Balon Bazlama - © via YouTube

Turkish Flatbread: Not Really Pita – But Maybe Better…

I spend a fair amount of time just surfing around, looking for new foods and culinary traditions I haven’t come across before. And yesterday, I hit the jackpot! I’ve been a big fan of flatbreads since I first discovered Pita – which for me came even before my initial exposure to tortillas…

So it came as a delightful surprise that Turkey has its own version of flatbread which may represent the ultimate expression of the form.

Get your Balon Bazlama on!

The word ‘balon’ in the name refers to the marvelous inflation of the hand-sized loaves when they’re almost done cooking. You’d think they were going to explode! Instead, that ballooning action creates a pita-like pocket in the loaf, which I know I can put to good use.

There are many specific recipes for this classic Turkish favourite, some using yogurt and others (like the one demonstrated in the video above) that use milk and water. Likewise, some call for Olive Oil and others don’t. And there are many variations (local, regional and family) that specify an almost infinite selection of herbs and spices. All use a minimum of other ingredients: flour, water, active dry yeast and pinch of salt.

The magic’s in the mixing

The first secret to perfect, pliable, stuffable Bazlama is mixing up and handling the ingredients properly. The initial mix and knead is much like any other bread dough, but you’ll needs yo leave it to rise for about 3 hours after that before taking it to the next stage. This is really important. It’s during this rest that the dough develops its characteristic flexibility and fine, soft texture.

After the first rise, separate the dough into equal pieces about the size of a tennis ball. Then roll out the balls into thin flat rounds.

The second secret is in the cooking. You fry Bazlama in a heavy, dry pan like you would tortillas or Naan (if you don’t have an Indian clay oven). It’s important to turn the loaf at crucial intervals (as demonstrated in the video) to ensure that it develops the pocket this bread is famous for, and doesn’t get overdone on either side.

A breakfast favourite

But you can stuff it with anything you like any time of the day or night. Other Turkish flatbreads mimic tortillas (Lavas) and the thick European pitas (Pide). All have their distinct traditional applications at the table. But if you’re making just one Turklish flatbread, make Bazlama. Heck… If you make only one out of all the kinds in the world!

~ Maggie J.