Monday, April 23, 2012

Time-Out: Homemade Pita Bread

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First of all, a BIG happy 21st Birthday to my sister M!  For her birthday, I am making her a delicious, wonderful, amazing, I can't wait to show you kind of cake.  She is at school right now but when she returns home, she and all of you, will get some!  I know its tough to have your birthday (or really anytime) alone at school.  I hope she remembers how much we all LOVE her.  I can't wait to have her home for the summer!

The next two weeks, we're going to be traveling around the world through food.  I wish we were literally traveling the world over the next two weeks but alas, there are small things like work, school, and money that keep us from doing that, isn't there?

But, just because you can't go for a world adventure, doesn't mean you can't invite the world to your dinner table.   The recipes I have this week don't involve a lot of unknown ingredients; most of it could probably come right out of your pantry.  That's always my goal for international cuisines.  I hate spending $20 on a meal for 2 that comes out, well, just not so great. When I thought of making Greek food, I immediately thought, heck I can save the $4 on pita bread and make my own.  Do you ever have these thoughts?  Do they manage to backfire on you as much as me?  I hope not.

Unfortunately, I just really didn't plan enough time for them (i.e. we were having Greek dinner on Monday night and decided to make these Saturday which left Sunday night when I got home from Mom and Dads at 8.30 p.m. to roll and bake pitas).  Poor planning.  Making these babies is a lesson in TLC (a lesson I could always use a crash course on).  Because you need at least 8 hours for these to sit in the fridge and slow rise.  Then, there is the TLC of baking:  spritzing dough with water, letting them sit, rise, repeat.

But, alas, some of my pitas didn't rise; don't get me wrong-they still tasted amazing.  It just bummed me out to see flat pitas.  But then, an idea!  The ones that didn't rise, I cut into squares and baked longer for pita chips, which were great with Wednesday's recipe!

Homemade Pita Bread (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 pitas)
3 cups flour + 1/4 cup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 packet instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature


*WARNING:  These must sit at least overnight!  Do not attempt unless you have at least 8 hours until serving*
 In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for 1/4 cup of flour. With your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together.  Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Continuously scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)  Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.

Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before preheating.  Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.  Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.

Quickly place 2 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. If necessary, spritz each piece again immediately before baking.

Smitten Kitchen has a ton of tricks to getting your pitas to rise (mainly keeping the dough moist).  Here is my tip--do NOT roll these pitas out too big.  We're not making pizza dough here, people!  This was my major mistake.  I think a 4- to 6-inch pita is the perfect size.

It's hard to roll them out so trying to make them any bigger is a pain (a PITA, John jokes).  Why was I trying to make them as thin as possible?  It's a mystery, even to me; one that I might just blame on the late night.  The smaller I made the pitas, I found the better they puffed and the better they looked.  I hope this stops you from making the same mistake!

Until the next time my oven is on...

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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