Drunken Date And Bleu de Bresse Flatbread
Admit it, there’s something a little bit awesome about drunken dates. And dried fruits soaked in liquor aren’t too bad, either. If only this flatbread put-out, I’d be a happy woman.
There are things which I find and I like, that I go back to repeatedly. I’ll admit it, I am a creature of habit. But hey, when something works, and there are so many kitchen related experiments that don’t (I’m sorry slow-cooker Mojo Chili…we tried to work it out, but it wasn’t meant to be) is there really any shame in repetition? This flatbread is one of those things. I’ve made it in several incarnations and blogged about at least one, but it’s just so versatile! In this case, the bread goes so well with drunken dates because it’s both cheap and easy. Again, I’m not seeing a lot to dislike with the drunken, cheap and easy.
This is a dough that I would strongly recommend to anybody who feels irrational terror has a slight sense of trepidation when it comes to homemade bread. Which, by the way, is a sentiment that I totally get. My very first loaf of bread was an incredibly dense pancake of a loaf which didn’t rise at all. I almost started to weep, considering how much kneading and effort went into the bastard. My second loaf, an ill-fated cranberry rye, faced a similar doom. That was the dark chapter of my breadmaking history before I gradually learned what ‘rubbery and elastic’ felt like, and which I occasionally try valiantly to illuminate with memories of fabulous croutons and bread crumbs out the wazoo. Sigh. This bread, however, is child’s play.
So you don’t like kneading? That’s okay, this is one of the best no-knead yeast breads that I’ve had. Afraid that it won’t rise? It will. I’ll show you how, I promise. All that you need is a bowl, some basic ingredients, and a smattering of enthusiasm…the rest will take care of itself.
Oh, and the best part about this bread? Okay, the second best thing about this bread (after the inherent easiness), is that it smells so G.D. good when it’s in the oven. After the first few minutes, the scent of old fashioned pizzerias is tickling through the air and I start to get a bit flushed. Halfway through, and I’m almost beside myself. By the time that the bread comes out of the oven, a mere 15 minutes later, I’m almost delirious with greed.
If you’re not quite sure about the dates and blue, you can experiment with any of your favorite toppings. The dough makes two very large flatbreads, but we’ll only be using one for this recipe. Because occasionally I try to be less of a shrew, and communicate to Mike (without having to use icky words and talk about feelings and stuff) that I love him, I smothered the other one in grainy dijon, sharp old cheddar, ham and onion. And THEN I asked him to take out the recycling before going out to buy me some candy from the convenience store. I suggest that you adorn the other piece with whatever toppings will either get you laid or get you candy.
Drunken Date And Blue Flatbread
Serves 8 -12 as appetizer, 4-6 as entree
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast (1 package)
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 1.5 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups all purpose flour + more to dust
- 2 tbsp cornmeal
(Dough makes enough for 2 flatbreads, however you will only be using half)
Drunken date and blue filling
- 150 g (1/3 lb) dried dates, appx 1 cup chopped *
- 1/2 cup ruby Port **
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- .5 tsp dried savory ***
- 1/2 yellow cooking onion
- 450 g (about 8 oz) Bleu de Bresse ****
- salt and pepper
* Not a fan of dates? Try using dried figs instead. Oh, or apricots – but trade up the Port for Brandy.
** Ruby Port is a rich jewel toned fortified wine. If you can’t find Port, you can substitute something similar to Madeira, Marsala, or a dry sherry.
*** No savory? You can substitute the same amount of thyme or crushed rosemary
**** Bleu de Bresse is among my favorite blue cheeses because it’s maintains that pungency that you expect from a good blue, but does it on a creamy and almost buttery (but not at all gooey-soft) background. Hot diggity, I tell you. However, if buying Bleu de Bresse feels like asking for Grey Poupon, you can use a Gorgonzola or another one of your favorite strong creamy blues.
Measure the yeast into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar and salt. Pour in the warm water, but be careful about the temperature. If it is not warm enough then the yeast will not activate properly. If it’s too hot, they’re in danger of dying. ‘Warm’ is a pleasant baby-bottle temperature. To the touch it will be warmer than room temperature, rather like a tepid bath, but not hot like a morning-after shower. You can save that for AFTER the drunken date.
Leave the bowl for 5-10 minutes, and watch the magic happen! The yeast will start to multiply, and that cloudy looking yeast-water will transform into a frothing, foamy mass of wonder. When the yeast blooms, there is no question about whether or not it just happened. If you’re waiting, and waiting, and start to think, “well, it looks a BIT frothy, maybe it’s ready?” chances are that your yeast was too old to come to the party, the water was too hot, or your kitchen is too cold. Either way, discard it. Open up a new package and try again, you should have much better results.
Pour the olive oil into the bloomin’ yeast.
Add the 3 cups of flour and give it a stir until the flour is worked in and it sticks together. If you’re used to making bread, this is much stickier than you’ll be used to. It sticks to the bowl, it sticks to the spoon – that’s okay! All’s well that ends with drunken dates.
Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and leave it somewhere warm to rise. Being that we’re in the middle of a debilitatingly frigid Canadian winter, and our house has a tendency to be cold, I chose not to leave it on the counter. If you turn your oven on to 200F for just 5 minutes, then turn it off and let it sit for 5 minutes, it should be just pleasantly warm enough for you to put your bread inside. Remember, this is ‘warm’, not ‘hot’. That is to say, warmer than room temperature, but more like a hot day in the summer than the fires of Hades burning in your eyes. Hades kills yeast – true story.
Leave the dough to rest for 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. While the yeast is busy multiplying, tuck your blue cheese in the freezer. And now, we can start on the dates.
Chop the dates up into a small dice, 1/4 inch or less.
Put the dates in a bowl, add the thyme and savory, sprinkle with salt, and pour on the Port. Let this sit for the next two hours. So….so now you have some time to kill, don’t you? You could read a book! Or do some laundry! Or make up an emergency errand and actually go out and get a pedicure, even if you later feel so guilty about for the wee lie you told that you can’t bear to take off your socks for two days. Or, you know, something else. You could do something else.
After two hours your dough should have swelled and expanded in the bowl, like so.
Perfect! Leave it alone for just another minute or two as we finish off the dates. In a small food processor, pulse the date mixture several times until it looks slightly thicker but there are still discernable large chunks in it throughout.
Slice the onion as thinly as you can into horizontal rounds. Take the blue cheese out of the freezer, and slice this relatively thinly as well. Blue cheese at room temperature is often almost spreadable, but freezing it ever so slightly allows you to slice down nice, even pieces.
Preheat your oven to 450F, and make sure that the racks are as low as they can go.
Generously flour your work surface, and scoop half of that incredibly sticky dough onto it. Turn the dough over several times so that it’s lightly but completely covered in flour, and does not feel tacky to the touch.
Roll the dough out into a large oval shape, just slightly longer and wider than your baking sheet.
Slide the dough-val (sorry, I just can’t help myself sometimes) onto a baking sheet which has been dusted with 1 tbsp of the cornmeal. Tuck the edges over, going all the way around, until you’ve made a raised rim. This not only looks lovely when it bakes, but it keeps all of that pesky drunken date filling in place.
Dollop the date filling all over the dough and then smooth it out into a relatively even layer with the back of your spoon or an offset spatula. Lay the onion and blue cheese slices on top.
Bake the flatbread on the bottom rack of your oven for about 15 minutes, or until the crust has swelled, puffed and started to brown, and bottom is crusty and a lovely mottled golden color.
Served with a side salad, this is an excellent sweet/savory light lunch or brunch.
Oh, flatbread. How I love you so. I was totally into you when you were covered with Pears, Pesto and Parmigiana. But now that you’re smothered in drunken dates? Our love will only grow.
The sugary sweetness of the dates is offset by the pungent-creamy muskiness of the blue cheese, and your regular ol’ garden variety cooking onion takes on a caramelized glory to pull everything together.
In conclusion, I feel that I should mention one more time: it’s all about the flatbread. Flatbread is just awesome, and easy. I don’t care what you top it with, just make it. Please. Soon. Your belly will thank you later.