For a few years, I was a server at this little pizza joint in the Mile End. I didn’t regularly eat pizza before, but while working there I fell in love with it. After a night of wielding piping hot pies above people’s heads as I navigated the almost non-existant spaces between tables (as is so often the case in Montreal restaurants), there was truly nothing like sitting down with a glass of wine and a pizza of my own. The kitchen there made an endless array of pizzas, including typical ones like pepperoni, fancier ones with fig and prosciutto, or my favourite – one with their simple and bright tomato sauce, deep caramelized onions, black olives, and little heaps of fresh ricotta all over, finished with some fresh oregano.
A few months after finishing grad school and leaving that restaurant, I developed a serious, regular need for pizza. I would think about it and I would debate about it. Once I even made M eat gross food court pizza with me. Eventually I accepted the fact that I needed to start making pizza at home, and I remembered my friend Emily who had been making some serious pies out of her kitchen for years. She swore that it was super easy (she has 3 kids so I trust her “easy” is truly easy, and not like when a French person says all the mother sauces are “easy”).
So I found a great recipe from Jamie Oliver (the one below is slightly adapted from his) using Tipo OO flour, the traditional Italian flour used in pizzas. I also made it once with bread flour and semolina to nice results . It was a little toothier than white flour, but not at all gritty. I used Abenakis organic whole wheat bread flour, which is from a Québecois company that prioritizes Québec wheat when available. If you’re interested in reading more on wheat and flour from Québec, I suggest this article from La Presse as a starting point.
Oliver’s recipe makes enough dough for 6-8 pizzas, and soon I was in pizza heaven. Summer was approaching at this point, and it was great to have a quick and easy staple on hand, to which I could add whatever looked good at the market, or whatever ingredients needed to be used in the fridge.
Then came The Great Pizza Fatigue. We made pizza nearly two weeks out of the month. We made pizzas for ourselves, I made pizzas for my lunches, and we made pizzas when we had company. Enter this flatbread, which is essentially a white pizza and not a strict flatbread (it has yeast!). It was thrown together one afternoon when I was en route to meet, coincidentally, friends from the old pizzeria. As with the previous recipe (and many more to come, I predict), this is a recipe to be followed loosely. Use what looks, smells and tastes good to you.
Finally, don’t be thrown off by the prep time, as most of it is waiting for the dough to rise. Invest that initial 1.25 hours and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of easy suppers for weeks to come!
Serving size: 2 people as a light lunch, 4 people as an appetizer
Prep time: 1¼ h (dough), 10 min (flatbread)
Cook time: 6 min
FLATBREAD (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough)
- 1 kg Tipo OO flour, or 800 g bread flour with 200 g semolina flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 packets instant yeast, minus 1/4 tsp (~14 g total)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2¾ c warm water
- olive oil
- 1 bunch lacinato kale (can be replaced with curly kale)
- 1 cob of corn, with kernels cut off (or about a ½ c of canned corn niblets)
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and/or spices (see instructions)
- 1 green onion or ¼ small red onion, very thinly sliced
- caper berries or capers
Makes more 5-7 more doughs than required for this recipe
In a very large bowl, add all of the flour and salt. Use a whisk to blend (especially if using two kinds of flour).
In a small bowl, mix together the warm water, olive oil, and sugar. Add the yeast and stir to mix. Let sit and bloom (it will become slightly foamy). This will take about 5 minutes.
Once your yeast has bloomed, create a large well in the center of your flour mixture and add all of the wet yeast mixture in. Use a fork to gradually swirl in flour, mixing it into the pool of yeast mixture. Eventually you will get to the edges of the bowl, all the flour will be mixed in, and you will have a large ball of dough. Use your hands to knead until the dough is smooth.
Cover dough and let sit in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough is roughly twice its size. I usually cover it with a damp kitchen towel and place in my oven on off for about an hour.
While waiting for the dough to rise, prep the rest of the ingredients. Wash the kale (I find that organic lacinato kale has more sand than the usual curly kale, so I try to wash it in a bowl of water twice). Remove the leaves from the ribs, and finely shred the kale. Set aside.
If you’re feeling fancy, melt a pat of butter in a pan and brown the corn kernels. Otherwise, just measure out and set aside. At this point, the dough is likely not ready yet – be patient, it will be worth it!
You can tell the dough is ready when it is springy and twice its original size. Divide it into 6-8 smaller balls. You will only need 1 dough ball for this recipe, so you can wrap the rest in zip-top bags or very well in plastic film and put in the refrigerator. They will last around 2 weeks, and make it super easy to have a quick pizza or flatbread dinner!
About 45 minutes into the dough rising time, set your oven to 500°F.
Flour a large cutting board or your work surface. Take the remaining dough and stretch with your hands, working from the center outwards. Do this until it is quite thin, maximum a ¼ inch. If you need some help, you can use a roller. However, a roller will eliminate air pockets created by the yeast – good if you like denser flatbread, bad if you prefer it lighter.
Put some olive oil in a dish and brush all over a baking sheet. Then brush oil all over the dough. At this point you can add some spices (I added some steak spice for crunch on the crust), or minced garlic. Or you can add nothing at all. Sprinkle the shredded kale evenly over top, and finally the corn. Put into the oven for 6-8 minutes (watch closely at the 6 minute mark to ensure it doesn’t burn). When done it should be golden and the bottom crispy.
While the flatbread is baking, finely chop or slice the green or red onion. When the flatbread is done, garnish it with the onion, some good, flaky salt, pepper, and capers. Add some red chili flakes if you so desire!