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Jordanian Bedouin Flatbread (Shrak)
2 hours 10 minutes 50 minutes active
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Shrak is the daily bread on the Bedouin table. The simple, rustic flatbread is as suited to dunking in olive oil and za’atar or serving with hummus and other dips as it is for scooping up stewy or saucy main dishes. We loved the shrak that home cook Fatima Mohammad demonstrated for us during a recent visit to Petra, Jordan. While seated on the floor, she used her hands, with an assist from gravity, to form a portion dough into a sheet as thin as film and larger than a hubcap, then cooked it swiftly on a saj, or a domed griddle resembling an inverted wok. The bread was soft and supple, with a satisfying chewiness and a subtly nutty yet clean flavor. We wanted to find a way to make shrak at home. The dough, a simple mixture of equal parts (by volume) whole-wheat and all-purpose flours plus salt and water, came together easily in a stand mixer. To shape the dough, we use our hands, plus a rolling pin and an overturned bowl to gently stretch it into a round thin enough to be almost translucent. Without a saj for cooking the bread, we opted for a large cast-iron skillet (a griddle works, too), but because of the skillet’s diameter, we make our shrak about the size of a standard flour tortilla. Transferring the ultra-thin dough to the skillet without any folding or wrinkling is a little tricky, so the first attempt may yield an imperfect bread, but shaping and cooking become easier as you get the hang of the technique. Store leftovers in a zip-close bag for up to a day or two; to reheat, sprinkle with a few drops of water, wrap in foil and place in a 400°F oven for about five minutes.
Don’t cut short the kneading time. A full 15 minutes of mixer kneading is necessary to develop the gluten structure that allows the dough to be stretched thin and produce a pleasant chewiness in the cooked breads.
2 hours 10 minutes
50 minutes active
grams (1 cup) whole-wheat flour
grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
teaspoon table salt
01In a stand mixer with the dough hook, mix both flours and the salt on medium until well combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low, slowly add ¾ cup water and mix, scraping the bowl as needed, until the ingredients form a shaggy dough, 4 to 5 minutes. Knead on low until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 15 minutes.
02Lightly dust the counter and your hands with flour; remove the dough from the mixer and set it on the counter. Shape the dough into a ball, dust lightly with flour and transfer to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours (the dough also can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours; bring it to room temperature before shaping).
03Lightly flour the counter, turn the dough out onto it and divide it into 10 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, taut ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.
04When you are ready to shape and cook the breads, set an overturned medium bowl with sloping sides and a rounded base about 5 inches in diameter near your work area. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high. Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and set near the stove. Very lightly flour the counter, place 1 dough ball on top and press it with your hands into a 3-inch disk. Using a rolling pin, roll the disk into a round about 6 inches in diameter. Lift the dough off the counter and, using your fingers and a gentle pulling motion, stretch it into a round about 8 inches. Lightly flour the round, drape it over the overturned bowl and, using your hands, gently and evenly stretch the dough down the sides of the bowl until it is thin enough to be almost translucent; it’s fine if a few small tears form. Leave the dough in place on the bowl.
05Test if the skillet is properly heated by flicking water onto the surface; it should immediately sizzle and evaporate. If the pan is not yet fully heated, drape a kitchen towel over the bread to prevent drying and allow the pan to heat for another minute or two before testing again.
06When the pan is properly heated, use both hands to carefully lift the dough off the bowl and quickly lay the round in the skillet; try to place it flat and without any wrinkles. Cook, using a wide metal spatula to flip the round about every 15 seconds, until lightly blistered on both sides, about 2 minutes; the bread should remain pliable and should not become crisp. Transfer to the prepared rack and cover with a kitchen towel. Shape and cook the remaining portions of dough in the same way, stacking them on the rack.