Caramelized Fennel Flatbread
Hello dear readers; yes, I’m still here. My regular posting schedule got a bit derailed last week as I was out of town for work…when I got home at the end of the week, there was a lot of catching up to do and I’m afraid I’m woefully behind on emails and other blog-related stuff. So, bear with me as I get back into the swing of things!
That being said, even though I’ve been falling behind on posting any actual recipes as of late, I *have* still been cooking — and we are eating so WELL with all the glorious, beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous summer produce! There’s almost too many choices every night: I go over to the garden and harvest armfuls of herbs, bunches of beets and seemingly never-ending bunches of swiss chard…our share is keeping us well-supplied with a good variety of vegetables (speaking of our share, my trip out of town last week meant I didn’t get to post about what was in our CSA…lots more of the usual, with the addition of some yellow wax beans.) I love, love, love all this variety! So I’ll try to get stuff up and posted — first up, this caramelized fennel flatbread.
We got a fennel bulb in our share a few weeks ago, and this was an appetizer I made for us to take to an outdoor Shakespeare performance in the Cornell Plantations. As it turns out, we’ve planned to go for the past two weekends in a row, but each Saturday as it nears performance time, the heavens seem to crack open and unleash buckets of rain, scare-you-silly thunder, and spectacular lightning. Which, by the way, is great to watch from the comfort of your living room; not so much fun to be sitting under a grove of *trees* picnicking. As we all know, trees and lightning just don’t jive.
So, this flatbread became our watch-the-thunderstorm appetizer. I used the crust from the caramelized onion tart Kristin posted about (which is also really delicious!), substituting half white whole wheat flour. It’s slathered with a layer of coarse-grain dijon mustard, dotted with some fennel that I cooked slowly to caramelize, and sprinkled with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. When it comes out of the oven, I top it with some of the light, feathery fennel fronds. If you wanted to up the fennel quotient even more, you could sprinkle some fennel seeds in with the fennel bulb slices as they’re caramelizing. It’s delicious as a cool appetizer, summer lunch, or light dinner…whether it’s from the comfort of your home, outdoors in a park picnicking, or sitting on your deck sipping some wine.
Caramelized Fennel Flatbread
For the crust (adapted from Gourmet via The Kitchen Sink):
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus a little extra if necessary
3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, white part thinly sliced and about 1-2 tablespoons of the fronds reserved and chopped
2 tablespoons coarse-grain dijon mustard
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and warm water. Let this mixture stand it starts to get foamy, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, then add the yeast mixture. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg, olive oil and salt to combine, then add this to the flour and yeast mixture in the electric mixer bowl. Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed to combine, then increase the speed and mix on medium-high speed to knead the dough, about 3 minutes. You may have to add more flour to keep the dough smooth and elastic; if you add more flour, sprinkle it in gradually. You may have to add up to another 1/4 cup.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While the dough rises, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the slices of fennel bulb and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the fennel is golden brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
When the dough is almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the middle.
Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a roughly 15×12 inch rectangle, then transfer the piece of parchment (with the dough on it) to a heavy baking sheet. Spread the dijon mustard all over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with half the grated cheese, then sprinkle the caramelized fennel all over the dough. Top with the remaining half of the grated cheese.
Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the fennel fronds evenly over the top; they’ll wilt ever so slightly with the residual heat coming off of the flatbread.
Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.