Flatbreads have been used for centuries to make potable meals, in other words, sandwiches. Allthough flatbreads are the earliest form of bread they remain popular in all cultures. Some of the better known varieties include lavish from Armenia (considered the oldest bread), tortillas from Mexico, pita from the Mediterranean, nann from India, pizza from Italy, and cracker bread from Scandinavia. Pancakes are another well known type although the dough isn’t formed, it is poured.
Flatbreads are as old as humanity. Ancient cooks discovered that mixing ground grains with water and forming the resulting dough into flat cakes they could bake the them on a hot rock to produce a food that would keep well and was portable. Perhaps this wonder food was discovered by accident when mush spilled on a hot rock. From that primitive beginning came many of the breads we know today.
A flatbread can be baked, grilled, or fried. It can be made from any ground grain such as wheat, barley, rye and corn or any flour such as bean, rice and other vegetables. Flatbreads were eaten in ancient Egypt and Sumer. It was the bread of Vikings and other early Europeans. The method of making bread was carried by nomads, immagrants, traders, explorers and sailors who spread the knowledge throughout the far corners of the world
The basic dough for making a flatbread is very simple consisting only of ground grain, or flour, a liquid and perhaps salt. The dough is formed into a flat shape and cooked. Different types of dough can include oil or fat, herbs, spice or seeds, yeast or modern baking powder or baking soda. The thickness and diameter vary between types and often depend on the variety of flour used. In certain religious uses whether the bread is unleavened or leavened is of major importance.
Flatbreads can be eaten with a meal or used to wrap around various fillings of meats, fish, vegetables, cheese, fruits or a combination of items. Because flatbreads can be crisp or pliable they have a number of uses. Pita bread can be split open and filled or used as a wrap. A flour tortilla can be filled, folded and become a burrito or filled and rolled to make an enchilada. Crisp flatbreads can be used as scoops for stews, dips and other foods. A search of the internet will turn up hundreds of recipes for various types of flatbreads.
Tortillas are one of the easiest flatbreads to make at home. The following recipe will make about 12 tortillas.
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 cup more or less of warm water
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening until it resembles cornmeal. Gradually add about 1 cup lukewarm water. Mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, like biscuit dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead as you would for yeast bread for at least 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 balls and let set covered by a towel or the bowl for at least 15 minutes to relax the dough so it will be easier to work with. Roll out each piece on a floured surface. Roll as thin as you can. Heat a large cast iron skillet, add no grease. Fry, turn and fry the other side. There will be bubbles and those will get dark but that adds character.
Roll thicker if you want.
Dip in melted butter or shortening to make them soft if they become hard.
These can be used to make sandwiches, or filled with a filling of your choice, rolled and covered in a sauce then baked as a casserole.
Spread the center of the tortillas with mashed beans, spinkle with cheese or cheese and finely diced onions. Fold up the bottom, fold in the sides and then fold over the top. Roll each in foil and freeze. Remove from the freezer and place on a baking sheet. Reheat in a 350 degree F. oven until thawed and heated. About 30 minutes. To reheat in the microwave remove the foil.
Dip a tortilla in melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll and eat. Or fill with canned pie filling and serve on a plate with ice cream.