Fig and Manchego Flatbread

melting pot adventures in food

One of my favorite activities (besides eating cheese) is strolling in front of a cheese counter, examining every item on display and trying to figure out if I want to go for a bold cheese (highly stinky) or a mellower cheese (not so stinky).  I know that this must sound unbearably boring to most people, but, what can I say?  I really like cheese.  So much so, in fact, that when my birthday rolled around last month, my single birthday request was to eat bread and cheese until my belly became swollen with delight.
And, lo, did I eat a massive amount of cheese.  Cheese with perfectly ripe pears, cheese with thin slices of cucumber, cheese with crisp apples, and cheese with fig preserves—all of them stacked on slices of baguette and devoured with great enthusiasm.  After the meal, when the dust had cleared and we all sat around patting our tummies and trying really hard not to think about dessert, I found myself staring at all the remaining cheese and accompaniments left on the table and thinking, “Good lord…that’s a lot of leftovers.”  For a split second, I may have panicked a little, but by the time I was able to stand up and start putting things away, the wheels of my mind had already started cranking out ideas for what to do with those leftovers.
This flatbread, the perfect combination of salty and sweet, came out as the hands down winner.  A crisp and flavorful crust, a smear of thick, sweet fig preserves, and just a light layer of savory, salty Spanish cheese make for an elegant snack.  Cut into small squares or triangles, it would make a fantastic party snack, or, if you are like me, you can cut it into large squares and eat it for lunch, paired with a glass of San Pellegrino, while you think about your next birthday dinner, and how you can work this flatbread onto the menu.
Fig and Manchego Flatbread

½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/3 cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
¼ cup fig preserves or fig butter
2 ounces thinly sliced  or shaved Manchego cheese

Add olive oil and honey to water, and whisk to combine.  In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and yeast, then whisk together.  Slowly pour the water mixture into the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until the ingredients have come together to form a shaggy dough.  Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour over the dough and your hands, then knead the dough—still in the bowl—for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Form the dough into a ball, brush it with a bit of olive oil, and turn it around in the bowl to fully coat with oil.  Cover the bowl with a tightly fitted piece of plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and place an oven rack in the lower middle position.  Place a heavy baking sheet on the lower middle rack.  After 2 hours, when the dough is barely beginning to bubble and has more than doubled in size, turn it out onto well-floured surface.  Using your hands, gently stretch the dough until it forms an approximately 13” by 11” rectangle.  Place the dough on a large sheet of parchment paper place over a rimless baking sheet, or a piece of parchment paper placed over an overturned baking sheet.

Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the fig preserves over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the edges.  Top the fig preserves with the cheese shavings.

Slide the dough, still on the parchment, onto the heated baking sheet.  Bake for 7-9 minutes, until the cheese is golden in places and the edges of the dough have browned.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

About the contributor:

Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.