My subscription to Sunset magazine has been such a good investment over the years. Not only do I find out things like good places to shop in Cambria or where the best Mochi shop in little Tokyo is, but I also get so many good ideas for food. The one thing I find ironic about this publication is that the best recipes don’t come from their staff. No. The best recipes come from their readers. Sunset magazine readers have to be the most inventive group of cooks on the planet.
When I received the September issue of Sunset, I sat down to page through the magazine as I always do. I had to stop and book mark a recipe right away. Staring at me from the page was the most amazing onion and cheese covered little breads. They were Red Onion and Gorgonzola flatbreads. They looked mouth watering delicious! And…of course, they were from the section of recipes submitted by talented Sunset readers. I knew I would need to make these luscious little breads sometime.
The dough called for semolina flour. I have never used semolina for baking but the idea of using pasta flour in bread was very appealing to me. Since September, I have had it in the back of my mind that I need semolina flour. I have casually looked for it in every store I have been to, but have not bumped into it. I guess if I had been making an effort to find it, I would have a bag of it in my pantry now, but I was lazy. Today, I wanted to make soup and I wanted to use my sourdough starter. I remembered this recipe and went to take a look at it. I looked up semolina flour and found out it is prized as hard wheat with high gluten content. I decided I would use whole-wheat flour for semolina and use sourdough starter for yeast and some of the water. I didn’t have Gorgonzola but I did have a smoked provolone. I was ready to go play in the kitchen.
I mixed up the dough, making the usual adjustments I make when attempting to use my starter for yeast. The original recipe called for mixing the dough but not kneading it. Since I did not have that high gluten content semolina to work with, I made sure I kneaded the dough a few minutes to work up some gluten in the dough. The kitchen was chilly today and my starter was having a hard time waking up from being in the fridge so I had to let the dough ferment for a couple of hours. I mixed up the topping ingredients, shredded my cheese and then got to work. The original recipe instructs you to bake these on cookie sheets in two batches for 15 minutes each. I decided to use my pizza stone. I was only able to work with eight mini flatbreads at a time so I had to do four batches. The pizza stone gets hotter than a cookie sheet so I found out the hard way that I only needed 13 minutes per batch. Don’t worry. That first batch came out very dark, but did not burn.
Fresh out of the oven, these little breads were remarkable. The sourdough crust was shatteringly crisp. The onions were sweet from the balsamic vinegar but caramelized. The smoked cheese was a perfect contrast to the other flavors. I could not stop snacking on these as they came out of the oven. They were that good.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter, go here to look up the original recipe. If you have a starter and you are ready for a treat, here is my version. Be creative. I can already think of many variations on this theme. For example: spinach and garlic with kasseri or feta cheese? Roasted red peppers, green onions and jack cheese? How about sautéed Kale, garlic, and bleu cheese? Just find a great red wine, some friends and you have a party!
Red Onion sourdough mini flatbreads
Adapted from the September 2007 issue of Sunset Magazine
½ cup sourdough starter
1 cup water
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup stone ground whole-wheat flour
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp salt, divided
1 medium red onion
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp red chili flakes
4-6 ounces smoked provolone, shredded
Cornmeal for dusting
In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, water, white and whole-wheat flours and 1 tsp of the salt. Mix until it comes together into a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl that has been oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel and allow it to ferment for 1 to 2 hours until doubled in bulk.
An hour before you are ready to bake the flatbreads, put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle a peel or two baking sheets with cornmeal.
Halve the onion lengthwise and then slice it thinly. In a bowl, combine the sliced onions, minced rosemary, 2 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp of salt and chili flakes. Cover and set aside.
Divide the dough in two. Roll the dough halves into two long tube shapes. Divide each into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and return the balls to the covered bowl. Working with 8 balls at a time. Roll each ball into a thin round. Place each round on the cornmeal dusted peel or cookie sheet you intend to use to transfer the flatbreads to the oven. Top each round of dough with about a teaspoon of onion mixture and a sprinkling of cheese. Transfer to the pizza stone in the oven and bake for 13 minutes. Remove the flatbreads to a plate with a spatula. Repeat this process 3 more times until all 32 breads are baked.