Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pita Bread!

I really actually wanted to write my bastard samosa/fatayers down here before doing something else, but pitas are fresh on my mind so I'll write them down now. The recipe I worked with came from the same book as the first bread I posted, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.

  • 2 tsps dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water

  • 5 1/2 cups white bread flour
  • one cup dark rye flour
  • 2 1/2 tsps salt

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water

  • Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, let it wake up. Duh. Mix the flours and salt together, make a well in the center, pour in the water and yeast and water, mix, then knead well. I went for a full twenty minutes (two brief breaks), to make sure it was well kneaded, as the gluten is essential to the pocketing. I may try doing it next time for only five to ten minutes to see if laziness is OK, but I don't mind kneading, and my soup was simmering so I had to stay near the kitchen but had nothing to do.
    This dough should be fairly soft and be just not sticky. Work in more flour if you think it needs it.
    Form the dough into a ball, and let rise for about an hour and a half, until doubled, in a warm, draft free place. It is more important here than with regular bread that the dough does not dry out, as steam, instead of yeast or baking soda, is the workhorse in rising this stuff. The yeast gives it texture and some flavour, but the rising is steam-powered.
    Punch it down, let it double again (about half an hour to thirty minutes), then flatten it and divide into twenty to twenty-four even pieces, and smooth those into rounds. Set them aside to rest for ten minutes again, well covered and draft-protected, or you'll get no pocket. Start the oven to 450ยบ F and put your baking stone on the second lowest rack.
    Once they're rested, roll out four, keeping the rest covered, then toss them on the stone quickly, trying to make sure they don't fold over on themselves. You'll probably need a lot of flour as you're rolling these because it should be a fairly moist dough still.
    Start rolling the next batch of pitas, making sure to check on the ones in the oven after three minutes. If all has gone well, they should puff up like delicious bread balloons. Take them out when they look done; a little browning is OK, but if they get crispy, well, they get crispy and that's not useful as a pocket bread. I'd of taken a picture at this stage because they looked really cool, but I was too busy dealing with the smoke detector because somebody used my baking stone to roast red peppers and it still gets smoky from the juice burning on...

    Anyways, these turned out wonderfully on the first go! I was out of whole wheat flour, which is why I used rye (original recipe called for six cups whole wheat bread flour). Bread flour is important here, as the pocket is created when the steam trapped on the inside of the stretchy gluten dough is trapped and pushes the two sides apart. Maybe I'll try an all-purpose flour batch with lazy kneading to see how necessary all of that really is, but I would not risk cutting corners if I was cooking them for something.
    The finished pitas were definitely a little floury from all the flouring I did to roll the sticky dough, so I think next time I'll dusting them with corn meal instead. And make corn flour pitas as well!
    If you're anything like me, you're going to want to tear one of the first ones open to see if it's done, so, if you do, be warned, these things have swollen like balloons because of steam, meaning there is a lot of hot, pressurized steam inside of them. Keep this in mind when using your hands/looking closely. Don't burn yourself on hot steam. That's really lame.

    I can't wait to make a good salad thing to stuff these with!


    jgcrawfo said...

    Fry up leftover potato-leek-garli-pea filling from pierogi night, scramble some eggs with tomatoes, melt cheddar cheese on one of the two things when they're nearly done, carefully scoop into pita bread(s).

    Sarah Noonan said...


    I just found your blog on Vero's facebook. It's brilliant.

    I've been wondering about gluten-free pitas for weeks now - have you any suggestions? I know you said the gluten is essential to the pocketing, but can I work around that somehow?

    And you should make cookies in the morning more often. Good muffins by the way.