The knead for change

Thanks to my sister's sister-in-law, Alethea, my blog is already looking better.  For those of you who saw it before, I did love that little champagne mango, but alas, some people thought it looked like a potato.  

The header also took up half the page and I wasn't technically savvy enough to change it.  I'm sure over the course of time, this blog's look may change, but I want the feeling of it to stay consistent.

The new header picture makes me want to eat home-made flatbread sandwiches for lunch every day for the rest of my life.  My friend, Henrietta, recently sent me the recipe.  I first cooked these with her at my friend Liz's hen weekend at a country home we rented on the south coast of England. The two of them had done a cooking class at Divertimenti in London and she brought this recipe along.  We spent an entire morning drinking coffee and kneading dough, watching it rise under the tea towel, rolling them out and then cooking them on top of the huge Aga.  I am determined to own an Aga someday, which would require another move, but it might just be worth it.  The warmth it brings to any kitchen is extremely inviting.

I recently went through my photographs of that weekend and we did make some wonderful food and ate at a very grand dining room table.  I also distinctly remember it pouring rain, Liz's beautiful blue dress, a very shady night club, and staying up all night with my friend Claire drinking Cava and singing along to our favorite tunes.

Henri just recently sent me the recipe and I can't believe it's taken me so long to ask for it.

Torta Al Testo- Bread of the Tile
Adapted from Flavours of Italy: Discovering Umbria by Ursula Ferrigno

The flat crusty appearance of this age-old peasant bread inspired its name, testo, which means Italian.  Torta al Testo is found exclusively in its native Umbria and usually in a casa- the home.

Makes 8 rounds

For the flatbread:
1 1/3 cups of hand hot water
15g or 1/2 ounce of fresh or dried yeast
4 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

For the filling:
2 handfuls of grated fontina cheese
2 handfuls of arugula or any other leaf you like
prosciutto or salami, about two slices for each round
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dissolve the yeast in some of the water.  Leave for 5 minutes and stir to dissolve.  Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the yeasted water and the oil.  Mix with a wooden spoon and stir in the reserved water as needed to form a firm, moist dough.

Here's the fun part.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, shiny and elastic: about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a large, clean bowl (big enough for the dough to rise) and cover with a tea towel.  Leave to rise until doubled in size: about 30 minutes.  Don't keep peaking under the towel, but check after 30 minutes.  

Here's another stage that I enjoy- knock the dough back back punching it once and leave it again to rest for about 10 minutes.  You can leave it for an hour if you add a bit of olive oil to the bowl.

Do a stretch test at this point.  If you stretch out a small piece of dough and it stretches without ripping, it's ready to go.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and on a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to form a round 8 inch across and 2 inches thick.  Don't roll these too thin.  Once cooked, you'll need to run a knife through them and if they're too thin it's becomes a bit difficult.

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C.

Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle over a medium/low heat until very hot- about 10 minutes.

Place one of the dough rounds in a hot pan and prick all over with a a fork to prevent air bubbles.  Cook until golden on both sides, flipping it over frequently to avoid scorching and to aid even cooking.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

As you're cooking each flatbread, stack the cooked ones on top of each other and cover with a tea towel to keep soft.  When cool (and it's important to let them cool a bit), use a sharp, serrated knife to cut around the edge of each bread and separate into two halves.  Top one half with your choice of fillings and salt & pepper.  Place the other half of the bread on top and place the stuffed breads on two baking sheets.  

Bake at 400F/ 200C until hot and the cheese has melted.  Cut into wedges and serve warm.


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