Week of Bread: Pita
It’s Friday once again and SFTF’s Week of Bread deserves a grand send-off. Except that it’s not really ending. I’ve got way too many other bread recipes begging to be propelled into cyberspace. Shall I keep on going with bread recipes next week, or should I take a week off (still post of course, but not about bread) and come back later in February with more? I don’t want to bore you lovely readers of mine.
Okay, it’s time for the big reveal this first week at least since the masses are clamoring for it. By “masses” I mean my friend, Christine, who’s in the know about my recipes before they hit the blog, and by “clamoring” I mean she sent me an email yesterday wondering if I was posting the pita one today. She’s been wanting to try it and for good reasons since it’s probably my favorite bread recipe at the moment and a real show-stopper when you pull out a basket of warm pita breads you made yourself!
What your dinner guests won’t know (unless you spill the beans…shhh) is how incredibly easy it is to make your own pita pockets. It’s really just a matter of preheating the oven and the baking sheet. So much warmth provides the yeast with instant gratification, which in turn spits out lots of air in the dough, forming the quintessential pocket between two delicious crusts.
Once again, you’ll notice a distinct difference between this homemade version and the store-bought package. Pita from the store, at least here in the States, is usually very soft and comes in uniform circles that lay flat. You wouldn’t know there’s a pocket until you slice into them and sort of force the pocket to appear as you stuff in your falafel or lettuce or whatever. I don’t normally think of pre-packaged pita as anything more than a vehicle for the fixings inside.
In delightful contrast, homemade pita is crisp on the outside and chewy in an airy sort of way on the inside. It puffs up and displays a distinct pocket in the center right form the start. You’ll never get uniform circles so it’s best to surrender to the charm of mismatched oblongs. And best of all, they’re heavenly just as the simple bread they are, especially when served warm right out of the oven. In fact, I only got to use one for a sandwich since D and I happily munched on the rest of them all evening long the day I made them.
If you’ve got kids, making these this weekend would be a fun activity. Then they can take them in the school lunches to show to their friends and feel the satisfaction of having helped make their food from scratch. Heck, even if you don’t have kids, these are still nice to make over the weekend so you can pack them in your lunches next week. But really, I’m willing to bet a batch of homemade bread that you’ll not have any left by Sunday night. Better double up those measurements!
P.S. – Thanks for the sympathy for my dentist woes yesterday. For those of you wondering, my tooth is once again whole and my mental state is relatively intact. Hoorah!
Taken from The Big Book of Bread
2 1/2 c. white bread flour
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 t. superfine sugar
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
about 1 cup warm water
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl and then stir in the sugar and yeast. Make a well in the center of the dried ingredients and add the oil and about 3/4 cup of water to start. Mix to form a soft dough – if it isn’t coming together, add a little more water.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until smooth and elastic. Clean the bowl, lightly spray with oil, place dough inside and cover with a dish towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
Punch down dough and divide into 8 equal pieces using a pastry cutter or by pinching dough between your forefinger and thumb. Shape pieces into balls and roll each out into an oval about 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches long.
Place on a floured dish towel and cover with the oiled plastic wrap again. Let rise for 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450F and place three baking sheets (ideally lined with parchement paper but can just be sprayed instead) in the oven to heat at the same time (if you don’t have three sheets, just make pita in batches).
It is important to have the oven and baking sheets hot to ensure they will puff up and form a pocket inside. Place two dough pieces on each baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. Transfer the pitas to a wire rake to cool slightly and then cover with a dish towel to keep the warm and soft until served.
If making pita bread in advance, reheat under the broiler if you wish to serve them warm.