Bread is one of the most loved food items around. Though there are several different types of bread, flatbread has remained a staple food item in several cultures for centuries. So you may have asked the question: “What is flatbread?” If you've tried flatbread before and wonder what sets it apart from the rest of the bread on shelves, you're in luck. This article will explain flatbread's unique qualities, nutritional benefits and history. Keep reading to learn more about this tasty food.
When searching for flatbread, you might notice a few different kinds. To make flatbread, water, salt, flour and often a leavening like yeast are combined into a dough and rolled out into a flat oblong, oval, or rectangular shape. The dough is then cooked in a brick oven for added crispiness and flavor. Pita bread, roti and naan bread are two popular types of flatbread that have become household names worldwide.
Though most grocery stores carry flatbread, at-home cooks are more than welcome to try and make this baked good themselves. Luckily, making easy flatbread recipes at home is a quick and straightforward process. Just a few ingredients are needed to create a great-tasting flatbread recipe that you can use in various dishes. To learn more about making homemade flatbread, check out the article: How to Make Flatbread.
How to Use Flatbread
Now that you know that flatbread is easy to make at home, you're likely wondering what to use it for after you make it. The many ways that you can use flatbread are endless. Enjoy flatbread as is for a tasty treat, or use it in place of other types of bread.
One of the most common ways to use flatbread is as a pizza crust. Though they're not entirely the same, a sturdy flatbread dough is an excellent option for the base of your favorite pizza toppings. Stick to your usual cheese and pepperoni toppings, or branch out and try something like this Bacon, Goat Cheese and Mixed Greens Flatbread. Flatbread can also be used in place of tortillas to create wraps, quesadillas and pinwheels. No matter what you choose to combine flatbread with, it's sure to be delicious.
The History of Flatbread
Flatbread has been around for centuries. It's estimated that nearly 30,000 years ago, the first flatbread was produced. Before flatbread, humans had been combining water and grains to make gruel. Someone then decided to take the gruel a step further by frying it on a rock and creating flatbread. It wasn't until yeast and refined flour came into the mix that we began to make fluffy bread like sandwich bread and rolls.
Though flatbread originated in Ancient Egypt, it can be found in several cultures. Afghanistan and India have their version of flatbread known as naan, Central and South America the tortilla, and Romagna, Italy the Piadini. Flatbread is produced and consumed nearly everywhere!
Flatbread vs. Pizza
Is flatbread a pizza? One of the biggest misunderstandings about flatbread is that it is the same as pizza dough. Though flatbread and pizza dough share similarities, they are not the same food item. The primary difference between flatbread and pizza dough is that many flatbreads are unleavened, whereas pizza dough uses yeast. The yeast used in pizza dough requires the dough to rise for a certain amount of time before cooking and creates a fluffier, thicker crust.
Additional Differences Between Flatbread vs. Pizza
Though the main difference between these two types of bread is yeast, it's not the only thing that makes them unique. Here are a few other ways to determine if what you're eating is flatbread or pizza dough.
Because pizza is such a popular dish, it's often created with an expectation already in mind making it hard for chefs to stray away from traditional pizza toppings like tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and pepperoni. On the other hand, a flatbread pizza has fewer expectations associated with it, allowing chefs to experiment with the ingredients more. This being, flatbread typically features more creative toppings. So you can add any ingredient you want into your homemade pizza recipes. From olive oil to hummus and garlic butter or Greek yogurt, nothing is off-limits when adding your favorite flatbread toppings.
Pizza can usually be found in two shapes—round or rectangular. Slices are cut into squares when baked and served in a rectangle form, and when pizza is served round, it's sliced pie-style. On the contrary, flatbreads come in various shapes and sizes. Because flatbreads feature a more rustic hand-made look, they're often smaller in size and are an unfinished rectangular, ovular, or oblong shape.
How They are Enjoyed
Though pizza and flatbread are similar, they are enjoyed differently. Flatbread's delicate nature and minimal toppings make it the ideal appetizer or light entree. On the other hand, pizza is a more hearty dish that's typically served as the main course. Even when the toppings are similar, pizza and flatbread taste very different.
Is Flatbread Good for You?
Is flatbread healthy? Depending on the toppings, flatbread can be an excellent option if you're searching for a healthy appetizer or entree. One of the best parts of homemade flatbread is that you get to control everything inside it. When made with quality, whole food ingredients, flatbread is a great addition to a balanced diet. What's more, the ingredients in flatbread can be adjusted to fit your dietary needs. Gluten free, low carb and paleo flatbreads can be made with just a few ingredient swaps and encompass all of the great-tasting flavors of traditional varieties.
Different Types of Flatbread
Flatbread has been around since bread was discovered, and nearly every culture has incorporated it into its cuisine. From pita to tortillas, here are a few of the most common varieties of flatbread.
Focaccia is a light and airy flatbread that originates from Italy. It's typically flavored with toppings like olive oil, herbs, cheese and meat and cooked on a stone hearth. One of the distinguishing characteristics of focaccia is its dimples made by pressing fingers into the dough before baking. Focaccia can be eaten similar to pizza, dipped into soups and stews, or as sandwich bread.
Searching for a homemade focaccia recipe, try out this Easy Focaccia.
Lavash, a traditional Armenian flatbread, gets its shape and flavor from the hot walls of a clay oven. When fresh, it has a soft and flexible nature. However, once it has dried, Lavash turns brittle. This bread's minimal ingredients and dry state mean that you can store it for several weeks without spoiling. To soften lavash before use, sprinkle a bit of water on top to rehydrate it. Lavash is most commonly used as a wrap to make sandwiches and paired with soups and stews.
Naan is one of the most popular flatbreads available at most grocery stores. It has a soft and pillowy nature native to India and other areas of West and South Asia. Unlike most other flatbreads, naan is a leavened bread and often contains dairy-based ingredients like milk or yogurt. These ingredients add a subtle flavor to the flatbread while softening the texture. Widely known for its pillow bubbles, naan can be enjoyed as is, wrapped around meat, or used to soak up soups and stews.
Cooking for someone with celiac disease and still want to include naan in your dish? Make this Gluten Free Naan for a truly special treat.
Similar to naan, pita bread is a slightly leavened flatbread native to the Mediterranean. It's soft, round and features a pocket of air created when the dough is exposed to high cooking temperatures. This pocket makes it easy to stuff the flatbread with fillings like meat, falafel, vegetables and sandwich toppings. Enjoy pita as is, or pair it with kebabs, gyros, hummus and sauces.
Tortillas are a variety of flatbread native to the Central Americas and Spain. An item that quickly became popular worldwide, this flatbread is now used in various cuisines. The location in which a tortilla is made usually determines its ingredients. Tortillas native to Central America and often made with maize flour and labeled as corn tortillas, whereas flour tortillas are made with wheat.
Due to the tortilla's popularity, the ingredients have been adjusted to meet specific food requirements. Oat Flour Tortillas, Gluten Free Tortillas and Keto Tortillas are just a few tortilla varieties you can make at home.
Making flatbread at home is an easy and rewarding task. Whether you're looking to spice up your weekly menu or want to recreate your favorite restaurant dish, knowing what separates flatbread apart from the rest is essential. Begin your flatbread-making journey today by creating one of the recipes above or visiting our online recipe book for more flatbread-based dishes. From the Bob's Red Mill family to yours, happy cooking!
Do you cook with flatbread regularly? We'd love to hear about how you enjoy this dish. Share your favorite flatbread dinners with us in the comments below.