Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

A weirdough but a goodie

I reckon I’ve pizza-ed just about every receptacle starchy enough at this stage. Wraps, soda bread, baguettes, crumpets – I even once pizza-ed potato bread, albeit with mixed results (ie, it was rough enough tackle).
Some time ago, I went through a fierce phase of making pizzas from scratch, with the yeast and the proving and the waiting and the rolling and all the rest.
The end product was usually magnificent but it was more than a little labour intensive. I even sourced a big clay tile that I used in my oven to try and replicate the stone baked effect. It worked too. Kinda.
However, pizza-ing from scratch was customarily a whole evening’s work, what with the base and the sauce and then the toppings, with the result that it was usually quite late when you were sitting down to eat, or standing to eat, depending on how many people were in the house at the time. That’s right, I used to do pizza parties and mighty gas they were too. As you can imagine, the clean-up operation after one of those used to be a serious mission.
As cardinal events are not to be forgotten (to paraphrase Thomas de Quincey), I remember with near 4k clarity the best pizza I ever ate. This is a bold statement, I know, as I’ve eaten hundreds of great pizzas over the years. Let’s face it, even a bog standard frozen pizza has its merits. Anyway…
I remember I was 20 years old and I was on a tour of Bastia, a small city on the north of Corsica. My great friend, Jean-Charles Sempere had suggested we visit a place in the hills above Bastia, a place called La Litorne (which means ‘fieldfare’ in English – although I didn’t know this at the time). He reckoned the pizzas were exceptional and he wasn’t wrong.
In we went, hungry and eager and I’ll never forget that pizza.
“Wanna know the secret of a good pizza?” Jean-Charles asked, en Francais.
“Oui,” j’ai dit.
“It’s all about the base,” he supplied.
I doubt Meghan Trainor had even been born at this stage, so I’m pretty sure she wasn’t in the restaurant at the time. She must have worked that out about the base all by herself.
Whilst waiting on the La Litorne special, we drank several Pietra (it’s amazing the details the brain retains), and the hunger pangs kicked in in earnest. It is no wonder therefore, that when the goats cheese pizza arrived, I fell to it like a man discovering food for the first time. It was as if God himself had fashioned the pizza just for me.
As usual, I ate the whole thing without taking a breath and felt busted for the rest of the night. Good man.
The reason I’m reminiscing so longingly for this epic pizza, is that I’ve started making my own from scratch again, except these ones would have JC turning in his grave, if he was dead, which he’s not (Dieu merci!). Why? They’re yeast free and the difference is marked. With a yeast base pizza, there’s bubbles and lots of associated malted taste. With the flat bread variety, there are no bubbles and they really are flat.
Still, it’s a pizza change of necessity as one of the Devlin household is yeast free and therefore isn’t able to eat ordinary pizzas. But the taste… OMJC!
As with everything from scratch, if you take care and use some good ingredients, the end will justify the means. And I can therefore confirm that these bad boys, whilst hardly La Litorne great, are magnificent enough in their own special way.
Also, if you don’t fancy going the whole pizza route in this recipe, these flat breads work perfectly well as a wrap around for things like kebabs.

INGREDIENTS (FLAT BREADS)
300g of plain flour and more for dusting
50g of butter
180ml of milk
big pinch of salt
dash of olive oil
tsp of butter

LE PLAN D’ACTION
Start by measuring out the flour into a large mixing bowl and adding the salt. Stir to combine.
Melt the butter in the microwave and then add to the milk. Stir to mix and then pour the lot into the flour mix with little to no finesse. Using a large spoon, stir and mix until the mixture resembles a dough, then tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two. It shouldn’t take much and should come together pretty quickly. After kneading, it should be smooth and springy when pressed. Wrap in clingfilm and let sit for half an hour whilst you get the rest of your ingredients – if you’re making pizza – together.
After the half hour, dust a flat surface with yet more flour. Cut a fifth of the dough off with a knife, roll into a ball and then with a rolling pin, roll out as flat as you like. The flatter the crisper it will turn out in the end.
Add a scant tablespoon of olive oil to a large frying pan and bring to a medium to hot temp. Add the disk of dough to the pan and cook for about two minutes on one side before flipping. The temperature will determine how long exactly this takes but this dough is very forgiving and even if dark crispy patches appear, these will only add to the final texture and taste. After you flip, add the teaspoon of butter to the pan and when it sizzles and melts, brush the top of the new flat bread with the melted butter using a pastry brush. This gives added richness of flavour. If the bread puffs and bubbles, just flatten down with a fork.
Another two minutes and it’ll be done.
You can roll and cook all of the flat breads at this stage and wrap them in a clean tea towel or, if you were of a mind, you can keep the un-used dough in the fridge for a few days. I tend towards the latter and then eat these breads two days on the bounce.
If you’re going the whole pizza hog, place a new flat bread on a piece of tin foil, spread with your tomato base, cheese and toppings etc and then retire to a hot oven (200˚C) for about seven or eight minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and it’s irresistible. As per the picture included, I used buffalo mozzarella, salami, pineapple and basil.
Incidentally, I just Googled ‘La Litorne’ for old times sake and wouldn’t you just know it, the place is still open. I must head back this weekend on my private jet to see if the pizza’s still on the menu. I would too, if I had a private jet and money grew on the trees around my house.
Have a slice day!

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