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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pita Bread

I must say, sometimes, even I am surprised by how something I always thought would be challenging to make is, in fact, quite easy. Take pita bread, for instance. I'm not sure why I thought they would have to be challenging; I guess I figured that pocket in the middle couldn't just show up like magic. But you know what? It does!

To be honest, this may be one of the quickest, easiest breads I've ever made (and I have made quite a few). The only draw back, if you can call it that, is that you do need to get out the rolling pin and dirty up the counter flattening these things out, but I think that it's worth it.

I really enjoy pita for all kinds of applications. My favorite is cut into wedges and dipped into hummus. In the picture above, I have stuffed it with fresh spinach, tomatoes, and hummus. They're also great for hot sandwiches. I love a nice seasoned patty of meat, especially if it's lamb with a little Greek inspired seasoning.

You start the pitas by mixing the ingredients together. The first time I made these, I mixed them in my stand mixer. However, the amount of dough is so small, that I found them just as quick to mix by hand, and then I didn't have to dirty up my mixer. Truth be told, you could mix the whole thing on the counter (make a well in the flour for the wet ingredients and then mix). The dough comes together nicely. It never quite loses its tackiness, but it will become smooth and workable, provided you don't knead at a snail's pace (the longer you hand is in contact with it at each go, the more chance it has of sticking). After mixing, knead the dough until it comes together nicely and is elastic. Please note that it is not a huge amount of dough; I don't exactly have the largest hands around.

Let the dough rise until doubled in an oiled and covered bowl. It took mine about an hour in a 72 degree house. Knock down the dough and flatten it out on a lightly floured counter top. Cut the dough into six even sized pieces and pull the dough around, almost like you are turning them inside out, and pinch the edges together to form a nice, smooth ball. Dampen a flour sack towel and place over the six dough balls to let them rest ten minutes. Resting allows you to roll them out without the gluten fighting you every step of the way.

Once they have rested, prepare two 11x17 inch pans or one 3/4 sheet pan (only recently becoming available at restaurant supply stores, this size pan is great because it is the largest pan you can fit in a home oven) with parchment. Roll the dough balls out on a lightly floured counter until they are about the size of your hand or about six inches in diameter.


Place the dough rounds onto the lined sheet and cover loosely with the damp towel again and let them rise for about half an hour. In the meantime, start your oven to preheating. It takes my oven a long time to preheat to 500 degrees! When the oven is heated and the pita rounds are just slightly puffy, place them into the oven and then watch the magic happen. A nice, hot oven is required if you want the pitas to puff properly. Also, if you feel they have dried out too much before going in the oven, you can spritz them with a little water. If they are too dried out, they won't be able to puff as well.

Bake pitas until they are puffed and just starting to think about turning a little golden. I will warn you, there is a fine line between undercooked and overcooked pitas, so be sure that you are watching them carefully. It took mine about 7-10 minutes to bake. Remove from the oven and set the pan on a rack to cool. As they cool, most will start to deflate, but if they don't before you want to store them, gently press the air out of them. I typically have one pita per batch that doesn't puff as well as the others. Makes it hard to use as a pocket, but it still tastes great!

Pitas store in an airtight bag for 3-4 days or they can be frozen for up to six months. They taste best if they are just slightly warmed before serving so they become soft and supple again.

Pita Bread
Yield: 6 pita rounds

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp table salt
1 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and knead until a supple dough forms. Dough should still be tacky but not sticky. If it is too sticky, knead in a little flour. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until double, about one hour.

Knock down the dough, press into a flat rectangle to facilitate cutting it into six even dough pieces. Form each piece into a ball by pinching the dough around to the bottom, forming a smooth surface. Cover the six balls with a slightly damp flour sack towel (or paper towels). Let dough rest, covered, for about ten minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Prepare two 11x17 sheet pans with parchment. Roll out each dough ball until it is nice and thin and about six inches in diameter. Mine were about 3/8 of an inch thick. Place rounds on the parchment, cover with the damp towel and let them rise for about half an hour. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

When the oven is preheated and the dough has risen slightly, place the pitas into the oven. Bake 7-10 minutes or until nicely puffed and just starting the turn color. Remove from the oven and cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

3 comments:

  1. Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi! http://www.arts-and-entertainment.info

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your pitas look so beautiful and you make it all seem so easy, I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. nice blog :)
    keep it up
    YUMMY =)

    ReplyDelete

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