Flatbreads are breads made with flour, water and salt that are rolled into a flattened dough and baked. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast—although some are slightly leavened, such as pita bread. Flatbread became known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), when the Sumerians discovered that edible grains could be mashed into a paste and then baked/hardened into a flatbread. Unleavened breads (such as matzoh which is not prepared with leavening) are usually flatbreads that hold special religious significance in Judaism and Christianity.
Flatbreads may contain such ingredients as curry powder, diced jalapenos, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added, as well, and flatbreads are usually thin. Cheese and tomato sauce are not usually added to flatbread.
Pizza, on the other hand, is usually made from dough containing yeast that is topped with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and vegetables. The crust is usually thin and most of the surface is covered with the toppings.
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs and may at times be topped with onion, Focaccia can be used as the bread to accompany a meal. The primary difference between conventional pizza and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil.
Makes two 12-inch breads
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
- 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed
Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.
To shape the dough:
Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths. Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Cut the dough into 2 pieces.
Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each piece of dough with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes for the gluten to relax.
Turn the dough over and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Turn again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with the remaining salt.
Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes and carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle.
Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with salami, cheese, peppery extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes.
For 1 pizza
- 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Dough, recipe below
- 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, recipe below
- 1 cup sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil leaves
- Olive Oil
Prepare pizza dough as directed in the recipe below. About 2 hours before baking, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to proof.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan.
Place one ball of dough in the pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Top the dough with All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and several basil leaves brushed with olive oil.
Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, cheese is turning golden, and edges of pizza are golden brown.
All-Purpose Pizza Dough
- 5 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt or 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fast-rising active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
- Olive oil cooking spray
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except olive oil cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.
If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead.
Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.
Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)
Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough in three portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.
Place each ball of dough on prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand to come to room temperature.
All-Purpose Pizza Sauce
- One 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoon salt , divided
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds sweet yellow onions , cut into eighths and thickly sliced
In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil and 1 cup warm water, then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool.
Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly oiled 15-inch x 11-inch jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out to the edges of the pan. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over the dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.
September 21, 2015 at 9:12 am
And I love all three. That onion focaccia looks exceptionally tasty!
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
September 21, 2015 at 9:19 am
I love any kind of bread but these look especially good. There is something so wonderful about the aroma of baking bread. Will pin all of the recipes. Thank you.
September 21, 2015 at 9:24 am
Thank you Marisa for your gracious comment.
September 21, 2015 at 11:41 am
Some wonderful recipes here – need to make some time!
September 22, 2015 at 2:47 am
Had a wonderful focaccia prosciutto sandwich in Scarperia in Tuscany yesterday. Now I can look forward to making my own focaccia. Thanks Jovina!
September 22, 2015 at 7:34 am
I bet that tasted good. So happy to read you are on your trip. Looking forward to hearing more about it.
September 22, 2015 at 8:02 am
It’s been fun so far, but your blog posts outdo the recipes we’ve been eating. Can’t complain about the wine though!
Health News Library
September 22, 2015 at 3:24 pm
Flat bread looks really easy to make!!
Amanda | What's Cooking
September 22, 2015 at 11:17 pm
I’ve been meaning to make focaccia for so long. I think this post is going to make me finallyt do it. I’ll at least try to attempt the flat bread.
October 4, 2015 at 5:58 am
Great explanations, details, and History reminders! A good useful post!! Thanks for all the recipes, there we can really see the differences between flatbread, pizza dough, etc.
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