Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pita bread - A flat bread that refuses to stay flat :-)

There are moments of pure joy in life especially when you do something nice and the outcome is beyond the expectated good. As I keep saying, bread making is therapeutic for me starting from the time that yeast rises beautifully in the cup to the soft, pliant kneaded dough becoming double its original size, I watch it like a kid in a candy store. May be it is because I started baking recently and everything is still fresh and enchanting. I look with complete adoration at some of the bloggers out there who post recipe after recipe of baked goodies and make it all sound so easy. For me, it is all still a learning process, in no hurry to reach anywhere yet, taking the journey at my own pace. So before you get bored, see the perfectly puffed up pita and the well formed pocket and tell me whether I have really earned some bragging rights or not :-). Feel free to skip to the recipe if you don't want to listen to my going 'gaga gaga..' over what/how I did with my beautiful pita breads :-), but take a minute to go through the recipe because it is definitely a keeper and I promise you won't be dissappointed when you try it.

I fell in love with pita breads some years ago when I had gone to a Turkish restaurant for lunch from work and they served fresh, soft, warm pita bread as a starter. Cut into wedges, dipped in flavored olive oil and topped with Hummus, these were so good that I stuffed myself greedily even before we ordered the main course :-). We like the Trader Joe's whole wheat pita breads, they are perfect to stuff a slightly dryish palya into and pack up for lunch. DD loves the combination of pita bread stuffed with cabbage stir fry and sprinkled with a spoon of chutni pudi, it is one of her favorite grab and go-es. We ate it with the Hummus and also stuffed a cabbage-beans stir fry into it.
Although, we have been eating pita for a while now, I never thought I could make it at home especially given my baby steps in the baking department. I came across Peter Reinhart's breads a while ago and have been experimenting with them (more to come on that soon) and found an easy enough looking recipe for Pita bread here which referenced the master and was hooked to it. The dough itself is quite close to a pizza dough and I thought this shouldn't be difficult. Armed with the recipe, I looked up for some wisdom on making a perfect pita bread at home and took the ones that made sense to me. See the result for yourself - a perfectly puffed up pita with a nice pocket and 2 grinning faces around me telling how much they loved the yummy, home made pita bread with the Hummus.

A little bit of bookish gyan on Pita bread - Pita bread is a middle Eastern flat bread. Pita, Pitta or Pide (Pide is the Turkish name of this bread) has a characteristic pocket also called mutbag that is formed due to the way this bread is baked in very high temperatures.
Note: The original source of this recipe has accurate measurements by weight of the ingredients and the prepared dough if you want to look it up. I followed the cups & spoons measure as I don't own a kitchen scale and followed the recipe & instructions to the tee. I also wanted to do a slow rise bread and took this opportunity to try it, I was completely satisfied with the taste.

What do you need to make pita bread? 
Recipe source: Smitten Kitchen
Makes 12 pitas
3 cups All purpose flour + 2 Tblsp for kneading & dusting
2 Tsp salt
2 Tsp active dry yeast
2 Tblsp olive oil
11/4 water
How do you make pita bread? 
  • Take all ingredients listed except for the 2 Tblsp flour in a big mixing bowl until the water moistens the flour and everything comes together. 
  • If you are not very confident of your yeast, go ahead and proof it like you would for any other bread instead of adding it directly to the flour. 
  • Dust a flat kitchen surface with some dry flour and dump the contents of the bowl on top. 
  • Keep mixing the dough together sprinkling as little dry flour as possible for 5 minutes, cover and let it rest for 20 minutes. This needs to stay a sightly moist dough, so go easy on the dry flour and add it only as needed.  
  • Take out the cover and knead it for 10-12 minutes until the dough turns supple and soft. Put the dough in a big bowl, cover it tightly with cling wrap and let it rise.
  • At this stage, you can leave the dough outside to rise at normal room temperature for about 1.5 - 2 hours or until it doubles in size and proceed with making pita bread. Or you can push the covered dough into the refrigerator for 24-48 hours for a slow rise. I let it stay put in the refrigerator for about 30 hours and we liked the wonderful taste. 
  • Preheat the oven to 475F along with the baking sheet or stone or pan on which you will be baking the pita bread. 
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator and punch it down and knead for about 2-3 minutes. Cut 12 equal pieces of the dough. 
  • Form smooth balls of each piece, lay them on a baking sheet, cover it with cling wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes.
  • Uncover the sheet to just retrieve one ball at a time and roll it into a round disc of about 1/4 inch thickness. 
  • Place the rolled disc on the pre-heated pan and bake for 3-3.5 minutes. Pita bread is not brown in color, 3 minutes or until the bread puffs up is good baking time. Do not over bake it as it will turn crisp & hard.  
  • Take out the bread and repeat for the remaining dough balls. Cut the warm bread in half to open up the pocket, stuff with stuffing of choice or cut the bread into wedges and serve it with Hummus.
  • Place the oven rack and the baking sheet/stone/pan close to the source of heat, I pushed the rack to the first groove from the bottom and placed my baking stone on this shelf.
  • It is critical that you preheat the oven and keep the temperature at 475F in the oven during baking. Avoid keeping the oven door open for long (and curb your temptation to take the puffing pita pictures :-)) as this will bring the temperature down. 
  • The dough will be sticky initially and the 20 minutes resting period settles it and makes it easier to handle. 
  • The slow rise for a long time in the refrigerator gives a wonderful taste to the pita, try to follow this although you can get the same texture and everything else if you used a just risen dough. 
  • Original recipe says to monitor and punch down the dough if it doubles too soon(within the first hour or so) but mine actually rose slowly and I just let it sit in the refrigerator undisturbed until I was ready to make the bread. 
  • You can cook the pita bread on stove top if you have a good quality, heavy gauge cast iron pan. 


prathibha Garre said...

Pita sandwiches r quite filling and love it for a simple dinner or lunch

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow!! lovely pluffy Pitta Breads. and stuffed with Cyabage palya??
i love it.

Nandita SS said...

This has been in my to do list for long!! Yours looks so perfect!! Thanks for sharing

WeR SAHM said...

Very well done...I always amazed how they make this bread and now u answered it....thnx for sharing

Julie said...

made perefect dear,yummy bread & loved the caption,very true:)'
Join EP event-Nutmeg OR Parsley @ Chef Mireille's Global Creations

Priya said...

Yep bread baking keeps me away from stress too..Thats y do bake quite often.Btw those puffy and prefect looking pita breads makes me drool.

Kannada Cuisine said...

Wow...this looks professional! awesome