It’s finally cool enough out to make me want to bake, so we are back to making all our own bread. I like to make a triple-batch of pita bread, because I can throw it into a bag and into the freezer. They are already in portions that freeze well, because no inner-crumb is exposed. I use a recipe from The Bread Bible, adapted to be about 1/2 whole wheat for nutrition. Be warned: once you taste freshly-made pita, you will never want the stuff from the store again.
Makes: 12 4-inch pitas or 8 6-inch pitas.
1.5 cups (plus a scant 1/4 cup if you need it later in the recipe) all-purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour (if you can find the very finely ground middle-eastern variety, atta, this is even better)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tb olive oil
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature or a bit warmer
1. About 1.5 hours before shaping, or for more flavor, 8 hours to 3 days ahead of time, mix the dough:
In a large bowl, combine both flours (excluding the scant 1/4 cup) and yeast. Whisk in the salt (this prevents direct contact between the yeast and salt, which would kill the yeast). Add the liquid ingredients, mixing with a large spoon or your hands until the dough comes together a bit.
Sprinkle some of the reserved flour on the counter or a large cutting board and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible (you want this dough to be as wet as possible, so that it forms a pocket). You can use a bench scraper or large spatula to scrape up the dough as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky, so let it rest for 5-20 minutes with an inverted bowl over it.
Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes more until it is soft, smooth, and just a bit sticky to touch. Add flour or water as necessary.
2. Let the dough rise: Grease a bowl with olive oil and scrape the dough into it. Press the dough down and lightly oil the top. Cover with a lid or with plastic wrap. Mark the bowl with a piece of tape to estimate where double the height of the dough would be. Then,
-if you want to shape and bake in 1.5 hours, let it sit in a warm-ish part of your house, or in an oven (just with the pilot light on) until doubles-if you want more flavor, and will work with it again between 8 hours and 3 days, refrigerate the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level, with either a baking stone or a baking sheet placed on it BEFORE preheating.
4. Shape the dough:
Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shaped each piece into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Roll each disk into a circle a bit less than 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.
5. Bake the pita: Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone or hot baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes. It should be completely puffed but not browned. If it isn’t moist enough, it won’t puff properly. If this first one doesn’t puff, spritz the pitas with water, knead a little, and re-shape them. If you don’t want to bother with this, they are also delicious without pockets. Finish baking the pitas, 3-4 at a time, allowing the oven to reach 475 degrees after each batch (about 5 minutes). Use a large metal spatula to transfer the pitas to a clean towel. If you want them to be hot when you serve them, you can reheat them for 30 seconds in the oven.