The challenge is for one of my favourite breads: pita.
In these cold, wet, rather miserable days what could be better than spending some time pottering round a warm kitchen, kneading and proofing and baking?
As regular readers will know, I have a bit of a ‘thing‘ for baking with yeast. There really is something so therapeutic about it, that other forms of cooking just cannot replicate or live up too. Not that I don’t enjoy other forms of cooking & baking, don’t get me wrong, I love all forms of cooking. In fact I love food, full stop.
Pita breads are simple to make, but, I confess I use my KitchenAid free standing mixer to knead the dough which takes all the effort out. Doing it by hand takes a fair bit more effort of course, but either way these breads are worth it.Pita Breads
Yet another bake that tastes better homemade. In fact, pitta don’t just taste better; they blow shop bought pitta out of the water. Since I first starting baking pitta a couple of years back I have never reverted to buying prepacked ones.
Pita (Pittot) are such a staple of the diet of many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. I’ve often said that if I get to visit Israel (I hope I will one day soon) I’ll come back looking like a falafel stuffed pita but that is beside the point. Here’s what Jana Gur has to say about the humble pitta:
Pita is not just an extremely popular pocket bread, it is the mainstay of the way Israelis eat. Anything can go into a pita — from chocolate spread (a favorite school snack) to a whole lunch, such as schnitzel with salad and French fries. Apart from packing it with innumerable foodstuffs, pita has another important use: to mop up hummus, tahini, labane, eggplant and other dips, spreads and salads. Pita must be oven-fresh or it’s no good.
The recipe used for the challenge was very simple and straightforward, yielding light breads which beautifully puffed up on baking. I used a baking stone instead of a baking tray as I find you get better results with them.
I have also included my favourite pita recipe, from Janna Gur’s amazing book: The Book of New Israeli Food.
So versatile, so tasty, so simple. What are you waiting for? Go Bake!Fresh From the Oven: Pita Breads
- 500 grams bread flour
- 1 sachet instant yeast (usually approx 7g)
- 360 ml water tepid temperature
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 30 ml olive oil
- Mix the yeast with the flour in a mixer fitted with a kneading hook. Add the water, sugar, salt and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny and slightly sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Sprinkle olive oil over it, cover with cling wrap and allow to rise to twice its original size.
- Preheat the oven to maximum (250c or the equivalent).
- Place the dough on a work surface sprinkled with flour and divide into 10 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball. Cover with a moist towel and leave for 10 minutes.
- Roll out each ball into a disk 10-12 cm (4 inches) in diameter and 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Arrange on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 5 minutes, just until the pitas swell up and begin to show golden spots. Avoid over-baking, which will cause them to dry up.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Cover the pitas with a kitchen towel for a few minutes to keep them soft.
- Variations: Pita with Sesame and Nigella Seeds Toss the dough balls in a bowl containing 1/2 cup sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon nigella seeds, until fully coated. Roll into disks (the seeds will sink into the dough) and bake as instructed. Pita with Za'atar Combine 1/2 cup za'atar spice mix with 1/2 cup olive oil, coarse salt to taste and a few drops of lemon juice, until a spread-like paste forms. Spread a tablespoon of the paste on each pita just before placing in an oven preheated to 200°C. Bake for 10 minutes. The heavy coating and relatively low baking temperature produce a thicker flat pita with no air pocket.