It figures that in the last (last!?) region of Italy I would have a kitchen disaster. A typical antipasto in Sardegna, which is the large island off of the west coast of Italy, is Pane Carasau. This is a very crispy flatbread. It's generally eaten with pieces of salami or cheese, but can also be modified into different dishes. One version is Pane Guttiau, which is Pane Carasau that is topped with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and salt. I tried to make both versions, figuring that it would be a fairly straightforward recipe. No such luck.
Things started out well enough; the dough came together wonderfully. However, things started to fall apart when the baking part began. Each piece must be cooked at a very high temperature so that it balloons up. You are then supposed to cut along the seam of each piece so that you separate the top layer from the bottom layer and then put them back in the oven to crisp up. Well, I had a hell of a time trying to get them to balloon up correctly. Most of my attempts got large air pockets in some areas, but not throughout, which led to me butchering the bread when I tried to separate the layers (a surgeon I am not). I also ran into several getting too crispy in the first round of baking, which made them crack and crumble in my hands as I tried to bisect them. I played around with the temperature, experimenting at different intervals between 400 and 500 degrees, played with the time that I baked the bread for, rolled the dough to different thicknesses and even tried different methods of baking it such as on a pizza pan, on a baking sheet, or directly on the rack. Of 8 attempts (which should have given me 16 pieces of Pane Carasau once the cutting was done), I got about 4 pieces that seemed to resemble the pictures in the recipes in a 3rd cousin sort of way.
Conclusions? This recipe is great if you can get it right, because it can be used with practically any cheese, meat, tapenade, or other topping that you can think of. But, it's hard to replicate in a crappy electric oven. For this you really want a wood burning pizza oven that can reach insanely hot temperatures. In the recipe below, I went with the method that produced the best result from all of my attempts. If anyone manages to make this work, please let me know how you did it!
Adapted from The Ingredient Store
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
- In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 1/4 of a cup of warm water. Let sit about 10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and foamy.
- In a large bowl, combine the two kinds of flour and the salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture along with the remaining 3/4 of a cup of warm water. Use a fork to gradually add the flour into the water mixture. Once it become too difficult to use a fork, use your hands to continue mixing until you get a smooth dough.
- Cover the bowl with a damp, clean towel and let it sit for an hour. After an hour has passed, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes.
- Cover the bowl again and let the dough sit for another hour. After an hour has passed, knead for another 5 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
- Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece out in a circle as thin as you can (should be between 12 and 15 inches in diameter).
- Put one of the rolled out pieces of dough on a pizza pan or stone and bake for about 2 minutes. Try to resist peaking in the oven until the time is up!
- Pull out the dough and carefully using an oven mitt (it will be hot!), use a knife to cut horizontally along the seam to create two pieces of dough. Put these aside for now. Repeat this with all of your pieces of dough.
- When all of the dough has been baked the first time and split, return them to the oven for another 30 seconds to 1 minutes, just until it crisps up and browns a little.
Ryan'sSue's rating of Pane Carasau - 2 with a potential for a 4 if I could figure it out. Hey, they can't all be home runs!
Adapted from The Sardinia Cookbook
4 pieces of Pane Carasau
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mediterranean Sea Salt
Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Sprinkle the pieces of Pane Carasau with some olive oil, salt, and pecorino cheese.
- Bake just until the cheese melts.
Ryan'sSue's rating of Pane Guttiau - 3. The cheese improves the dish, but it again would be better if the base Pane Carasau had turned out better!