Monday, July 21, 2008

Flatbread Fanaticism Week Day #1: Pita

I'm not the sharpest knife in the block. My mind works at a simmer, never a rolling boil. It takes me time to have those ah-hah moments, but I did have a flash of brilliance Saturday while I was grilling some pizza outside. As the crust crisped on the grill and achieved a shade of brown that would make George Hamilton jealous, a mostly monosyllabic monologue played in my head, "I like to bake bread. Do not bake in the summer. Too hot. Do not want to heat up house. I should bake bread outside on grill. Flatbreads."

This was a revelation. This week I decided to satisfy my craving to bake and eat homemade bread by baking a variety of flatbreads.

For ages cooks around the globe have been baking flatbreads, so I took comfort knowing that I wasn't entering unchartered waters. I opted to bake pita bread first. I consulted several cookbooks for pita recipes, and there seemed to be little variation. One recipe did call for a dough relaxer, but I decided to relax my dough by playing some Kenny G during the kneading. In the end I decided to go with a recipe that used bread flour. I thought the higher protein content of a bread flour would help develop the gluten needed for the pita to really puff up and create a nice pocket.

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients until you've formed a shaggy dough.
  2. Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes or by machine for 5-8 minutes.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and allow it to rest for 1 hour. It will become quite puffy, but it may not double in bulk.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into eight pieces and roll each piece into a small ball.
  5. With a rolling pin, roll each of the pieces into 6-inch circles, and then place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Let them rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat grill to 500 degrees.
  7. Gently place each piece of dough on the grill. I didn't have enough room on my grill for all the dough, so I had to grill my bread in two batches.
  8. Close lid on the grill and allow the bread to cook for 2-3 minutes. Open lid, and flip the bread. Allow to bake for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  9. Remove bread from the grill and serve.
Note: If you don't want to prepare this recipe on the grill, just use your oven.

My pita puffed, but I didn't get a nice, natural pocket out of my bread. I guess, my attempt at pita failed. I'll need to give it another shot later. Despite this, I ended up with a great bread on a 99 degree day and I didn't heat up the house. The bread was fragrant, light, fluffy, and it tasted better than any pita bread I've ever purchased in a grocery store. And here's the best part: It was simple. I never broke a sweat during the entire process. I plan on preparing this bread again the next time I grill.

NOTE: I read where the dough for this recipe could be prepared 3-4 days in advanced and stored in the fridge until you're ready to bake it. I'll give this a try next time.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Pocket or no pocket, I bet that a nice garlicky diced tomato salsa would be lovely with this! Great recipe!