Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pita: It's all about the pockets.

I've always wanted to try making pita bread, but it always looks so daunting! How do you get that perfect bubble inside? Does it puff up into a big ginormous ball in the oven? it looks scary! and the pita I buy at the grocery store doesn't taste so good that I'd want to make a batch of that stuff at home. Grocery store pita tastes like wet cardboard.

But I had a recipe. and my husband pestered me until I psyched myself up. boys and girls, this was so frightfully easy, so wonderfully fun, and so amazingly deliciously perfect, i think I might make a batch again next week. I will never fear the pita again.

note: this recipe called for 100% whole wheat flour. I used 100% unbleached flour, and the results were lovely.

Pita Bread, from The Breadwinner's Cookbook, which sadly, is no longer in print. I have modified only slightly.

Pita Bread
1 pack yeast
1 cup warm water
small dollup of honey
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
2-3 cups flour, plus a bit more, just in case

Mix yeast in a bowl with 1/4 cup water and the honey. mix well, and let sit 10 minutes. if it doesn't foam up like the head of a beer, your yeast is bad, do the whole thing over again.

in a large mixing bowl, put the remaining water, oil, salt, and foamy yeast mixture. stir in the flour, a half cup at a time, blending each addition in before adding more. When you have a light dough that holds together, flour your hands and knead the dough for abotu 10 minutes, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. after kneading, shape into a ball and roll in a greased bowl. cover, and let sit in a warm place for 2 hours.

punch down, and let rest for 10 minutes. divide the dough into 5 or 6 peices of as equal as possible size. shape each peice in to a ball, knead for a minute or two, and set to rise for 30 minutes. after 30 minutes. place each ball between two sheets of floured wax paper, and carefully roll with a rolling pin (this is where i decided to cheat, and smush the balls down with my fingers. bad idea. The magic pocket of air had already formed, and i killed it. use the wax or parchement paper. use a rolling pin. be gentle) into an 8-10" round that is 1/4" thick.

Dust 2 baking sheets with cornmeal, and put two rounds of dough on each baking sheet. let rest fo 30 minutes. change the oven racks in your oven to have one as close to the bottom as possible, and one about half way up.

Near the end of the rest, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. No, that wasn't a typo, you really want 500 degrees. One baking sheet at a time, put the sheet on the bottom rack for 5 minutes. after five minutes, move it to a top rack, and bake another 3 minutes. it will be all poofy when you take it out, that's the magic air pocket! let breads cool on a rack, they will sink down a little, but it's OK. keep baking, one sheet at a time, 5 minutes on the bottom rack, 3 minutes on a higher rack until you've baked all your pitas, dusting the baking sheets again with cornmeal inbetween breads.

We had these with tuna salad, and I can honestly say i was just ho-hum about pita until I had these. can't wait to make another batch, and i'll use a rolling pin, i promise!

Book news, review of Dies the Fire is up, with a nice little discussion.

Finished reading Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, what a fun, weird, crazy book! The only Powers book I've come across to completely take place in a historical time, we're in the Caribbean, in the early 1700's. Hey, didn't they just make some movies about this? I'd say Powers ripped someone off, except his book was published in 1988. Blackbeard was trained by escaped slaves in the art of Voodoo, and he uses his powers to find the Fountain of Youth in Florida, but something goes wrong, and now he has ghosts that are, well, attached to him. Innocently involved with pirates and magic and voodoo and love is Jack Shandy, who needs to decide what he wants in live - return to England? approach his uncle who stole an inheritance from his father? rescue a beautiful woman who may have lost her mind before Jack can get to her? A fast paced fun Powers-esque read, On Stranger Tides was recently reprinted, and it's a grand find.

Also reading Lord Valentine's Castle,by Robert Silverberg. THis is my first Silverberg novel, and so far, I'm having a good time. It's got that Michael Moorcock chilled out feeling to it, where the main character, also Valentine, just kind of goes with the flow, and whatever happens, happens. My kinda character.

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