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How to Make Pan-Grilled Flatbread

Why this recipe works Flatbreads are eaten all over the world, often accompanying stewed meals —they’re perfect for mopping up aromatic braising liquids and curries. We set out to make flavorful, rustic flatbreads that were tender yet chewy, and easy enough to cook while dinner was on the stove. We knew we wanted a hearty wheat flavor without compromising the flatbread’s texture, so we added a small amount of whole-wheat flour—just ¼ cup—to the high- protein bread flour. Taking a cue from the Indian flatbread naan, we enriched the dough with yogurt and oil, which tenderized it. A little sugar and salt improved the flavor of the bread. For the cooking vessel, we turned to a cast-iron skillet, which mimicked the tandoor or brick oven often used to bake similar breads around the world. The cast iron’s great heat retention helped create the signature spotty brown flecks covering these breads. But our flatbreads were developing a tough crust. We found that softening the crust and prolonging the optimal tender texture of the bread required a two-tiered approach. First, we misted the dough with water before cooking it to moisten the flour that coated it. Then we covered the pan during the bread’s brief cooking time, which trapped steam and moisture. Brushing the finished breads with melted butter and sprinkling them with sea salt added a final layer of flavor to these easy-to-make flatbreads. We prefer a cast-iron skillet here, but any 12-inch nonstick skillet will work fine. For efficiency, stretch the next ball of dough while each flatbread is cooking.

  • makes four 9-inch flatbreads
  • rising time 1½ to 2 hours
  • resting time 10 minutes
  • cooking time 16 minutes
  • total time 3 to 3½ hours
  • key equipment 12-inch cast-iron skillet with lid, rolling pin, water-filled spray bottle, pastry brush

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  • 2½ cups (13¾ ounces) bread flour
  • ¼ cup (1⅓ ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) plain whole-milk yogurt, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • coarse sea salt

1). Whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk water, yogurt, 1 tablespoon oil, and sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 8 minutes.

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2). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.

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3). Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Transfer dough to clean counter, divide into quarters, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter, and using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Let balls rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

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4). Grease 12-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, press and roll 1 dough ball into 9-inch round of even thickness, sprinkling dough and counter with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Using fork, poke entire surface of round 20 to 25 times.

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5). Using paper towels, carefully wipe out skillet, leaving thin film of oil on bottom and sides. Mist top of dough with water. Place dough moistened side down in skillet, then mist top of dough with water. Cover and cook until flatbread is lightly puffed and bottom is spotty brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip flatbread, cover, and continue to cook until spotty brown on second side, 2 to 4 minutes. (If large air pockets form, gently poke with fork to deflate.)

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6). Brush 1 side of flatbread with about 1 teaspoon melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately or transfer to ovensafe plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining dough balls, melted butter, and sea salt. Serve.

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problem The flatbreads have a floury crust.

solution Mist the dough with water and cover the skillet.

Flatbreads should have a browned, blistered exterior, but they should also be uniformly soft and tender. To prevent a floury crust from forming, spray the raw dough lightly with water before cooking it to moisten the flour that coats it. In addition, cook the flatbread covered to trap steam around the bread as it bakes. This not only softens the crust but also allows the flatbreads to stay moist and tender for longer after cooking.

problem The flatbreads are tough.

solution Use whole-milk yogurt.

Although it may be tempting to reach for any plain yogurt you have on hand for this recipe, you must use whole-milk yogurt. Using low-fat yogurt will yield tough bread. The extra fat in whole-milk yogurt coats the flour proteins, weakening gluten formation by preventing the proteins from binding to each other too tightly. The higher-fat yogurt also holds in more moisture for a tender bread.

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