I love paninis, but I don’t have a panini maker and, unless I get one for Christmas, I can’t afford to buy one right now. But I am able to enjoy my favorite Italian sandwich at home by going all McGyver on you and creating homemade paninis out of a couple of everyday kitchen items.
The concept behind a panini is that it is a flavorful meat and cheese sandwich that is pressed in a machine that has two hot pieces of iron attached by a hinge. Heat from both the top and bottom causes the cheese to melt and the outside of the sandwich to have a pleasant crunchy texture. Usually the iron plates have ridges in them or some other decorative pattern.
For my homemade panini, I simply used my cast iron pans. I heated two of the pans up on separate burners, then sprayed pan spray into the bottom of the larger one. I placed my sandwich — roast beef, fat-free American and red onion, in this case — into the pan, then sprayed the top of the sandwich with pan spray and placed the other cast iron pan on top of that.
I cooked it for just a few minutes, flipped it over to cook it evenly, and finished it for a few more minutes. Although it lacked the ridges, it was every bit as crunchy and tasty as a panini I would have paid a lot of money for at a restaurant.
To make my panini, I used an Italian paisan bread I had made from a very simple recipe a few days before. It’s soft texture was perfect for my homemade panini because the inside remained soft and doughy while the outside was crunchy and flavorful.
Paisan is an Italian word for “peasant”. In this context, it means an unpretentious and simple bread.
Italian Paisan Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBS dry yeast (or one envelope)
1/4 cup EVOO
1 cup lukewarm water (baby bath temperature)
1 TBS EVOO
1 TBS corn meal
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS grated parmesan cheese
1 TBS fennel seed
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1. Put yeast in bottom of Kitchen Aid bowl or mixing bowl. Whisk in warm water, honey and 1/4 cup EVOO. Place in Kitchen Aid stand and let sit until bubbles start to form, about five minutes.
2. Combine flours and salt in mixing bowl. Put dough hook attachment on Kitchen Aid and slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients on medium speed until dough ball is formed, about 3 minutes. Remove from bowl and knead on floured work surface for a minute or two until dough is soft and not sticky, adding more flour a little at a time if necessary.
3. Place 1 TBS EVOO in bottom of large bowl and use napking to cover all sides of bowl with oil. Place dough ball in bowl and turn so that all sides are oiled. Cover with clean dish towel and let rest in a warm, draft-free space until doubled, about one hour.
4. Punch down dough, knead for another minute and let rest under dishtowel for a few minutes. Use a knife to cut dough into two equal peices. Using your hands only, poke holes into the dough with your fingers and work the sides outward until you get a crude flatbread shape about 12″ in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough peice. Cover with dishtowel and let rise until doubled in size, about 35 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray two sheet pans with pan spray. Sprinkle corn meal on bottom of sheet pans, then transfer flatbreads to sheet pans. Brush both loaves with egg wash then sprinkle evenly with fennel seed and sea salt. Bake 35 minutes, remove from oven, sprinkle evenly with parmesan and return to oven for 10 minutes to toast the parmesan. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks.
This recipe makes two smaller flatbread loaves, perfect accompaniment for pastas, salads, or soups or for making paninis.
Have you ever rigged your kitchen equipment to get the recipe you desired? We would love to hear your story in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!