Tortillas, pita bread, lavash and focaccia may be relative newcomers to Indiana restaurants and supermarket shelves, but in their native lands these flatbreads are as old as civilization itself.\nWhen people first began harvesting grains, they were faced with the same problem many of us have with a cupboard-full of ingredients: how to turn what's on hand into what's for dinner.\nOne solution was to grind the grains into flour, mix it with water and bake. Much like a pancake or crepes, the flatter and thinner the bread, the more quickly and easily it could be cooked. Such breads are the mainstay of diets around the globe and, contrary to what you might think, are relatively easy to make.\nThe key is to find a friend with a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Once you have one in your possession, use the machine's speed to mix and knead the dough. In some cases, yeast is required for flatbread (as in my focaccia recipe below). Use yeast marked as "quick-rising" -- it requires a mere 20-minute rest before reshaping.\nIf you find flatbread making as simple and satisfying as I suspect, you might consider investing in a baking stone. A baking stone is an unglazed clay stone that absorbs and distributes heat evenly, ensuring a crispy, crusty crust (it's ideal for pizzas, too -- even the frozen kind).\nBaking stones can be found at kitchenware stores and houseware departments. Choose the largest that will fit in your oven, but make sure that there will be a two-inch space around the stone to allow heat to circulate. Place the baking stone in a cold oven, and then preheat the oven. Allow at least 25 minutes for the baking stone to heat before baking.\nThis focaccia recipe is Mediterranean in origin and is delicious and nearly foolproof with or without the use of a baking stone. One of the best features about making this or any other breads from scratch -- whether making them for yourself or a crowd of hungry friends -- is that you can control exactly what goes in and what stays out. If you do not like olives, try marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, strips of onion or bell peppers or sliced garlic cloves.\nGive it a try while the weather is still brisk, or wait until spring and partner it with fresh salads. Even the humblest meal will be transformed into a feast when it is served with this wholesome, homemade bread.\nOLIVE & ROSEMARY FOCACCIA\n2 cups all purpose flour\n1 .25-ounce package quick-rising yeast\n1 teaspoon salt\n1/2 teaspoon sugar\n2 tablespoons olive oil\n1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced (preferably brine-cured)\n2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar; pulse on/off to mix. Combine 2/3 cup hot water with 1 tablespoon olive oil. With the motor running, gradually pour the hot liquid through the food processor feed tube. Continue processing until the dough forms a ball, then process 1 minute to knead. The dough should be quite soft. If it seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water. If too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough a few times. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, sprayed side down, over the dough. Let the dough rest 20 to 30 minutes.\nPreheat oven to 450°F (If using baking stone, allow at least 25 minutes to heat the stone).\nCoat a baking sheet with cooking spray; dust with flour, shaking off excess. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into 16x12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of olives and half of rosemary over half of the rectangle; fold dough in half to enclose and form a 12x8-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 20 minutes.\nIn small bowl combine remaining olive oil and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the oil mixture over the top of the focaccia. Sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and olives. Press your fingertips across surface of the dough to dimple it. Place the baking sheet in the oven (place on baking stone if using one) and bake until the bottom of crust is crisp and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the bread to the cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut it into 8 rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.