Steam power! Carta di musica

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How does it DO that?!

I mean, there’s no yeast in this big, puffy cracker bread. No baking powder, no sourdough, no leavening of any kind.

Yet this simple mixture of water, flour, and salt, rolled paper-thin and thrown onto a hot pizza stone (or hot baking sheet), bubbles and puffs dramatically.

STEAM, baby. It powered riverboats and trains back in the day, and it can turn your cracker bread into a veritable culinary volcano today.

The name of this interesting bread (cracker? flatbread?) is carta di musica, Italian for sheet music: which, ostensibly, you should be able to read through the thinly rolled dough for the bread.

Carta’s a little tricky to make, in that you need to use two kinds of flour to get the wild expansion: regular all-purpose, and semolina.

We tried to figure out the puff thing in the test kitchen – why does the combination of semolina and AP flours encourage a stronger puff than AP flour alone?

Frank, one of our test bakers, surmised it was because of the different moisture/protein levels, with the semolina releasing its liquid at a different point in the baking than the AP.

Sue chimed in with “different granulation.”

But we’re still not sure – why does the combination of two flours make this unleavened bread puff better than one flour alone? Any baking scientists out there?

What if you don’t have semolina? Can you use entirely all-purpose flour?

Well… not really. The carta won’t puff as dramatically. Nor be as crisp; they’ll tend towards hard rather than light/crunchy.

If you MUST use all AP, reduce the water by 1 tablespoon (to account for semolina’s higher protein level), and understand you won’t get the same results.

Plus, I have to say – semolina is a wonderful addition to pizza crust and all kinds of yeast breads, so if you’re a regular yeast baker, why not add it to your stash of flours?

And, I’ll answer this question now because I know some of you may be wondering – can you use part or all whole wheat flour in these carta?

100% whole wheat flour will give you flat, tough crackers. Partial whole wheat – haven’t tested it, but I’d presume it would be similar to 100% all-purpose. Not as crisp. Not as puffed. Not the same.

Spring for the semolina – you can get it in the Italian foods section of some supermarkets; or at coop-type food stores.

I LOVE olive oil. Especially Boyajian flavored olive oils. Especially their Moroccan oil, with its assertive fennel, and cumin, and chilies… Carta di musica is the ideal place to sample your favorite oils.

First step: preheat your oven to 450°F, with a pizza stone in the middle or lower part (not top) of the oven.

If you’re not using a stone, preheat a baking sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes before placing breads on it to bake.

Put the following in a bowl:

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup semolina
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup water


Mix with a spoon, or with the flat beater of your stand mixer, just till the dough comes together.

Like this. It’s cohesive, but rough.

Then knead till smooth; this will take about 7 minutes at medium speed, using a stand mixer.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces.

Then, round each piece into a smooth ball.

Like this.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap, or a large cover of some sort. The clear plastic tops that come on cookie or deli trays from the supermarket make great dough-rising covers. Let them rest for 15 minutes, or longer.

Why the wait? It relaxes the gluten. Your next step is to roll these balls into thin circles, and it helps when the gluten doesn’t fight you every step of the way.

Start by greasing your work surface with non-stick vegetable oil or olive oil spray; a silicone rolling mat works well here.

Why use oil instead of flour? You’ll be able to roll the carta much thinner on an oiled surface.

Stretch a ball of dough into a rough 3” to 4” circle with your fingers.

Then roll the dough as thin as you can. Your goal is a piece of dough about 8” to 9” in diameter. It’ll shrink back to about 7”, but try to get it at least 8” to begin with.

I doubt I could read sheet music through this dough, but it’s pretty darned thin.

Then again, maybe if the notes on the sheet music were really big and dark…

Is your oven up to temperature? OK, let’s make our first carta.

I like to start with just one. It helps me get my technique and timing down, without fussing with two or three breads at a time.

After a couple of minutes, the bread will start to puff enthusiastically.

A couple of minutes more, it’ll start to brown. After about 4 minutes, turn it over.

Whoops – didn’t turn it over soon enough. It started to burn.

Anyway, bake the other side for about 3 to 4 minutes, till it’s brown, too. Take it out of the oven, and put it on a rack.

Let’s try three at a time. It’s a bit awkward getting them into the oven; at first I tried picking them up on a peel, and shoveling them in that way; but they stuck. I didn’t want to bother with setting them on little pieces of parchment. The solution?

I just basically draped the dough over my spread fingers, stuck my hand in the oven, and lowered the dough onto the stone with my bare hands.

Yes, it was momentarily uncomfortably hot. But no, I didn’t burn myself.

This is one of those times when you’ll need to figure out your own method of getting floppy pieces of dough onto a very hot stone without too much hassle. One solution is to use a baking sheet instead of a stone; more on that later.

PUFF!

I found a pair of tongs worked well for turning these over midway through. By that time, they’re no longer floppy and easy to handle.

Sometimes you fling them and they don’t quite reach their mark, and flop over the edge. That’s OK; when you turn them, just back them up onto the stone.

If you don’t have a pizza stone, heat an ungreased baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes. Then take it out, lay a couple of dough disks on it, and put back in the oven.

See? They bake up quite nicely.

On the left, a pizza stone carta. On the right, one baked on a metal pan. As you can see, the stone-baked carta got more lift, but I’d say both are acceptable.

Is that not a thing of beauty? Imagine how crisp and light it is, ready to shatter into shards at the first bite.

Now’s your chance to sample all those fancy flavored olive oils hanging out in the pantry.

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Brush with oil; sprinkle with a touch of salt, if desired; or serve with a dip or spread. All good.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Carta di Musica.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Alissa

    I was sitting at my computer when the email came through. This looked so good that I hit the link so fast and it wasn’t even connected yet! Glad it is now. Can’t wait to try it. I love any kind of crackers or bread and flavored oils.

    Reply
  2. Barbara

    I am going to make these tonight to go with the hummus (KA recipe,which is outstanding) I made sat. You guys rock! You need a west coast Baking Education Center!

    Reply
  3. Marjorie

    Hmmm. The semolina ingredient, of course, makes me think of pasta so I wonder if the dough could be rolled out by a pasta machine instead of rolling pin?

    Absolutely, Marjorie – great suggestion! :) PJH

    Reply
  4. Lea

    This looks like a great tasting and fun way to spend some time in the kitchen. I love flatbread crackers and had no idea that they’d be so easy to replicate at home. How long after baking will the carta retain their wonderfully described texture? My pizza stone had a mishap with a calzone; what is the best way to get dark baked on remains removed from the stone and restore it to look like yours?

    Lea, the reason my pizza stone looks so good is that we needed a new one in the kitchen – so that’s a brand new stone. Don’t even try to restore yours; stains add character. The carta will stay crisp as long as regular crackers, so long as you cool completely and store airtight. The other key is, they HAVE to be completely crisp before you take them out of the oven. If they’re bendy or soft – let them bake a bit longer. Have fun – PJH

    Reply
  5. June

    Wow- I LOVE crispy crackly things and these look perfect to try! My daughter will love making these- she is a newbie baker (as opposed to me, an oldie baker…) and she made her first naan bread this weekend, which by all accounts was a smashing success. I wonder how these would work cooked outside on the gas grill- I have 6″ unglazed tiles that I could put on the grill, crank up the heat, and close the lid- works great for bread.
    I looooooove reading your blogs- so many good things to try and so little time, though. You rock!

    Reply
  6. Judy

    WOW! I haven’t even tried this yet, but I just wanted to say what a beautifully presented and wonderfully honest and detailed demo on the making of this bread. I can’t wait to try it and to share with others.

    Reply
  7. Anita

    Could a pasta machine be used for rolling instead? I understand they wouldn’t have the same shape could be made faster.

    Give it a try. Frank @ KAF

    Absolutely, great idea – thanks for sharing your inspiration. PJH

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth

    Great recipe. I tried it when I received the Baker’s Companion for Christmas. Mine didn’t look nearly as good as the ones inthe pictures, but now that I see exactly how it’s done, I have high hopes for the next batch.

    Reply
  9. Lee

    Lovely! I know you said no to whole wheat. But I have durum wheat berries, can I grind those up to make the semolina portion of the flour? These look amazing. Can you crumble up some rosemary very fine and mix it in with the dough?
    I think you could try that, Lee. That would be super fresh flour! I suspect if you try putting rosemary in the dough it may interfer with the magical puff. Try it, who knows? An alternative could be to sprinkle some fresh rosemary or dried on top after brushing with oil. Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  10. christine

    how about transferring dough circles first onto a parchment lined baking sheet and then slide dough/parchment onto the stone? just an idea! :0)
    That is a great idea, Christine. Parchment on an inverted baking sheet pan (flip it over to invert it) for easier sliding is what I have done in similar situations. Maybe you could get 3 going at a time on the same 1/2 sheet of parchment. Load ‘em up! Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  11. Mara

    Hmm, I wonder if a lefse stick wouldn’t work rather well for getting these on to the stone? Assuming you’re lucky enough to own one. I have mine (handed down from the great grandfather who made it) hanging in a place of pride in my kitchen, but rarely use it for it’s intended purpose. I think a misappropriation to Italian crackers would help it have a sense of purpose.
    I’ll admit, I had to google that one, Mara. It may work if you have the deftness to use a lefse stick. Sounds as if you just may! Elisabeth @ KAF

    I actually know what a lefse stick is (I’m Norwegian). And yes, if you’re pretty deft with it, it would work just fine! PJH

    Reply
  12. Sarah

    These look amazing. Could you add flavoring to the dough, like fresh rosemary or black pepper?
    You could try adding the fresh rosemary to the dough but it may mess with the puff power. I do not think pepper would interfere though. Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  13. Allie

    While this looks delicious, it also looks like a huge mess waiting to happen. How messy is this to eat??
    Oh, but that is half the fun! Yes, they are crackly and crispy. You can break them apart ahead of time into cracker size pieces. Serve with some soft cheeses or yummy dips Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  14. Roberta

    Now I know what to do with all that semolina I bought to make pasta with. This looks like much more fun.

    If I don’t serve these right away, should I wait to brush them with oil?
    Yes, I think you should wait if you are not serving them right away. Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  15. Robi

    Do you have a gluten free version?
    I do not know if a gluten free version is awaiting in the wings. PJ? Elisabeth @ KAF

    No, GF version is waiting in the wings… Since gluten is so integral to structure, and anytime something puffs it’s ALL about structure, I think this would be a tough challenge. PJH

    Reply
  16. Jackie Julty

    Wow, this looks so cool. This looks like puri( a flat bread found in India,Pakistan, Afghanistan and other South Asian countries. Do you have any flat bread recipes from that part of the world?

    Actually, we don’t have anything in our online archive from that part of the world. Anyone willing to share? Frank @ KAF

    Reply
  17. Lish

    These look amazing! Since it is 90 degrees plus around here I was wondering if you think this would work if I preheated my pizza stone on the gas or charcoal grill? Add a little smoky flavor and season with smoked salt? Love that stuff.

    Sounds like a great summertime solution. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  18. maggie

    At an open house to a mosque, the ladies were making puff breads, looked like your recipe above, but they were not crispy. They were baked on the bottom of an upside down pan, which was held over the gas stove flame. I will try your recipe using a similar process. Whatever turns out will be delicious!!!

    Reply
  19. Tres Amie

    I have a chef friend who makes her lavage with a hand cranked pasta maker, like you use for making fresh linguini, fettucine, etc. Do you think that would work for this?

    Yes, I think it would work just fine – good idea! PJH

    Reply
  20. sylvia

    I love and want to thank you for the Read the Recipe and See How It’s Done options. One one else, that I know of, does this. I had seen this recipe long ago and it seemed too much trouble to try…. the See How It’s Done option makes such recipes so easy to understand and do…..
    and a great time saver — you’ve done it all for us, except the baking! Thanks!!

    Reply
  21. Peggasus

    Semolina makes everything better, your Just-in-Time pizza dough with it is the only one I make now! There was a fancy Italian place in the Loop (Chicago, Trattoria #10 or something) that made this sort of thing and served it instead of bread. They rolled theirs out in rectangles, and maybe even used a (old-fashioned wheel-type) ravioli cutter to score it so it would break easily into strips.

    And I’ve got semolina, I found it at a well-stocked store in the suburbs in the Ziyad (Middle-Eastern) brand, it was lots cheaper than at the Italian specialty store. Thanks!

    Reply
  22. Francesca

    Thank you for the clearly illustrated recipe.

    BTW, I believe the correct Italian name of this recipe is “carta da musica” (not “carta di musica”.

    Thanks, Francesca. So, would it really be carti di musica, then, plural? PJH

    Reply
  23. carrie

    Alford and Duguid’s FLATBREADS AND FLAVORS has fantastic flatbread recipes from all over the world, as well as wonderful accompaniments and photos. You could blog some great recipes from there if people want more flatbread. Because you don’t have enough projects in the pipeline, I’m sure…

    They did some wonderful books, didn’t they? Fascinating… And yes, I’ve baked from that particular book before. Thanks for reminding me how good it is! PJH

    Reply
  24. LizWV

    Thanks for letting us know right off the bat that 100% whole wheat won’t work in this recipe. We don’t use white flour any more, and I rarely find recipes that use 100% whole grain, so have to adapt the recipes myself. I usually have a pretty good idea if a recipe will work with all whole grain, but I would have guessed this one would be OK (like whole grain pita or Indian flat bread). I love your site and now my daughter also is a loyal KAF user, as was my grandmother! Keep up the good work and remember that there are still 100% whole grain people out here!

    Reply
  25. Leigh

    Could you use durum flour instead of semolina?

    The granulation is quite different, Leigh; and the moisture content might be, as well. Give it a try, see how it works, and let us know, OK? thanks- PJH

    Reply
  26. Judy

    These were so much fun and so fast to make. I always believe in trying it the way the recipe says first, but I did not have Semolina and substituted Durum. They came out fabulous. Next time I roll out with a nummy flavored olive oil to add just a touch of flavor. I made these to go with a candied walnut salad and used the balsamic/olive oil on the crackers as well. These will be a frequent new addition. The other thing I noticed is that if you roll out in a longer shape they puff up very large (like a football) where as if you roll out in a circle they tend to remain more flat with just the little puffs.

    Judy, thank you SO much for sharing your experience here. I’m glad to hear durum works – and how interesting about the shapes, I hadn’t noticed. Most of mine ended up irregularly oblong – so I didn’t have any circular ones for comparison. Cheers! PJH

    Reply
  27. Eliza

    just made these – really happy with them, served them with creamy tomato soup. thanks for all your hard work, i love baking after you guys!

    Reply
  28. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    I´d made these crackers…and LOVED A LOT.
    The first crackers i´d baked were not ok. They becomed soggy, not too crispy and then i´d admited: – I needed to roll them so thin, as thin as i could. It worked well. The second sheet turned out absolutely fantastic. The crispy crackers were DELICIOUS and specially with little assortment of bitter-sweet treats i´d made that night. Lots of bitter-sweet cornichons and some mango chutney. I know mango chutney goes well with some meats but in my case with hungry that night, it gone pretty GOOOOD!
    Another example of nice delicious baker goods from world´s corners in this case Italy that surprisingly WE become passionated!

    Reply
  29. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez- Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    Anothet tip i want to share here is that the fact of grease the surface of work area, is it that turns easily to roll the dough so thin!!
    I´d greased with some cold butter!

    Reply
  30. Francesca

    Hi, PJH.
    No, it’s “carta da musica”, no plural.
    “Carta” means “paper” so it doesn’t really take the plural when you refer to it as a substance. It roughly means paper for music (paper to write music on) while if you say carta “di” musica, that suggest that the paper is made of music, which doesn’t make sense in Italian. And now I probably managed to thoroughly confuse you. :)

    >Thank you for the clearly illustrated recipe.

    >BTW, I believe the correct Italian name of this recipe is “carta da musica” (not “carta di musica”.

    >Thanks, Francesca. So, would it really be carti di musica, then, plural? PJH

    Got it – I’ll go in and change it when I have access- thanks again. PJH

    Reply
  31. Jill

    I made these this morning and they were fantastic! Thanks for the detailed recipe and photos – the information you provide is always very helpful. We ate these with a roasted vegetable spread and it was a delicious combination.

    Thanks for your feedback, Jill – always nice to hear about our readers’ successes! PJH

    Reply
  32. Martin

    How about a comment from a KAF baker?

    Carta da Musica is also my all-time favorite dough for pizza in the wood-burning oven. For home use, I put it on the sheet tray for a couple minutes before adding simple toppings.

    Nice feature!

    Thanks, Martin – readers, Martin is one of the talented artisan bakers in our King Arthur Bakery. When Martin speaks – we listen! :) PJH

    Reply
  33. Jo Ann

    These were fun and delicious! I used my much-loved KitchenAid pasta attachment to roll them out; they were shaped more like long oblongs rather than rounds, but it was easy and quick. Worked perfectly!

    Good idea, Jo Ann – thanks for sharing! PJH

    Reply
  34. Sandra

    These seem very similar to a middle-east bread cooked on a stone over an open fire I had while traveling. Could these be cooked on a hot cast-iron flat griddle on top of the stove?

    Not sure, Sandra – give it a try and let us know… PJH

    Reply
  35. Sheila Kleinschmidt

    I made these and rolled them in a garlic herb seasoning (dried) then sprinkled more on top or turned them over and rolled them again to pick up whatever was left on the mat.

    They turned out delightful and I’m looking forward to sprinkling in fresh herbs or cheeses! They are so much fun to make and a good project for a cold/wet winter day!

    I tried cooking them on a crepe pan on top of the stove and didn’t have a much luck. I think a gas bbq would work great! You need to surround them with heat.

    Reply
  36. mary flaminio

    How do you make a pizza from this? Like a Maghuerita? Thanks– looks great.

    Not really a good idea, as any toppings would keep the carti from puffing up. Better to use a thin crust recipe for marghuerita. Or try our whole wheat Pizza Margherita recipe (yes, alternate spelling…) PJH

    Reply
  37. ZaoZao

    I wonder will it pop up without semolina?

    We tested that, ZaoZao. Here’s what we found: “What if you don’t have semolina? Can you use entirely all-purpose flour? Well… not really. The carta won’t puff as dramatically. Nor be as crisp; they’ll tend towards hard rather than light/crunchy. If you MUST use all AP, reduce the water by 1 tablespoon (to account for semolina’s higher protein level), and understand you won’t get the same results.” PJH

    Reply
  38. Kim

    Something went wrong. My dough, after needing for 10 minutes, never got smooth. The dough is yellow and rough. Doesn’t look anything like in your pictures. I used Bob’s red mill semolina. Is that different that King Arthur’s?

    Semolina can indeed be different grinds, Kim. Ours is like fine yellow cornmeal; perhaps Bob’s is a coarser grind? I’m sorry this didn’t work out for you… Call our Baker’s Hotline, 802-649-3717, if you’d like to discuss the recipe further – they can help talk you through it. PJH

    Reply

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