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Italian cuisine includes a number of flat breads, breads that are designed to be flattened, rather than rounded and risen. Some actually do include yeast and other leavening agents, making them fluffy and lightly textured, while others have no leavening and they are designed like cracker breads. There are a number of uses for Italian flat bread, from appetizers to sturdy sandwiches, and many people enjoy them with other classical elements of Italian cuisine.
The origins of flat bread are quite old. Most cultures have some version of flat bread, which was presumably designed before heavily risen yeast breads. Many forms can be cooked on an open hearth, rather than an oven, and some from Italy continues to be designed for the griddle or pan, rather than a closed bread oven. Most Italian bakeries offer regional forms of flat bread, as do many Italian restaurants.
An Italian flat bread may be plain or flavored, fluffy with a chewy texture or crackling and designed for snapping and breaking, like a cracker. All of these breads share the common ingredient of wheat flour, although they may incorporate other flours like chickpea for extra flavor and texture. Water, salt, and oil are also common ingredients. Other producers may add garlic, onion, parsley, and other herbs, along with yeast to make the bread rise into a fluffy loaf.
Antipasto platters frequently include Italian flat bread, which can be used to sop up ingredients like flavorful dressings or as a standalone food. Focaccia is a common and well known form, and it may be served plain with antipasto platters or treated like a small pizza, with an assortment of simple ingredients to create flavor and texture. Flat bread is also used to make sandwiches, and it may be offered along with soups, stews, and very moist dishes so that diners can pick up all of the liquid with their bread.
It is very easy to make Italian-inspired flat bread at home. You can look up various regional specialties like focaccia, farinata, or piadina. You can also simply make a basic bread dough and flatten the dough out before baking, brushing it with olive oil and dusting it with herbs, salt, and other seasonings. Italian flat bread is often best hot, although some varieties are good for cold snacking as well.
Did you know that it's actually not very hard to make your own infused olive oils? I am a die hard Italian flat bread fan, but I can't ever eat it without a good olive oil dip.
Of course, those things get really expensive, and since I'm so addicted to it, I started looking into recipes for making infused olive oil at home. It's surprisingly simple.
All you do is to choose your herbs and spices (there are a lot of great combinations, so be sure to experiment!) dry them, and then place them in your olive oil bottle. Make sure that you don't overdo it, especially with the stronger herbs, or else you'll just get "rosemary oil" or "sage oil" like I did the first few times!
Next, put warmed olive oil into the bottles on top of the herbs. Seal the bottles, and place them in a dark area for a few weeks. Then, all you have to do is to strain out the herbs and spices, and you're golden -- you have your own gourmet olive oil to accompany all those wonderful Italian flat breads.
What is a good match for Italian flat bread that is more like a cracker in texture than a fluffy bread?
For something like a foccacia, I usually dip it in a little gourmet olive oil dip, but that doesn't really work so well with the flatter, crisper breads.
What do you guys do? is there some kind of olive oil use for this situation that I haven't sussed out yet, or is there a different protocol for dipping these breads?
Can anybody clue me in?
I don't know what I would do without Italian flat bread. When I was in university, I studied abroad in Italy for a year and came back with an abiding love of flat breads.
Foccacia, piadina, farinata, you name it, I love it. One thing that you really have to remember with Italian bread though, is that a lot of it is intended for dipping in olive oil. And I mean real, Italian gourmet olive oil, not the cheapy mix stuff.
If you want to truly enjoy Italian flatbread, then you absolutely must have the appropriate bread dip. There are lots of recipes out there for making olive oil bread dip, but my favorite one is the most simple one:
Just take a little bit of olive oil, and add in a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. Then add just a pinch of sea salt, and a tiny pinch of herbs. If you're feeling really fancy, then you can use an infused olive oil for an even more complex flavor.
Once you try it, you'll never want to eat sliced bread again!