A traditional flatbread is the perfect introduction to our Turkish feast, created by Rebecca Seal, author of the new cookbook Istanbul. Slice it thinly, then toast it and use it to scoop up dips and meze dishes, such as a yogurt dip or smoky eggplant dip.
Turkish Flatbread with Sesame Seeds
1 Tbs. active dried yeast
1 1/3 cups (12 fl. oz./350 ml) lukewarm water
1 Tbs. superfine sugar
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 cups (1 lb. 2 oz./500 g) strong white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./50 ml) milk
2 Tbs. polenta, cornmeal or semolina
1 tsp. nigella (black onion) seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
In a jug, mix together the yeast, water, sugar and olive oil. Set in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes to activate the yeast. It should form a thick, frothy head.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Gradually add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, using your hands to mix it into a thick dough. Using your hands, knead the dough for 10 minutes. It will become stretchy, slightly glossy and pliable. Knead until any lumps disappear and the dough is smooth.
Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth or with oiled plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place for 1 hour to allow the dough to rise. (Depending on the temperature, it may take longer to double in size. You can tell when it has finished rising as the dough will dent rather than spring back when you press it.)
Place the dough on a floured work surface. It will be quite sticky with a soft, stringy honeycomb texture inside, so flour your hands, too. Knock back the dough by pressing out the air with your knuckles and then divide it into 2 balls. Re-cover the balls and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat an oven to its maximum setting, around 475°F (240°C). Place 2 pizza stones or large, upturned baking trays in the oven to heat up.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk. Flour the work surface and your hands again and firmly flatten each piece of dough into an oblong about 12 by 6 inches (30 by 15 cm) and about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick (if you don’t flatten it properly, it will rise unevenly).
Remove the hot stones or trays from the oven and dust each with 1 Tbs. polenta. Transfer 1 of the pieces of dough to each stone. (If you like, prepare the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, dusted with polenta as before, and directly transfer the bread on the paper to the stone.) Working quickly, dent the tops of the dough all over with your fingertips, then brush with the egg and milk glaze. Scatter half of the nigella and sesame seeds over each. Bake the bread until risen and golden all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat while still warm. Makes 2 loaves.
Adapted from Istanbul, by Rebecca Seal (Hardie Grant Books, 2013).