Sunday, July 10, 2011

flatbreads with honey, thyme and sea salt

flatbreads with thyme, honey and sea salt

Crisp flatbread. Fruity olive oil. Nutty cheese. Warm honey. Faintly crunchy sea salt. Fresh thyme. I can probably skip the rest of the post, as what else is there to know? You might like all of these things separately but together: welcome to my latest addiction.

sea salt, olive oil, honey, cheese, thyme

This is straight off a restaurant menu, though I’m always a bit embarrassed to mention than lest someone from the kitchen of this impeccable restaurant be reading along at home and feel insulted by this bastardization of their worthy efforts. Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe my memory failed me. Maybe they spent 24 hours kneading the dough to this work of flatbread art and I have the audacity to suggest that you can get equivalent greatness from something that comes together in 5 minutes. My aim to extol, not insult so let’s just call this an approximation of it.

spanish cheese

Alex and I got to sneak out to a restaurant on 9th Avenue the other night and proceeded to ooh and aah over every single thing on the menu. Seriously, ask me about the bacon wrapped quail! Just ask me. Oh wait, you don’t have to ask me because I’ve spoken about nothing else since Wednesday. We’d had enough txakolina (also perfect, barely sweet, so summery) that we weren’t feeling the need for dessert, but decided to get just one more thing off the tapas menu and I want to say that this is the perfect summer non-dessert. It wasn’t designed as dessert but it’s such a wonderful meal-ender (with, perhaps, another glass of wine; I admit nothing!) that I had to find a way to share it with you. And hopefully get some photos before someone ran off with it.

olive oil well
rolled thin

So I hacked it from my previous favorite crisp flatbread recipe, one from Gourmet (sniffle) three years ago, to make something new. First, I baked in some nutty cheese at the end, before adding honey, sea salt (because honey against sea salt is just… just… perfect) and a few fresh thyme leaves. We ate it hot — promise you’ll eat it while it’s still hot — and marveled at the cheese/salt/honey/olive oil combination that did not exist for us before Wednesday, but will now become a staple. Hooray for new staples.

mahon flatbread, thyme, honey

One year ago: Mango Slaw with Cashews and Mint and Thai-Style Chicken Legs
Two years ago: Blueberry Boy Bait (P.S. It worked!) and Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza
Three years ago: Watermelon Feta Salad
Four years ago: Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
Flatbread base adapted from Gourmet; recipe inspired by Salinas

These crackers fit squarely between dinner and dessert. It goes well with a cheese course — oh, wait, you don’t have cheese courses with each meal at your house? Yeah, us neither, sigh — or at a cocktail party or maybe as a little summer afternoon something-something with a glass of wine or even as a dessert for people who do not throw themselves wholly into sweet things. The crackers play off the nutty cheese which plays off the slick of honey and faint crunch of sea salt with bits of thyme throughout and together they are even more than the sum of their parts. And they take no time to make.

As for the cheese you use, the restaurant uses a Mahon, which I was able to find, but I daresay you could try any other aged nutty cow milk cheese instead, or even a hard salty cheese like Romano or Parmesan instead. Yes, that’s a wide range. Mostly, it’s about a flavor you might enjoy here.

Makes about 16 flatbreads

1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces or 220 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (118 ml) water
1/3 cup (79 ml) olive oil
2/3 to 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces or 85 grams) grated Mahon cheese (see above for replacements)
1/3 to 1/2 cup (79 to 118 ml) honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on a middle rack.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times. It will feel quite oily (but just think of how great your hands will look later!).

Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out 1 piece at on a sheet of parchment paper into a longish irregular rustic shape; mine were about 12″x6″. The dough should be rolled thin and it be crazy oily and you’ll think I’ve lost my mind suggesting that it will make anything but a mess, but you’ll see in a few minutes how perfectly ungreasy it bakes up, promise.

Slide rolled out dough and parchment paper together onto the preheated baking sheet or stone, and bake about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Leaving the oven on, remove tray from oven and quickly sprinkle with 1/4 of grated cheese. Bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until browned at edges and in thinner spots. Remove flatbreads from oven a final time, quickly drizzle each with honey (1 used about a tablespoon per flatbread, but the restaurant used more; they were truly flooded with honey and it was delicious), sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with thyme leaves. Cut each cracker width-wise into 4 sections (about 3″x6″ each) with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Serve warm.

Do ahead: Should you want to prepare these ahead of time for a party, I’d bake them including the cheese about 1 minute less than needed. Shortly before you’re ready to serve them, re-toast them in the oven and then drizzle on the honey/thyme/sea salt.


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