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More than Matzo: 10 Other Yummy Unleavened Breads

Break out of your matzo slump and try a different bread to add to your unleavened bread repertoire. See more passover pictures.
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Unleavened bread is one of man's first prepared foods, and it survives today in many forms.

Although the variations can be subtle, like the difference in thickness between a tortilla and a gordita, unleavened breads often reflect a regional component, like incorporating the grains that may be available in a specific area or employing a distinctive pan or griddle.

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Unleavened bread is a variety of flatbread that doesn't contain bubbles, or leavening agents (bubble makers). Leavens, like yeast, literally add air to the baking bread. All unleavened breads are flatbreads, but flatbreads aren't all unleavened. So, even though pizza crust, focaccia and pancakes are flat, most recipes for these distinctive breads include either an organic or chemical leaven.

On the next pages, we'll take a look at some unleavened bread varieties you'll probably recognize, as well as a few new names that may surprise you.

This specialty bread from the Romagna region of Italy was once considered poor man's fare, but it's experiencing a renaissance as an authentic Italian original. Easy to grill or prep on a griddle, piadina bread is typically made with flour, water and olive oil. This thin bread looks a bit like a cross between a pita and a tortilla. It has a chewy texture and mild flavor that lends itself well to the addition of your favorite herbs and seasonings.

A little hint if you're thinking about giving piadina bread a try: As with many unleavened bread recipes, it pays to get the pan or griddle very hot.

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If you do go the way of traditional Mexican food for your tortillas, don't forget the margaritas. Ole!
If you do go the way of traditional Mexican food for your tortillas, don't forget the margaritas. Ole!
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What can you say about a bread that can use flour or cornmeal and just happens to be an essential ingredient in notable Mexican food favorites like burritos, tacos, chimichangas and nachos? If you're not salivating yet, then you've just finished a big meal.

Tortillas can be mucho flexible, too. They can be used as a foundation for pizza, but don't stop there. You can also use them in roll-ups, pinwheel sandwiches and as shells for salads or dips. Yum.

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This Norwegian flatbread uses potato as an essential ingredient, which gives it a unique texture. Potato makes softer, wetter dough and reduces the amount of flour needed in the mix. Lefse recipes also usually use cream or milk, resulting in a richer combination than you'll find in unleavened breads that stick with flour and water. Lefse can be prepared in thick as well as thin versions. Both make great roll-ups for breakfast or lunch and work well with sweet or savory ingredients, too.

A favorite in areas like Minnesota that have an underlying Scandinavian vibe, lefse is a popular holiday treat that's tasty and easy to make.

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Not only will roti mesh easily with any menu, it will also look fabulous on the table.
Not only will roti mesh easily with any menu, it will also look fabulous on the table.
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Recipes for unleavened bread occur in most cultures around the world. Roti, one choice for a tasty, unleavened Indian bread, is an interesting case because it can be a general term for bread or refer to the bread of a specific region.

The history of bread in India and surrounding environs can be traced back more than 3,000 years, and in that time, there's been a lot of roti (bread) experimentation. One way to sort out the confusion is to look for any words that occur before the term roti. They'll give you a hint about the specifics, usually the grains or special ingredients included in that bread. If all the recipe or label says is roti, you'll have to check the ingredient list to get a better idea of the ingredients involved.

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With an ingredients list that can include chickpeas, coconut, onions, bananas or any of a cornucopia of different ingredients, this bread is the curious cook's dream.

Chapati bread can be synonymous with roti (Indian) style breads or be a marketing term for a specific variety of griddle or flat bread. The important thing to keep in mind here is that Indian flatbreads can appear under a number of different names. Chapati, for instance, is often made with more finely milled whole wheat flour (called atta) than many other Indian flatbreads. Chapati also is sometimes prepared on a special, curved griddle. Visually, it's thin and round, but the overall size can vary.

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Thicker than pita bread, phulka is great for stuffing whatever you're in the mood for.
Thicker than pita bread, phulka is great for stuffing whatever you're in the mood for.
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Although phulka is an Indian bread, like roti, chapati and paratha, it has a lot in common with pita bread, too. One of its most distinctive characteristics is the pocket that's created inside by holding the phulka over an open flame. This slightly thicker variety of Indian flat bread is a great choice as a base for vegetarian fillings, like hummus and eggplant. Although sometimes chapati bread is made to create the distinctive balloon effect, the phulka is best known for this special feature [source: Davidson].

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No inventory of specialty, unleavened breads would be complete without adding dessert crepes to the list. This French import is most commonly rolled and served with a sweet filling. The basic batter for crepes is very thin, and a special crepe-making pan will make mass producing these delicious, thin pancakes easier. Make extra batter. It will probably take a couple of tries for you to refine your technique.

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Keep lavash on hand so you're always ready for those unexpected guests that turn up.
Keep lavash on hand so you're always ready for those unexpected guests that turn up.
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Also known as cracker bread, this Armenian flatbread is available dry or frozen in large, cooked rounds. One of our favorite secret weapons when friends come to call, lavash bread has a smooth consistency that makes winning pinwheel sandwiches that taste wonderful and come together fast. If you can find lavash in your area, it's larger and a bit thicker than a tortilla and usually has fewer brown spots. It often has a powdery surface, too, which makes it easier to work with than some flatbreads. For a very nice roll-up with a winning appearance, stick with the frozen variety so you can avoid having to remoisten the bread.

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A chubby and chewier version of a tortilla, the gordita offers more bread for the bite in traditional Mexican cuisine. The word gordita means "fat" or "chubby," but not in a bad way. These thick breads are becoming more popular in the United States thanks to the enterprising efforts of restaurant chains beguiled by the notion that if a tortilla is good, a thicker tortilla must be even better.

Gorditas are made on a griddle, like tortillas, but use a thicker batter. If you're planning a portable snack with a filling that might make a standard tortilla soggy, using a gordita instead will solve your problems. If you like lots of salsa with your burritos, the sturdy gordita was developed with you in mind.

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Pita bread has the distinction of being the sandwich-maker's best friend. The baking process produces an ingenious cavity that's sealed around the edges. It's perfect for stuffing. If you've ever paid a nasty dry cleaning bill because your sandwich decided to deconstruct itself all over your best suit coat, the advantages of pocket bread, another term for a pita, should be obvious.

Careful, though. There are leavened and unleavened pita breads, so check the label or the recipe to know what you're getting.

The secret to creating traditional pita bread is high heat during the cooking process that produces a super-fast burst of steam inside the dough. The steam forms a hollow and the rest is, well, lunch.

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Sources

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