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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yes You Can Make Pita Bread (Really!)

Our church Christmas party was "A Night in Bethlehem." We were supposed to come in "Biblical" dress, and the food was Middle-Eastern-ish. I signed up to bring pita bread, because I knew that was the best way to ensure that my family and I could eat pita bread that was not flat and dry and utterly appetite-wasting.

Making your own pita bread is a snap IF you have two items: a decent food processor and a baking stone. You can do without the first of these if you don't mind kneading by hand, but if you don't have to hand-knead you can have finished, soft, delicious pita bread in ONE HOUR.
Pita Bread
makes 6-8 6-7" pitas
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb 1999

1 pkg (2 1/4 t) dry active yeast
1 C warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 T olive oil
2 t sugar
1/4 C plain yogurt
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 C bread flour (or higher-protein all-purpose, like Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur), plus extra as needed

1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of food processor, and let dissolve for a few minutes.

Add oil, sugar and yogurt and pulse a little to mix. Add salt and flours and process until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

Keep processing, adding flour, until dough is soft and satiny and pulls completely away from sides of bowl, about 30 seconds (or turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead 12-15 minutes).

Put dough in medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm, draft-free spot until dough doubles in size, 30-45 minutes. (At this point, dough can be punched down, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerated up to 2 days.) Before the dough is completely risen, put baking stone on lowest rack in oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees for at least a half-hour.

2. Turn dough onto lightly-floured work surface, and, if it is sticky, sprinkle lightly with flour. Divide dough into 6 or 8 equal portions with a chef's knife or bench scraper. Roll each portion into a ball, then roll with rolling pin into a four-inch circle (the picture below shows two batches that I mixed up in succession).

Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then roll into a 6-7" circle.

3. When oven and stone are fully heated, carefully and quickly place a few dough rounds directly on the baking stone (I do three at a time on my round stone), and bake for 3-6 minutes, until bread is puffed and golden brown on the bottom. Pause between batches to let oven return to 500 degrees (they don't cook as quickly or puff as dramatically at lower temperatures). Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and spray with a little olive oil if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Blogger Tanner Family Blog said...

Looks yummy! How was the turnout at the ward party - did people come dressed in Biblical Dress?

I don't have a good processor or the stone...so I won't be making this any time soon - even though I want to eat some of yours!

Are you guys doing Christmas cards this year?

December 13, 2008 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Great recipe. I will try this one sometime - homemade pitas are so much better than the dry, store-bought kind. I also made some for the party and followed this recipe: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pitabread
I added a little whole wheat flour to the recipe, and they turned out great. It's a nice option if you don't have plain yogurt in the fridge.

December 14, 2008 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

So, do I REALLY need a food processor? Can I use my kitchenaid to knead it? I would really like to try these, but I want them to turn out!

December 15, 2008 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jen, if you try it with your KitchenAid, will you let me know how it turns out? I'm guessing the kneading time will be somewhere in between the 30 seconds for the Cuisinart and the 10-15 minutes for hand-kneading. The key is adding flour, and getting to that smooth, satiny stage.

Lauren, we always have plain whole-milk yogurt in the fridge (we put it in my and Cindy Lou's oatmeal--gives it creaminess without watering it down), so it didn't occur to me to think about not having that ingredient!

Rach, people really did dress in "Biblical" dress, though for some that meant a head-scarf made from a bath towel. Lots of bathrobes in evidence, too. :) We're planning on doing Christmas cards--have a picture picked out to use--but haven't written the letter yet. Oy.

December 18, 2008 at 4:49 PM  

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