There is something to be said for a carefully measured, patiently cultured loaf of bread. There is especially something special about the sourdough variety that has a crispy, crunch of crust enveloping a soft, chewy interior, still warm enough to have a little steam escape when it’s cut. That’s a wonderful thing, and it definitely has its time and place, which is when we have a lot of both. Freshly baked bread is magic, and if that is what you are after, then this is the wrong article (Try this one).
Now, as the title suggests, is the time to think about breads that aren’t baked at all. These are not breads of lesser origins, though they are from many diverse and—as with all bread, really—humble beginnings. They are not breads without tempting smells, though they are not the same as emitted from baking. They are breads that tend to be easy, filling, delicious and prepared without ovens.
Some may be familiar, some may not, but all of them are worth a try. And, it’s an amazing skill to have, knowing how to make no-bake bread. It comes in super handy when ovens break or are full, on camping trips, just for a change of pace, or impressing dinner guests in yet one more way.
So, let’s check out some options.
Despite common practice in Tex-Mex restaurant, tortillas don’t always have to encase food. In fact, it’s quite normal in many places to simply have tortillas as one would a slice or two of bread on the side, maybe sponging up a bit of sauce or as an edible device for delivering a super tasty morsel of food. They can be torn up and thrown into soups (tortilla soup!) or they can make a wicked sandwich. Try corn tortillas for a bit more of an authentic flavor, or go with the new classic flour version for something with a little more elasticity.
This bread is no mystery around the modern world, and it perhaps most popular for its — to steal a football term — pocket presence. Pita bread is easy enough to buy at the supermarket, but making it at home means less concern over additives and preservatives. We can just make the pure thing with clean ingredients, and then there are pita classics like hummus and falafel to accompany it, or fusion innovations along the lines of pita pizza. Now, if an oven is on the premises, there are simple recipes, but this can also be done right on the stovetop.
3. Skillet Biscuits
Biscuits start a day in the right way, and though traditionally done in the oven, biscuits can be whipped up quickly in a skillet. It requires only the bare essentials — flour, water, baking powder and salt — and nothing more than a skillet and stove. They are great for breakfast sandwiches (go all out and make some vegan sausage patties) or alongside a good bowl of soup. Fresh skillet biscuits from scratch, no oven needed, it can all happen in under fifteen minutes.
There are actually loads of great skillet breads from Indian cuisine, naan probably being the most well-known. And, for those not familiar, it is something along the lines of a thicker, larger pita without the pocket. It feels right at home next to a steaming bowl of dal or palak ‘paneer’, a delicious stewy, gooey spinach dish. Naan is for the stovetop all the way, and though traditionally prepared with yogurt, it can be easily veganized. For something a little different, check out chapattis or parathas, both intrinsically simple and vegan, with personalities much like a flour tortilla.
Then, there are times when nice, crispy bread is what we are after, and while toasting often gets the nod in this case, it doesn’t have to. Chickpea flour actually works really well for making crispy skillet bread, which is gluten-free by default and delicious via full intention. Chickpea crisps whip up pretty quickly and with very little effort (DIY chickpea flour), and they are perfect for dips like homemade hummus or muhammara (roasted red pepper). Or, they are great topped with some marinated vegetables.
It would be unfair to go through all this oven-free bread rigmarole and skip out on raw bread. The big change here will be that the skillet won’t be the cooking tool, but rather it will be time to unleash the dehydrator (a favorite gadget for many). With dough made from whizzing up sprouts, nuts, seeds and spices, these breads are on the unconventional side but don’t require cooking to be edible. Raw breads, ironically, take a while as they are essentially slowly dehydrated as opposed to baked, but there are some interesting recipes to try: Onion & Corn Bread, Buckwheat Black Bread and Raw, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread.
A rather run-of-the-mill name for bread that comes out thin as opposed to in a poof, flatbread just about sums up what skillets do in the line of bread duty. Stovetop breads are not going to be of the baguette or croissant persuasion, but they’ll be filling, functional and flavorful as well. In fact, while most of the aforementioned options have leaned towards simplicity and basics, flatbread flavors can be played with just the same as typical loaves. Here is an awesome recipe for that leftover pumpkin puree that always seems to happen around the holidays, but could easily be used year round. Experiment with spices, veggies and even fruit in your flatbreads.
No knock on the oven here, but sometimes a little variety does a chef right. And, maybe the oven could use a day off anyway. No-bake bread is also just a surprisingly useful thing to know how to do.
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Lead Image Source: Raw, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread