Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Whole-Wheat Pita

Before I move on to pastries, I have to share these whole-wheat pita from dinner last night. They're tasty and easy, and perfect for fresh hummus. The first batch ballooned perfectly, making great pockets...

...but there was one at the back of the oven that formed a bubble before it puffed up completely and somehow maintained the bubble even as the rest of the pita expanded, such that the bubble on top of the balloon was closer to the top of the oven [the hottest part of the oven] and got a little dark...

It was really... special. JG said it was "mam-tastic."

Recipe: Whole-Wheat Pita Bread

makes 8 6-inch rounds

1 1/4 cups warm water (not hot... less than 115F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or sourdough starter, but that's another post)
1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar, sugar... sweet food for the yeast)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more for dusting (fine ground, I've discovered prefer Whole Foods store brand)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher or table is fine, just not chunky fleur de sel, it'll tear the gluten)

In a standing mixer, combine water, yeast, and sweetener. Let sit 5 minutes, then add oil and flour. Stir with a spatula until combined in a shaggy ball. Cover with plastic wrap or pot lid. Let rest at least 17 minutes, then add the salt and proceed with kneading. [Kneading can be done by hand.]

Using a dough hook, knead on medium speed (#3) for 7 minutes. After 4 minutes or so, the dough should wrap around hook and only stick to the center of the bowl. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest 20 minutes.

Turn out onto a well-floured pastry cloth or counter. Divide in half, then each piece in half again until you have 8 equal pieces. Roll into balls, pinching any seams together, then flatten the balls and roll out into 6 inch rounds, dusting lightly with flour if they stick either to the surface or the pin. Transfer onto parchment covered cookie sheets, 4 per sheet, dust again with flour, and cover loosely with plastic wrap to rise. Meanwhile, turn on the oven to 500 degrees. If you have a rectangular baking stone, put it on an upper middle rack. Once the oven comes up to temp, give it another 10 minutes or so for the racks and stone to get thoroughly hot ~45 minutes. By this time your pita should look puffy, but not huge.

Slide the first batch onto the stone or rack, pulling out the cookie sheet but leaving the parchment behind. Bake five minutes (the pita will take 2-3 to balloon), then pull pitas and parchment out with tongs. Stack pitas (if they haven't burst in the oven, they'll deflate
reluctantly) and give the oven a few minutes to warm up again before repeating with the second sheet.

Eat warm or cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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