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Chipotle flatbread

December 25, 2012

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It’s Christmas Eve and I would be a little disappointed if I didn’t manage to bake at least a couple of items during these holidays.  I have a Monday through Friday schedule so with Christmas Eve and Day off, I have 4 possible days to work in some baking.  Same goes for New Year’s weekend.  First I’m going for a chipotle pepper spiked flatbread.  It’s not a “holiday” bread ,  but I wanted something savory to eat with meals.  An earlier post,  “A Tex-Mex flatbread prototype”, describes my first experiment in creating a flatbread that compliments typical Mexican style meals I eat at home.  This flatbread differs in that it begins with a poolish (Peter Reinhart’s recipe), uses olive oil, and adds canned chipotle peppers with some of the adobo sauce.  These flatbreads are less labor intensive to make than bolillos or teleras,  the Mexican counterpart to dinner rolls or French bread.  The bread made from this recipe had some generous heat and smoke flavor in them, so I recommend cutting back on the chipotle peppers by half if you are pepper shy.

The poolish:

2  1/2 cups bread flour,  1/4 teaspoon instant yeast,  1  1/2 cups water room temperature

Final dough:

All of the poolish,  2  1/2 cups bread flour,  1  3/4 teaspoon instant yeast,  3 tablespoons olive oil,  about 1/2 cup water at room temperature,  4 tablespoons canned chipotle pepper  minced with some adobo sauce. (It is advisable to remove some of the seeds to tone down some of the heat.)

To make the poolish,  stir together in a bowl the flour, yeast , and water until well mixed.  It should look like thick pancake batter.  Cover with  plastic and let it ferment until  it becomes bubbly, about 3-4 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen or work area.  I saw bubbles form and pop about every 5 seconds, reminding me of the live nature of  yeast.  On certain levels, bread making does at times seem like a magical endeavor.  The poolish is ready to use or you may cover it well with plastic and store it in the refrigerator overnight for more flavor development.  If stored overnight, take it out about an hour or so before resuming the recipe to take the chill off.

For the final dough, remove the poolish from the bowl and put it in the mixing bowl you intend to use with your stand mixer.  I cut the poolish into 10 to 12 pieces with a pastry scraper so that it is easier to mix into the dough.  Add the bread flour, yeast , salt, and most of the water. Mix well with a spoon until it becomes a more or less a shaggy mass.  Now with the hook attachment of your mixer, mix on slow-medium speed (or the recommendation of your mixer),  adding water to make a somewhat tacky dough.  I kneaded for about 6-7 minutes for good gluten development. Next add the chipotle pepper. The dough will become sticky because of the moisture.  I adjusted with more flour but still  left it sticky because I was aiming for a nice airy crumb in the baked bread.  The dough was a little difficult to handle because of the stickiness. You can add flour as you feel you need if you don’t want to mess with a sticky dough. I suggest keeping it moist enough so that the final dough at least sticks to the bottom of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  If you left the dough very sticky, dip your hands in water to handle it or use a wet round pastry scraper. Shape it into a round and place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Slide it around the bowl to oil the entire surface. Leave the smooth side of the ball facing up.  Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it doubles in size.

When the dough is ready, remove it from the bowl and place it once again on a lightly floured work surface.  Moisten your hands again if needed to handle the dough.  With a pastry scraper, divide it into however many pieces you want. This size batch gave me  2   8-inch diameter and 4  5-inch diameter portions. Roll out the portions using a lightly floured rolling pin into 1/2 inch thick rounds. If using a baking stone, place them on parchment paper.  Otherwise put them on baking sheets.  Let them proof until they almost double in height. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

My oven is too small to take that many breads so I staggered them by placing some of the bread in a cooler room to proof.  Those in the warmer room were ready to bake first.  It took three rounds of baking to complete the batch.

When ready, sprinkle the bread with cornmeal or flour if desired or brush with olive oil. Place them in the oven and lower the temperature to 375.  They are ready when lightly golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  If you are also staggering the timing, remember to pre-heat the oven again to 475 before each round of baking and lowering to 375 when placing in the dough.

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