Monday, February 1, 2016

Gluten Free Flatbread (N is for Navajo Indians)

A few years ago, we reviewed the America the Beautiful curriculum from Notgrass Publications, and loved it. Since it's geared toward middle school students, we've used it as a spine and added on some extras to round it out for a high school program.  Luke is still using it (he's on the second volume of the program), and Matthew has just started the American History with it.  Among the earliest settlers were the Navajo, and they are featured in Matthew's current chapter.  One of the unit's hands-on activities is a recipe for Navajo flatbread.

Traditionally called "Fry Bread", this quick bread is leavened with baking powder and fried in about an inch of oil.  If you prefer not to deep fry it, you can also cook it in a lightly greased pan until it is charred on one side, and then flip it over.  We've adapted the original recipe to be gluten free, and it works beautifully.  I love that it is egg free - most gluten free breads need egg to hold together, but this one does not!   The Navajo used the bread much like a wrap, topping the center with honey for a sweet treat, or with chiles, vegetables, meat and/or beans for a savory meal. Matthew made this one night as a substitute for naan when Luke was making tandoori chicken, and we ate it with the curried chicken. I think this recipe is about to be come a staple in our home.

Gluten Free Navajo Flatbread

5 cups gluten-free flour mix (we used King Arthur) + dusting
2 Tbsp xanthan gum
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil + for frying
about 2 cups warm water

Mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt together.

And the oil and most of the water, and mix with your hands until it comes together into a dough.  If it is dry and not mixing into a ball, add more water, a little at a time.  (How much you will need depends on your flour choice and how dry the air is.)

Knead the dough for about three minutes.  After kneading, allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough (about 1" in diameter).  Place on a counter/cutting board dusted with flour.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to a circle (or something circle-ish!) about 1/8" thick.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) on the stove.  For traditional Navajo fry bread, add enough oil to the pan so it is about 1" deep.  If you're making a drier bread that will have more of a tortilla texture, add about 2 tbsp of oil so the pan bottom is completely greased.

Add a round to the pan, and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until it puffs up and the underneath turns brown.  The fried bread will be evenly golden brown, while the dry bread will have scorch marks.  Flip and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter (drain the fried bread on paper towels first).

Top with honey or  taco fillings (meat, cheese, etc.)  The dry bread is really good with Indian chutneys and served with curry dishes.

We actually had leftover raw dough when we made this.  We doubled the recipe (because most recipes aren't enough for our big family), but after we had about 20 pieces of bread for dinner, I stopped cooking so we could eat.  I stuck the extra in a ziplock bag, pressed out the air, and stuck it in the fridge.  The next morning, the boys asked for more flatbread, so I rolled out the refrigerated dough and tried the deep-fried method.  Instead of honey, I topped it with cinnamon and sugar.  Matthew decided to call it churro-bread!  It was perfect for a sweet breakfast or as a treat with mid-morning coffee. It doesn't puff up quite as much as the dough gets older, but the bread dough will stay useable in the fridge for at least three days (perhaps more, but we ran out of dough by then!).

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