Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Crisp Cornmeal Flatbread

This recipe was inspired by a cornmeal cracker that I saw San Francisco baker, author, and owner of the now-defunct Patisserie Française, Fran Gage, prepare at a demonstration in New York. I love the crunch of the crisp bread coupled with the slight sweetness of corn. Be sure to use stone-ground cornmeal, whether yellow or white, for this. The degerminated cornmeal regularly available in supermarkets doesn’t have much corn flavor.

Makes two large flatbreads, each about 10 x 15 inches

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot paprika (for a spicy bread, less if you prefer it less spicy)

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water, about 110 degrees

1/4 cup olive oil

Cornmeal for rolling the dough

Two cookie sheets or jellyroll pans lined with parchment or foil

  1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the yeast into the water and whisk in the oil. Add the liquid to the food processor and pulse to form a soft dough. Let the machine run continuously for about 10 seconds.
  3. Invert the food processor bowl over an oiled mixing bowl to turn out the dough. Carefully remove the blade and transfer any dough on it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Invert the rested dough to a floured work surface and use a bench scraper to fold the dough over on itself several times.
  5. Return the folded dough to the oiled mixing bowl (you might have to oil it again first) and turn the dough over so that the top is also oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, depending on the temperature of the room.
  6. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  7. Invert the risen dough to a surface lightly dusted with cornmeal. Without deflating the dough too much, use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough in half. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, gently press it into a rough rectangle using the palms of your hands.
  8. Lightly dust the dough with cornmeal and roll the dough as thinly as possible, keeping the dimensions of the baking pan you are going to use in mind as you do. If the dough is very resistant, slide it out of the way, cover it with a towel or plastic wrap, and work on the second piece of dough. After getting the second piece of dough as thin as possible, return to the first one and it will cooperate much better.
  9. After one of the pieces of dough is large enough, cut away any thick edges with scissors and slide it onto one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the second sheet of dough.
  10. Pierce the dough all over at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork.
  11. Bake the flatbreads until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. About halfway through the baking, switch the pan in the lower third of the oven to the upper third and vice versa, turning each pan from back to front at the same time.
  12. Cool the baked flatbreads on the pans on racks.

Serving: Break the breads into irregular pieces and arrange them in a napkin-lined bread basket. Use them as you would crackers—to accompany soup or salad, or with hors d’oeuvre dips or spreads.

Storage: Keep the flatbreads loosely covered on the day they are baked. Store them in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. If they soften, arrange them on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan and bake them in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes. After they cool they will be crisp again.