Food52 in 5

For Tiny Breads, All You Need Is 5 Minutes & Flour

May 16, 2018

I’m a big believer in the vehicle—an edible one. Much of what I cook is soupy or saucy and relies much more on flavor than it does on structure, shape: A whole mess of chopped vegetables and canned tomatoes or stewed lentils with a smattering of herbs. It’s great, really (usually), but getting it all to travel through space and into my mouth is a different question.

Enter: the vehicle. Sometimes it’s pasta, at other times rice. I’ll tear apart a crunchy, crusty loaf and give it a dunk or toss some combination of vegetables and herbs into a folded tortilla. A vehicle, as the name implies, is a mode of transportation. It carries, lifts, moves from the plate to your face. And thank goodness it does.

Vehicles tend to let their own flavors take a supporting role, instead allowing their companions to sing an octave higher, louder. Imagine, a thick and creamy salt-speckled tuna and tomato sauce. It smells so sweet and sharp simmering in a saucepan, but what is one to do, just spoon it straight into your mouth? Of course not. (Although we wouldn’t stop you.) Instead, an al dente penne or a friendly fusilli is there to soak up all that goodness. A coconut milk curry with eggs and onions makes so much more sense spooned atop a bed of buttery jasmine rice.

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Vehicles are like the missing puzzle piece, their subtle addition, their unassuming presence, brings an entire image into focus. But say, you open your pantry and can find no vehicle in sight. You're halfway to dinner and your rice is all gone, you're fresh out of bread, pasta is a far away fantasy. Essentially, you’re vehicle less, flat-tire-stuck-on-the-side-of-the-road stranded.

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Top Comment:
“Sprinkling salt over the flat bread/roti once it's in the oily pan could easily cause over salting depending on what kind of salt the cook might be using not to mention if a salt shaker or hand sprinkle was used. ”
— Joycelyn

Don’t cry, don’t fear, and definitely don’t hitchhike. A back up vehicle, a more than desirable alternative can so easily be yours. All you need is five minutes, a splash of water, and some flour and a vehicle will come together before your eyes between your hands.

Tiny! Breads!

They’re called tiny breads and they were taught to me by a friend, Jordan, who swears by them. She serves every—literally every meal—with a plate of small hand-pressed, pan-fried flat breads that she calls the ultimate vehicles. And they only take five minutes to make:

  • Fill a mixing bowl with some flour, let’s say a cups worth, and make an indent in the center of the pile. It should resemble the peak of a dormant volcano.
  • Next, slowly drizzle cold water into the indent with one hand as you use your other hand to continuously mix the liquid into the flour, keeping your fingers tight, like a bird’s beak, as you stir. Incorporate until all the flour is gone, absorbed into the water. The dough should be goopy but not too sticky. It should come away from the sides of the bowl enough to be rolled into a cohesive ball. Keep flour and water on hand to keep adjusting proportions as you see fit.
  • This here operation isn’t about precise measurements, but rather, eyeballing it. Keep adding a splash of water or a palmful of flour until you find yourself with a dough you can control, not one that controls you.
  • Portion your dough into balls the size of clementines and flatten each out between floured palms until they're about the size and thickness of a CD-ROM.
  • Heat a pan on high with a bit of oil. Lay a tiny bread in the hot pan, sprinkle with salt, and cook until just crisped—or even slightly charred (it shouldn't take more than 60 seconds per side). Continue with the rest of the tiny breads. (A cup of flour should make about 4 breads.)


Feel free to make as many or as little at once as you can, size of your pan (and group) depending. Jordan and I will eat these with a salad, curry, under a bed of scrambled eggs, drizzled with olive oil and confetti’d with chopped chives.

When we’re feeling fancy, we'll pop some chia seeds into the dough for texture, or a dash of turmeric to color the mix a soft orange. The formula is endlessly riffable. What’s really important is that once we sit down, we have a super quick, super simple vehicle for our nosh and that just makes everything better.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • h.mountainwall
  • Jusika
  • FS
  • Jane Dough
    Jane Dough
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


h.mountainwall May 22, 2018
Well...I am saddened by the phrase “cultural appropriation,” which seems to me a specious stance here. While we, as Americans immersed in what can be legitimately called “American culture,” acknowledge the contributions of all the glorious ethnicities that inform our lives here, we are talking about food here. I suspect anything and everything may be labeled “cultural appropriation,” if we are implying “theft” of the originating culture. But, why would you do that? How rich our American experience is because of the contributions of so many who have brought their traditions with them. And, are we so curmudgeonly and desirous of dissent now that we have lost sight of the fact that food is intended to delight? Maybe there are more heinous crimes to be called out than the application of a bread-making technique. If we are being accurate, by the way, almost all cultures have a similar flatbread tradition. Maybe we can simply feast, and take a break from accusing each other of empty offenses?
FS May 22, 2018
I agree. It's just bread!
Colleen June 27, 2018
Taking a recipe from another culture, renaming it, and pretending that it's in some way original is cultural appropriation. If the author had done more research, acknowledged the origins of the recipe (or even just that many different cultures have versions of this recipe), and called it by its correct name, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I'm not trying to put the author down - or anyone else for that matter - but when we borrow things from other cultures, it's our responsibility to learn something about them, too. It's not about being "PC" or liberal or whatever; it's about being respectful of others. If someone took your grandmother's famous apple pie recipe, called it something else, and pretended it was wholly original, I'm guessing you wouldn't be too pleased. Again, it's just about respect.
Jusika May 22, 2018
All that build-up to talk about roti. Would have been nice if the article actually acknowledged that this is a form of roti. Would have been nicer if the author had researched a bit to see that roti is a staple of the Indian subcontinent. Feels like cultural appropriation to me.

I remember another article by this same author on non-gmo tearless onions which too seemed a little quick on the trigger.
FS May 22, 2018
While these breads may be very similar to roti, not every reader may be familiar with roti. Introducing readers to a new recipe isn't cultural appropriation just because it resembles an existing recipe.
Valerio F. May 22, 2018
You're right, there is a bit (a lot!) of a roti vibe going on here. In fact, when I made them for my coworkers, the roti comparison was one of the first things that came up! Thanks so much for pointing that out.
Gail May 22, 2018
It doesn’t resemble roti, it IS roti, just renamed, Tiny Breads.
h.mountainwall May 21, 2018
Lovely and speedy and not pretentious... what’s not to love?
FS May 20, 2018
I'll add some salt to the flour before assembling this dough. Don't care much for the bland flour-y flavor of unseasoned bread.
Jane D. May 20, 2018
"this here operation"??
i was taught at three years old that "this here" is incorrect!
have all proofreaders and editors been fired? smdh!

nice roti recipe, thank you...
Valerio F. May 22, 2018
Grammar is boring! I tend to play around with it for funnier verbal constructions. You're totally right though, "this here" is technically not correct, but sometimes it's fun to mess around with language! Otherwise, we'd all be speaking the same! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!
LULULAND May 20, 2018
Thank you its sounds easy and fun to make!
Joycelyn May 20, 2018
Wondering why you'd not add a pinch or so of salt to the flour first? Sprinkling salt over the flat bread/roti once it's in the oily pan could easily cause over salting depending on what kind of salt the cook might be using not to mention if a salt shaker or hand sprinkle was used.
Valerio F. May 22, 2018
The dough could totally use some salt. Sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't, depending on my mood. Good catch!
BakerMary May 20, 2018
That link for the salt speckled tuna and tomato sauce? Didn’t see tuna when I went there.
Chad C. May 17, 2018
I can't believe you just spent that many words on saying mix flour and water into a glop and you've got cave person bread! Ill be sure to stay tuned for other great recipes like "frozen peas but warmer" and "water with a twist! (Adding lime)". O yes, by the way, I'm channeling my best self, thanks.
Valerio F. May 17, 2018
I agree! I couldn't believe how easy these are to make either. Sometimes the simplest things are truly the best... Like this recipe for peas and milk:
April W. May 20, 2018
Beth June 1, 2018
Nailed it
Henna May 17, 2018
So you're making roti???
Janik May 17, 2018