Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falafel Dinner - part two - whole wheat pita bread

I spend a lot of time talking about how I don't bake.   Part of it is my disinterest in most sweets (can we have french fries for dessert instead?) and the other part is the precision and the measuring.  I like to cook by smell.   And yet, I made pita bread.

This was part of this weekend's big time falafel dinner - yesterday I posted the falafel, and tomorrow I'll post the hummus, and the rest will come as it comes. 

I read through maybe 20 pita bread recipes to get here, and many said that you can't really make pita at home and that the traditional way required an oven hotter than home ovens were capable of getting.  I figured if it didn't work, I'd have some sort of flatbread that would be just fine, and if it REALLY didn't work, I had tortillas in the fridge.   Spoiler alert - it totally worked.

I came very close to using a recipe this time - this recipe here at The Fresh Loaf.  This is more than "inspired by" or "based on" this recipe - this is very much how I made it.  Same exact ingredients, but I got a little lax with the technique.  New bread, yo, I'm gonna follow something.

A couple of the recipes put me off by asking for 3 hours of rise time.  I don't have three hours.  So I planned to make this one that requires 90 minutes - but things got in the way and I actually gave it closer to 2 and a half hours to rise.  I guess I have three hours after all. 

I started with the yeast proofing in the some warm water.  I pulled 1/4 cup of water from the total ( 1 1/4 cups) needed for the recipe, and let my yeast sit in there until it bubbled a bit.  

I put the flour in the mixer (you can do this by hand).  I used 1 1/2 cups white and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat.  The worry with using all whole wheat is that your breads can get tough.

I added the salt

I heart this measuring spoon.  It's not gross, you can take it apart to wash it.
and olive oil 

and honey

and finally the water, including my proofed yeast. 

I stirred it with a spatula

until it came together like it started to want to be a dough.

And then I got to mixing.  

Ten minutes by hand, or ten minutes in the mixer set on 1.  When it was all one thing, it was ready. 

I shaped it into a ball,

and put it in a bowl that I had coated in olive oil, and gave it a few tosses in that oil. 

I dampened a towel with warm water and wrapped the bowl in that, and then stashed it in my china cabinet.  When I'm letting dough rise I either go for the china cabinet method, or if I have the heat on, I put it in the basement near the boiler.   No heat, so china cabinet is fairly warm.

The recipe calls for 90 minutes of rise-time, but I got distracted by the rest of life and came back to it after a little more than two hours.   It had more than doubled in size.

This is a good time to get to pre-heating.  I was worried my oven wouldn't get hot enough, but with about 20 minutes advance prep at 500 it was just fine.  I preheated a baking sheet as well - many recipes recommend a pizza stone, and I bet that'd be great, but I don't have one.

I tore it the dough into eight pieces, and rolled each one into a ball like this

and then flat with the rolling pin.  I wasn't good about keeping them round - but I'd recommend putting some effort into that.  Roll horizontally, turn the dough 90 degrees, roll horizonally, turn the dough 90 degrees, etc.

Once it was flattened, I ...ok, I got off track. I let them sit all shaped and ready for a while, and when I put them into the oven they got all droopy and misshapen and they came out unpoofed.  This made a fairly tasty flatbread, but was not at all a pita.

Sous Chef Brian to the rescue.  He floured the cutting board quite a bit, re-rolled them out into perfect discs and they went in.  I guess the added flour really helped (or maybe the perfect shape). 

Look how poofy!  And totally hollow inside.  Here's one in action!

I froze the leftovers and they defrosted amazingly, so I'm definitely going to make some extra of these next time to keep around.

I'm not going to post the step-by-step recipe, because I used exactly the ingredients from someone else's - go to The Fresh Loaf for the details.

Have tricks for pita bread, or a favorite filling?  A suggestion for something I should cook soon? Let me know about it in the comments.

This recipe is cross-posted at the blog for the South Philly Food Co-op, whose mission is to open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that provides affordable and nutritious food to all residents of South Philadelphia while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building. 

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