The first time I used yeast, I accidently killed it. The cinnamon roll muffins that I was attempting to make turned out more like cinnamon roll hockey pucks. I called my little sister to complain and she told me that the water I dissolved the yeast in was probably too hot, thus killing the yeast. Ugh… darn that yeast!
That was back when yeast intimidated me. The very idea that you could “kill” it gave me anxiety. Luckily, I got over my fear of baking with it pretty quickly. All it took was one successful recipe and I was hooked. There’s something incredibly satisfying and almost magical about making your own bread. The way that yeast can transform simple ingredients like flour and water into something as wonderful as bread excites me every time.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried a lot of different bread recipes and one of the things I find myself making time and time again is pizza/flatbread dough. It’s easy if I need a little bread to go with dinner or it’s dinner itself covered with cheese and other toppings. After trying a lot of different recipes and a little experimentation, I eventually developed this recipe, which has been my go-to for a while now.
I decided to keep the version for this post simple with just a sprinkling of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, which is what I do when I serve this bread alongside dinner. It goes well with just about anything and you’ll be amazed at how good this bread is for being so simple.
When I do add toppings (cheeses, sauces, meats, etc.), I work the dough a little more so that it doesn’t puff up as much as the bread shown here. It’s not an exact science, but it works just fine for me. I’m sure an actual bread maker would cringe at my lack of precision, but I’m okay with that.
For anyone that gives this recipe a try, I’ve made a few notes throughout the recipe so you know exactly what I do to make, bake, and store the dough. Also, get creative with it. You can top it with whatever you want. One of my favorite ways to use the dough is to smear it with homemade pesto and cover it with grated mozzarella before baking. Seriously delicious!
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix until the dry ingredients have just absorbed the wet ingredients.
Change the attachment to the dough hook. With the mixer on medium speed, knead the dough for five minutes. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and finish kneading the dough with floured hands, until the dough comes together in a ball that is smooth, elastic, and springs back when touched. If the dough is really sticky, you can knead in additional flour, but keep in mind that the more you add the tougher your bread will be.
Coat a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, place the dough ball in the bowl and give it a few turns to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Punch down the dough and divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, place all the dough balls onto a flat surface and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.*
To bake, lightly brush the bottom of a baking sheet** with olive oil. Stretch and flatten 2 pieces of the dough***. Lay them on the baking sheet and brush the tops lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper (or any other toppings of your choice). Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden on top and bottom. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough.
Makes 4 flatbreads.
*Note: At this point you can save the dough for use at a later time. Place each dough ball into its own plastic bag (quart size freezer bags are the perfect size). Then store in the fridge for up to a day or in the freezer for longer. Defrost any frozen dough in the refrigerator before using.
**Note: I get a better crust when I use my darker baking sheets (rather than my lighter ones). I suspect a pizza stone would work even better if you have one.
***Note: The more you work the dough, the more air bubbles will deflate, and the less your bread will rise when it bakes. If I’m making a flatbread or pizza with toppings, I work the dough more so the bread doesn’t puff up as much. If I’m making this bread to eat alongside dinner (like the one pictured), I work the dough more gently to encourage a little height.