Friday, June 29, 2007
FLATBREAD WITH ASPARAGUS AND SPRING ONIONS
Asparagus week continues! I tore this recipe out of a recent issue of Cooking Light, tried it for the first time a few weeks ago, and really liked it. The toppings are a slam dunk: they reminded me of that awesome, bygone Sidney’s asparagus-and-Brie pizza I mentioned a few days ago, even though it uses Fontina instead (hmm, I wonder if I could substitute Brie?). Plus, it was a noble use of those handsome spring onions I’m always seeing at the farmers’ market. I suspect, however, that the flatbread itself might not quite be worth the trouble it took to make. The recipe does warn that the dough will be sticky, but my dough was very sticky. Probably because I hadn’t been able to find bread flour at my grocery store, so I’d just used all-purpose instead. I realize that if I don’t use the specified ingredients it’s my fault when the result isn’t exactly right, but any recipe that wants me to clutter up my cupboard with some kind of specialty flour gets a demerit in my book anyway.
Since the recipe makes 2 flatbreads that each (ostensibly) serve 6, I’d decided to just make one flatbread. I halved the topping quantities, but the flatbread recipe seemed harder to halve, so I just made the full recipe and then split the dough into two pieces after it had risen, thinking I’d use one half and freeze the other to use another time. But the dough was so hard to roll out—not only was it sticky, but it also tore easily—and I added so much flour in trying to shape it that I ruined the first flatbread and had to throw it away. Good thing I had another piece of dough handy.
For all that work and mess, the flatbread turned out just about average. The texture was nice—tender with a crispy bottom—but with Trader Joe’s selling balls of really great premade pizza dough for just 99 cents, I’m tempted to just scrap the flatbread-from-scratch part of the recipe and turn these tasty toppings into a more convenient meal I can make more often—and on average weeknights, at that. I’ll let you know how it goes, but for now, here’s the recipe as originally written:
Dash of sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water (100 to 110 degrees), divided
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons bread flour, divided (about 10 2/3 ounces)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups thinly sliced spring onions (about 2½ pounds)
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups (1-inch pieces) asparagus (about 1 pound)
¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded Fontina cheese
1. To make flatbread, dissolve sugar and yeast in ¼ cup water in a large bowl, and let stand 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup flour (to measure flour, lightly spoon into dry measuring cup and level with a knife) to yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let stand 30 minutes (mixture will be bubbly).
2. Uncover yeast mixture and add ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water. Add 1¾ cups flour, 1 tablespoon oil, and ½ teaspoon salt, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. While kneading, add enough of the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough should still feel sticky).
3. Place dough in a large bowl lightly coated with olive oil, turning to coat all sides of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (To check whether dough has risen enough, gently press two fingers into it. The indentation should remain.)
4. Punch dough down and divide in half. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Place 1 dough circle on a pizza peel sprinkled with 1 tablespoon cornmeal. (Note: I don’t have a pizza peel or a pizza stone, so I just put my rolled-out dough—which was more rectangular than round—on the cookie sheet I usually use for pizza.)
5. Place a pizza stone (if you have one) on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
6. To prepare toppings, combine 2½ teaspoons oil and garlic in a small bowl and let stand 30 minutes. (You’ll want to do this somewhere in the middle of Step 3, while your dough is rising.)
7. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spring onions and ¼ teaspoon salt; cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 3 more minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
8. Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; rinse under cold water.
9. Brush dough circle with half of the garlic-oil mixture, then arrange half of the onions and half the asparagus over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with half of the shredded cheese. Slide dough onto preheated pizza stone (or if you’re just using a baking sheet, put the baking sheet on the bottom rack in the oven) and bake for 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining dough circle, cornmeal, garlic mixture, onions, asparagus, and cheese.
Time: 2½ hours
Postscript: I tried it with the premade crust and it was great. Updated recipe is as follows:
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups thinly sliced spring onions or large scallions (about 1¼ pounds)
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (1-inch pieces) asparagus (about ½ pound)
½ cup (1½ ounces) Fontina cheese, shredded
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pizza dough for 1 pizza (1 lb)
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1. Combine 2 teaspoons olive oil with garlic in a small bowl and let stand 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spring onions and ¼ teaspoon salt; cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 3 more minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
4. Trim tough ends from asparagus and cut spears into 1-inch pieces. Cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
5. Roll pizza dough into a circle or rectangle on a floured surface. Place dough on a baking pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush dough with garlic-oil mixture. Arrange onions on top, and then asparagus. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste and top with cheese. Bake on bottom rack of oven for about 9 minutes or until lightly browned.
Time: 1 hour