Its Turkish name, pide (pronounced pee-day), may bring to mind the hollow loaves many of us know as pita bread, but this flatbread is entirely different: thick and chewy, with no hollow and a lovely quilted surface made by scoring the dough deeply with the fingertips. (Tırnak is Turkish for “fingernail.”) A flour-water-egg solution is used both as wash and to wet your hands, which makes it easier to stretch the dough and score it. Shaping is done on a bed of bran or whole wheat flour. Pide is the daily bread in urban areas in Turkey’s east and southeast, where it’s baked in wood-fired stone ovens and sold, wrapped in brown paper or newspaper, for less than 1 lira per piece. Some pide are the size of a dinner plate, others as big as a large pizza; some are extra thick and pillowy, while those stretched between the baker’s palms before they’re slid into the oven are thin and crispy-chewy (see the variation below). Some bakers decorate their loaves with sesame and/or nigella seeds. In eastern Turkey, stews and sautés are generally eaten with the hands. This bread is the perfect dipper—easy to tear into pieces along the scored lines and pliable enough to bend between thumb and fingers to grab chunks of meat or vegetables. If you split the sections of bread in half, the exposed crumb soaks up sauce. Try this with Slow-Cooked Beef and Vegetables (page 152), Spicy Okra and Lamb Sauté (page 225), or any soup or stew. It also accompanies meze and makes a sturdy sandwich bread. This recipe, and the egg wash technique, is from Little Star Bakery in Van city. This bread is best the day it’s made, but leftovers can be revived with a sprinkle of hot water and 15 minutes in a 350°F oven, wrapped in foil.—Robyn Eckhardt, author of Istanbul & Beyond
Put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over. Whisk together the flour and salt in another bowl. Pour the flour over the water and use your hands or a dough scraper to mix and cut the ingredients together. When they begin to come together, lightly flour a work surface, turn the dough out, and knead. As you knead, use a dough scraper to remove bits of dough from the work surface and return them to the mass. In 8 to 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. Fold the dough over itself three times while it is proofing, after 30, 60, and 90 minutes.
While The Dough Is Rising, Make The Wash:
Put the flour in a medium deep bowl and add the boiling water in a slow stream, whisking. Then continue to whisk to eliminate as many lumps as possible. Let cool completely, then beat in the egg and set aside.
One hour before baking, place a baking stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle oven rack and heat the oven to 425°F.
To Shape The Bread:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it in half and form each half into a loose ball. Let the dough relax for 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, an upturned bowl, or a damp towel.
Gently pat each ball of dough into a disk 6 to 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Cover again and allow to relax for another 15 minutes.
Whisk the wash again to mix. It should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it is too thick, add room-temperature water a tablespoon at a time, whisking, to achieve the right consistency. Pour the wash into a shallow bowl or lipped plate big enough for you to dip your spread hand into.
Liberally dust a baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet with bran or whole wheat flour. Transfer one of the disks to the peel or sheet. Dip your palms and fingers in the wash and gently pat the disk out to a circle about 3/4 inch thick, washing its surface as you go.
To score the bread, dip the sides of your hands in the wash and use them to score the outer edge of the dough in an approximate circle, leaving a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide border: Start by positioning your hands at opposite sides of the dough, palms facing each other. As you push the sides of your hands into the bread to score it, gently move them out-ward to stretch the dough 1/2 inch or so. The dough will now be a rough oval. Then work your way around the bread, dipping your hands in the wash as needed to keep them from sticking, until the dough is roughly circular again. Don’t worry about creating a perfect scored circle, but do be sure that the scores join to make a continuous line around the edge of the bread. When you’re finished, the bread should be 8½ or 9 inches in diameter.
Now dip your fingertips in the wash and place your hands side by side on the dough, about 1 inch from the circular score along the bottom edge of the dough. Push your fingers deeply into the dough (don’t tear it) and then repeat, moving your hands apart to create a score in a single line that does not extend beyond the outerscored border. Repeat to create parallel scores about an inch apart on the dough, dipping your fingers in the wash as needed. Then use the same technique to create roughly parallel cross-hatch scores at approximately 45 degrees to the first set. Your scores needn’t be perfect, but they should be deep—fingerprints clearly visible—or they’ll disappear as the bread bakes.
Sprinkle the loaf with half the sesame or nigella seeds, if using, and slide onto the baking stone or preheated baking sheet. Bake until golden with pale spots, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating it once at the halfway point. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, or serve hot after allowing the bread to rest for a few minutes. Brush the excess bran or flour from the bottom of the loaf with a kitchen towel or stiff brush after it has cooled for a few minutes, if you wish. Repeat the shaping and baking with the remaining dough.
Variation Stretched Fingertip Flatbread:
Proceed with the recipe through Step 10, but instead of shaping the loaf on a peel or baking sheet, do so on a work surface liberally dusted with bran or whole wheat flour, and pat the dough out to 8 or 9 inches before you begin scoring. Dry your hands and dust a baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet that you’ll use to transfer the loaf to the oven with bran or whole wheat flour. Slip your palms underneath opposite sides of the dough, lift it up, and gently stretch it as you transfer it to the peel or baking sheet. The secret to this maneuver is to exe-cute it in one continuous motion—lift, stretch, transfer; do not hesitate once you’ve started to lift the dough. You should end up with a rough oval about 8 by 14 inches. Don’t worry if your oval isn’t perfect—even an oddly shaped loaf will still look beautiful coming out of the oven. Redo any fingerprint scores that may have disappeared in the course of lifting and stretching and sprinkle the dough with half the seeds, if using. Slide the loaf into the oven and bake as directed. Because this loaf is thinner, it may need a couple less minutes in the oven. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Istanbul & Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017