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Nigellan Flatbread

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Look, the name is meant to be a bit of joke, but what I’m talking about is a pita-like bread, glazed golden with beaten egg and sprinkled with nigella seeds. I came across a recipe rather like it in Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno’s inspirational Bread and made it, you could say, my own. (You can get the nigella seeds, usually marked “kalonji,” from shops that sell Indian food, and many more besides.) This is what I make when I’m in mezze-mode. It’s not hard, and although I love some of the flatbreads you can buy (not particularly the pitas, but the doughier, softer, tear-shaped hearthbreads), it gives me more pleasure to make these, doubling the quantity and putting the flat oval loaves in the oven in batches so there’s always a wooden board of warm, dippable bread on the table.

Makes6

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, hors d'oeuvre, tapas/small plates

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, lunch, snack

Type of Dishbread, flatbreads, yeast bread

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups white bread flour
  • 1 package (¼ ounce) rapid-rise yeast or 1 tablespoon fresh yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • Approximately 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon nigella (kalonji) seeds
  • 2 baking sheets

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl and make a well. Dollop the yogurt and oil into a measuring cup and add warm water to come up to the 1½-cup mark. Give a quick beat with a fork to combine, then pour this liquid into the dry ingredients, and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon, adding more liquid as needed, to form a firm but soft dough.

  2. Turn out onto a floured surface (or set your mixer and dough hook to work) and start kneading. Add more flour as needed until you’ve got a smooth, supple, and elastic dough. Form the dough into a ball, grease a bowl, and turn the dough in it so it’s lightly oiled all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about an hour or so, until doubled in size.

  3. Punch the dough down, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Tear the dough into thirds, and then halve each piece. Form each of these 6 little pieces into an egg-shape and, one by one, roll them out to make a flat, elongated, if irregular oval. Place on baking sheets about 1½ inches apart, cover with tea towels, and leave to prove for 20 minutes, until puffy.

  4. Using the blunt side of an ordinary kitchen knife, draw diagonal parallel lines across the loaves about ¾ inch apart. Do the same now the other direction, so you’ve got a loose crisscross.

  5. Beat the egg with the water and yogurt and, using a pastry brush, paint this over the breads. Sprinkle on the nigella seeds and bake in the hot oven for 8–10 minutes, by which time the loaves will be golden, puffed up in places, and cooked through.

  6. Remove them from the oven and drape immediately and for a few minutes with a tea towel so that these small, flat, breads don’t dry up and get too crusty.

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