Friday, May 21, 2010

Plenty of Possibility: Pita Bread

Pita bread is heralded for its nutritional value, but is also often brushed aside due to its processed, flat appearance, often-dry-tasting-whole-wheat flavor, and “pita pocket” nonsense. While it’s still a “flatbread” by definition, pita can be fluffy and hearty on its own. Pita has become the victim of misuse when it serves as a mere edible plate for meals or snacks. This culinary crime masks its full potential. Store bought pitas are like withered raisins; I’m about to introduce you to the succulent, juicy grape. There is something inexplicably delectable about a freshly baked pita piping hot from the oven. WARNING: this pita might not make it to the hummus dip.
Definitely best eaten when hot, if you can’t recruit enough eaters the first go-round, these pitas can be quickly reheated in the microwave. For a snack, top with butter or hummus, or employ them as a base for miniature pizzas or veggie sandwiches. Pita has an untapped versatility just waiting to be explored. It’s a heavier pita recipe, but I think this offers a more substantial ingredient to work with. It also fits right along into my Mediterranean diet as well, which I have been dutifully trying to keep up. Overall, this pita bread has been thoroughly enjoyed.
It’s not a difficult bread to make, just carefully follow all the directions of this recipe I found in a forum and make sure to have warm water [but not hot] so as to not kill the yeast on contact. It’s totally doable in a college setting as well – no special machines required; just a nice hot oven and a non-drafty place. Other than that, enjoy being Greek for a night without having to rush a fraternity.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread
1 [1/4-oz] package active dry yeast [2 ½ t]
1 t honey
1 ¼ c warm water [105˚-115˚F]
2 c bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus some for kneading
1 c whole wheat flour
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
1 t salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling on baking sheets
1. Stir together yeast, honey and ½ CUP warm water in large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 MINUTES. [If it doesn’t foam, discard and restart]
2. While yeast stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk ½ c flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk and bubbly – about 45 MINUTES
3. Stir in oil, salt, remaining ¾ c warm water and remaining 2 ½ c flour until dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic [not sticky, not dry] – 8 to 10 MINUTES.
5. Form dough ball and put in large, oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough with oil.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk – 1 HOUR.
7. Punch down dough and separate into 8 pieces.
8. Form each piece into ball; flatten ball; roll out into 6 ½ - 7 inch round on floured surface with floured rolling pin.
9. Transfer round to 1 or 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Make 7 more – 4 on each sheet.
10. Cover pitas with clean kitchen towels, let stand/rise at room temperature – 30 MINUTES.
11. Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500˚F.
12. Put in one sheet, 4 pitas, at a time. Bake until just puffed and pale golden – 2 MINUTES. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 MINUTE more. Repeat.
13. Cool pitas on cooling rack, wrap kitchen towel around them to keep warm.
Enjoy 8 nom-tastic pitas!

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