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and North America. As they have pursued their passions for travel photography and culinary research, they have found around the world a shared and nourishing element of culture and cuisine: flatbreads, the simplest, oldest, and most marvelously varied form of bread known to humankind. Immersing themselves in local cultures-from the Malaysian island of Penang and the high Himalayan passes of Tibet to the market stalls of Provence and the pueblos of New Mexico — Adford and Duguid have studied bread baking and cooking with local bakers, in family kitchens, with street vendors, and at neighborhood restaurants and cafes.

In Flatbreads and Flavors they share more than sixty recipes for flatbreads of every origin and description: tortillas from Mexico, pita from the Middle East, naan from Afghanistan, chapatti from India, pizza from Italy, and French fougasse. As well within the eight regional chapters of the book, they provide 150 exuberant recipes for traditional accompaniments to the breads. These include chutneys and curries, salsas and stews, rich samplings of the Mediterranean mezze table and the Scandinavian smorgasbord, and such delectable pairings as Chinese Spicy Cumin Kebabs wrapped in Uighur nan or Lentils with Garlic, Onion, and Tomato spooned onto chapatti.

Oven-baked, grilled, fried, skillet-baked, steamed, or even baked beneath the desert sand, flatbreads are a fascinating, satisfying, and simple form that bringswholesome grains into our diet. They can be made from every grain imaginable: wheat, rye, corn, oats, millet, sorghum, teff, rice, buckwheat. They can be unleavened or leavened. They can be made so thin that they become transparent, or they can be two inches thick and sliceable.

But Flatbreads and Flavors is not only a book about the original life-sustaining food served around the world since time began, it is also a book about people and places, with vivid images and shared experiences captured in brief prose essays and in Alford and Duguid's own acclaimed photographs. Redolent with the tastes and aromas of the world's hearths, it maps a course through cultures old and intriguing. With clear and patient recipes and special sections defining techniques, ingredients, and equipment, Flatbreads and Flavors makes accessible to the novice and experienced baker alike the simple and satisfying bread baker's art.

Flatbreads and Flavors has 8 maps and 16 pages of full-color photographs of breads and their accompaniments. It is a Main Selection of HomeStyle Books a division of Book-of-the-Month Club.

Editorial Reviews

This is one of the most interesting and beautiful cookbooks ever published.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sweet Persian Bread

nane sheer / Persia

These breads are more like cookies than flatbreads, but they are so simple and delicious we had to include them. They are made with milk and flavored with brown sugar and vanilla. We should warn you that they can be somewhat hard-to-the-bite once they've cooled, so enjoy them as they are customarily served, with a cup of hot tea or coffee, and dunk the breads to soften them. They are also delicious dunked in hot milk for a milk-and-cookies-style snack.

2 cups hard unbleached white flour, or more as necessary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk, or more as necessary
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You will need a medium-sized mixing bowl, two small (10- by 14-inch) baking sheets that can fit side by side in your oven, a rolling pin, and a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Whisk or stir together. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and vanilla extract. Stir the flour into the milk until a soft, kneadable dough begins to form. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour; if too dry, add a little more milk. Turn out onto a lightly floured bread board and knead for 2 to 3 minutes.

Dust two 10- by 14-inch baking sheets with flour. Divide the dough in half and roll out each piece to the size of the baking sheets (the dough should be less than 1/4 inch thick).

Place in the center of your oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 250°F. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from theoven. Working with one sheet at a time, turn out onto a large cutting board, and cut into 3- to 4-inch squares while the bread is still warm; it will harden quickly as it cools.

Makes approximately 2 dozen 3- to 4-inch square thin flatbreads.

Three-Color Focaccia

focacels alla pugliese / Italy

Focaccia is a flatbread traditionally cooked on the hearth, often in a skillet covered with hot embers. Nowadays it is more often baked in an oven, though a skillet is still used, as in this recipe.Focaccia comes in many forms; all tend to be thicker than most pizza and to carry their flavor in the dough rather than on the top surface. In the north of Italy focaccie are made with wheat-flour doughs and usually flavored with herbs. The potato-based dough used in this focaccia from Puglia, in the south, produces a dense-looking tender dough. This version of a focaccia recipe in Carol Field's classic The Italian Baker has the colors of the Italian flag: the red of sun-dried tomatoes and the green of sage and parsley, all floating in a pale dough -- a pleasure to look at as well as a satisfying snack or accompaniment to soup.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 to 5 cups hard unbleached white flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped cooked peeled potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
1/2 cup potato-cooking water (or spring or tap water)
3/4 cup packed flat-leafed parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup packed fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
Olive oil for brushing
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

You will need a large bread bowl, a medium skillet, a blender, a large bowl, and four heavy ovenproof skillets or metal pie plates 8 to 9 inches in diameter.

Place the warm water in a large bread bowl and add the yeast and 2 cups flour. Stir to blend, then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to develop the gluten. Let this sponge stand, covered, for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet, and fry the onions over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Puree the potatoes in a blender with the potato cooking water or spring or tap water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the onion, parsley, sage, oil, and salt.

Add 1/2 cup flour to the sponge and stir well. Then add the potato mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes, dusting both your hands and the kneading surface generously with the remaining 1 to 2 cups flour at intervals as you work, until the dough is no longer sticky, but soft and tender to the touch. Clean the bread bowl, oil lightly, and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 to 3 hours until at least doubled in volume.

Gently punch down the dough, and cut it in half. Set one half aside, covered with plastic wrap.

Cut the remaining dough in half. Form each piece into a ball. Generously oil two 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillets or pie plates. Place a ball of dough in each skillet or pie plate. Press down on the center of each ball of dough and gently press it out toward the edges. Let rest for 5 minutes, then press each bread out again until it reaches or comes close to the edges of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400°F.

just before the first batch of focaccia has finished rising, shape the remaining dough into 2 loaves. (Alternatively, refrigerate the remaining dough, well sealed in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days. Uncover and bring to room temperature before shaping and baking.)

When the first breads have risen, brush the tops gently but generously with olive oil. Press your fingertips firmly into the dough to create deep dimples an over. Lightly sprinkle each one witht 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375°F and bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Turn the breads out onto a rack and let stand for at least 10 minutes to firm before slicing. Turn the oven temperature back up to 400°F, and bake the remaining breads. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Note: If you use dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes, drain, and pat dry before using.

Makes 4 round breads about 8 inches across and 2 inches thick.

Flatbreads and Flavors. Copyright © by Jeffrey Alford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, travelers, cooks, photographers, and writers, have worked together since they met in Tibet in 1985. They are the authors of six books and have contributed frequently to Food & Wine, Food Arts, and many other magazines. They were part of the award-winning PBS series Baking with Julia and contributed to the book of the same name; they also appeared in the Food Network series Baker's Dozen. They guest-teach at a number of cooking schools and frequently give slideshow lectures about food traditions around the world. Their stock photo library, Asia Access, specializes in images of food, agriculture, and traditional cultures. They live in Toronto.

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