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Country Flatbread - the versatile cracker: dip it, dunk it, snack it

What is a flatbread? There is no clear consensus. Some of them are not all that flat.

Nearly every culture in every corner of the world, from Mezo-America to Malaysia, had an unleavened bread that was relatively flat. That universality alone accounts for their many varieties. You can well imagine that the kinds of food they ate them with often determined how the bread was used, as a dish or a spoon, reminding us that flatbreads are hand-held.

Traditionally flatbreads didn’t use wild local yeast as a rising agent. When people travelled in caravans, or watched over herds of cattle and sheep, they cooked over an open fire, on a stone or cast-iron pan. Waiting for dough to rise was a non-starter. Preparing flatbread was fast, convenient, requiring few ingredients, while offering culinary flexibility. Leftovers were easy to pack-up and kept well without spoiling. Nomadic or sedentary, flatbread making was and still is a daily task in many parts of the world.

Today the majority of flatbreads still don’t use yeast, although many do. Of course there are other rising agents, some of them hard to avoid, like air for example. Baking powder and baking soda cause bread to rise, as does egg white, fermentation and steam. In Alberta we usually add about 1 tsp of baking soda to our breakfast pancakes (yup! they’re a flatbread), which makes them just a little softer and fluffier.

Wiki lists 146 kinds of flat bread, which can be grouped into about 30 categories. In our case, and only for comparison, two types are considered, flexible and crispy. If the bread is to be used as a wrap, eg. a tortilla, or as a scoop like naan, then flex works best. In our recipe what you are after is the exact opposite, a dry, crisp cracker that breaks with a snap.

This dry cracker type has several advantages; it keeps well, travels well, and it makes a great lunchbox snack. You can dip it into salsa, break it into soup, or use it as a party snack on its own. If your social gatherings are like mine, friends follow their nose straight into the kitchen. As these aromatic beauties come out of the oven, let your guests brush on their own olive oil and salt and like the bread itself, you’ll be golden.


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