February 23, 2015

Pita Bread

My Ful Medames post included home made pita bread as a serving suggestion, so it seems reasonable to follow it up with a recipe.

Pita bread tends to be either a thick, soft, solid-piece flatbread, or a thinner bread with a pocket created by steam pressure. You could of course use either style quite handily for serving with your Ful, but this version is for the pocket-style. It is tremendously fun to watch through the door of the oven as the breads slowly inflate before your eyes into bread balloons. When you pull them out of the oven, they immediately start to deflate, leaving behind the pocket created by the ballooning effect.

This recipe is really very close to my pizza dough recipe, and you can in fact use that one (just follow the instructions here for rising and baking).

Pita Bread

Adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Rheinhart

Makes 4 large pocket-style pitas

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon honey or agave syrup (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup room-temperature water (plus extra)

Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the honey and the olive oil over the flour. Add the water gradually, stirring with a big wooden spoon (depending on your flour, you might need less than 1/2 cup or you might need more - I needed a couple of tablespoons more). When the flour and water come together into a fairly firm dough, turn it out onto a counter and knead for about ten minutes, or until smooth and silky feeling. If it is too wet (ie. sticky), add a bit more flour as you go.

Return the dough to your cleaned and lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for about 90 minutes - the dough should double in size.

Put a large, clean, dry baking sheet in the middle of your oven, and preheat to 500 F. The pan must be very hot for the pita-pocket effect to work properly.

Turn the dough out onto the counter, and gently press the air out of it. Divide into four portions, and roll each one into a ball. Flatten each ball into a thick disk, and cover three of them loosely with the plastic wrap.

Take the remaining piece of dough, and gently roll it out until it is very thin - not paper thin, but no more than 1/4 inch thick (a bit thinner is better). This means a round of dough that is about seven or eight inches across.

Carefully peel the disk of dough from the counter, slip on an oven mitt, and place the round of dough on the oven mitt. Open the door and slap the dough onto the hot baking sheet, quickly closing the door again.

Watch through the window of your oven in astonishment as the dough rises before your eyes, becoming fully inflated in about two minutes. When it is fully inflated, let it continue cook for the slow count of ten, and then remove from the oven (using a spatula). Place the hot, puffy (and rapidly deflating!) pita on a rack to cool. If you like a bit of colour on your bread, you can simply use a spatula to flip it onto its other side instead of pulling it out right away, and let it stay in the oven for an extra ten seconds or so.

Prepare the next round of dough, and repeat, until all four pitas are cooked. Once all the pitas are done, wrap them loosely in a clean kitchen towel so that they stay soft.

Serve right away, or allow to cool completely. When completely cool, pop them into a plastic bag to keep them from drying out. If you want to use them as pockets, cut them in half, and gently pull the two sides open to fill as you wish.

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