Lately, I’ve had a crazed notion that I want/need to make everything completely from scratch. As in, if I were to prepare you a cheeseburger, I would try to make the bun, patty, condiments and probably even the cheese myself. I’ve done extensive research on cheesemaking, and I don’t think it’s going to be for me (yet). But bread, bread I can do. A while ago, I made homemade gyros from scratch. I know, it was terribly impolite of me not to document the entire thing. So I will share each recipe as I make it again.
Which brings me to today’s post, homemade pita bread. I love mediterranean food and most of the flavors that go along with it. Olives are the notable exception. I can’t seem to make myself like olives, even though they are the embodiment of everything I love. Salty and Briney. I can’t even eat them mixed in with other things. Still, I continue to try them just in case I come to love them at some point in time. I would really like to be in on the whole dirty martini thing too.
So for now, I’m sticking with pita. It’s a very versatile bread and easy to start out with if you are new to the breadmaking business. The process and working with the dough is very similar to working with pizza dough. The first time I made this recipe, my pita puffed beautifully in the oven and made perfect little pockets for filling. This time, not so much. The only difference as far as I can tell is that the pita were mini the last time, and this time were a more traditional size. So I think I will have to work on perfecting my recipe. I did a little research, and as far as I can see, 2 techniques that would really help them puff is spritzing water on the top of the dough right before baking, or sprizting water into the oven and slamming the door shut as they’re baking. Option 2 sounds more fun and a little more stressful. I’ve also heard you can cook them in a skillet on the stove, but I haven’t tried this method and can’t comment on it’s level of success.
1 1/8 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
As you may remember, I always proof my yeast, and this time I actually remembered to take pictures of the process! I’m a very visual learner and I think it’s very helpful to understand what the finished product is supposed to look like.
Dissolve the sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. I made the mistake of using very hot water several times and it completely killed off the yeast. The temperature should be closer to lukewarm than hot. So this is what it looked like when I started:
After 15 minutes, it should look like this:
It’s aliiiiive! Now, in a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt and make a well into the middle. Add your yeast mixture and the remaining water in the well. Slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid portion and stir until the dough comes together. Note: there will be extra flour left in the bowl. You will use this when kneading, so don’t try to incorporate it all or you will get a stiff dough. Place the dough on a clean and lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky for this portion. Cover, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Continue to knead for an additional 10 minutes or until the dough is fairly smooth. It should still be a little tacky to the touch, but no longer sticky.
Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil, being sure to coat thoroughly. Add dough and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise for 3 hours or until double in size. You can also refrigerate the dough for up 3 days before baking.
Preheat oven to 475 and place rack at its lowest position. Roll dough into a long log and cut into 8-10 pieces.
Form each of these small pieces into a ball.
Flatten each piece into a disk with your hands, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Then, with a rolling pin, roll out each disk until just under 1/4 inch thick. Allow to rest an additional 10 minutes before cooking.
Bake 2 pieces of dough at a time, 4 minutes on one side and 2 on the other. Again, moisture is apparently the key to the pitas puffing, so spritz accordingly. Mine didn’t puff. I was sad. And that’s why I have flatbread and not pita.
Immediately after the pita comes out of the oven, place in a ziplock bag and seal. Continue to add each piece as it is finished cooking. This will give the pita a wonderful chewy consistency.
I was so focused on trying to take pictures of the “bag effect” that I completely forgot to document the finished product. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I also started eating some immediately and that didn’t help the picture taking process either. Fresh pita bread is soooo delicious. You really must try some. I insist.