Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Ah Pita the Ful!
OK, this was unnecessarily cruel and unusual punishment, but I couldn't resist! :)
If you have never tried making your own pita bread, it's surprisingly easy, and so good! Especially with simple dishes like Ful Medames. Most often, I make the Greek-style pocketless pita bread, since it's quicker to make than the yeast-raised kind (with the pocket). This is very similar to making flour tortillas.
HomeMade Pita Bread (Makes 6 pitas)
Here is what you will need:
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 1/2 t. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1. Put the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to blend the ingredients.
2. In a 2-cup glass measure, mix together the warm water, sugar, and salt, and stir to dissolve. Add the olive oil. (I did it in a bowl, but trust me, it's easier to pour if you use the measuring cup.)
3. Turn on the processor and while it's running, pour the liquid mixture through the feed tube. Ideally, in about 10 seconds, the dough will form a little ball on top of the blade, cleaning the sides of the bowl. If this does not happen, DON'T PANIC. It just means the dough is too dry. That's what happened to me:
The dough didn't form a ball because it was a little too dry. You can tell it's too dry because there are little flecks of dry flour in the bowl, even though I added all the liquid. Lots of things can affect how quickly the flour will absorb moisture, including the humidity level in your kitchen.
4. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of warm water at a time, with the motor running, until the dough does form a ball. It should be moist, but not sticky. Ta-da!
If the dough is TOO moist, it will feel sticky and probably won't clean the sides of the bowl. If it's sticky, add about 1 T of flour and pulse to blend.
5. Place a piece of waxed paper on your countertop and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough out onto the waxed paper and gently shape it into a ball. Try not to overwork it, so your pitas don't turn out tough. (I learned that lesson the hard way, "helping" my gramma make fry bread. "Fry frisbees" was more like it! The whole family was mad at me.) You don't have to use the waxed paper, it just makes it easier to clean up afterwards. If you have a pastry board, feel free to use it.
6. Divide the dough into 6 pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball. Put the dough balls on a lightly floured baking sheet (or stick with the waxed paper) and cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel.
7. Let the dough relax for 30-60 minutes.
8. Once the dough is "relaxed," work with one piece of dough at a time, keeping the other pieces covered with a damp towel so they don't dry out. With your hands, gently flatten a dough ball into a disk. Place the disk on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the disk out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and not quite 1/4 in. thick. You can help to keep the dough in a round shape (or at least, a rounder shape!) by picking up the dough and rotating it a quarter turn to the right each time you roll over it. (Roll, lift, turn, and repeat.) Even if they aren't completely round, they still taste good!
As you can see, I forgot to make the disk with my hands and then use the rolling pin, and I have to admit, the pitas turned out tougher than usual. But still tasty!
Here is one rolled out, and you can see it's about 8 inches across. (I really do use my ruler, it helps me to make them mostly the same size).
9. Roll out the rest of the dough, sprinkling each rolled-out pita with a little flour, and stack them on a plate. Keep covered.
10. Heat a griddle or a large dry skillet (cast iron works well) over medium low heat until it is hot. If it's too hot, the pitas won't cook all the way through, even though the surface is browned. You'll have to go by trial and error until you find the right setting for your stove. I find that about "4" on my electric stove is perfect. My griddle fits across 2 burners, so I set both of them to "4." (Your griddle or pan can be heating while you are rolling out dough.)
11. Place a pita (or however many will fit at a time, I can do 2 on my griddle) on the hot griddle and cook until the bottom is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the pita and cook the other side for 2 more minutes. Don't worry if it puffs up, it will de-puff as it cools.
Place the cooked pitas on a large plate covered with a cloth napkin to keep them warm. If you are not going to serve them immediately, wrap up the plate and napkin in foil, and hold in a 150 degree oven. They will stay fresh and warm for several hours.
Done!! Perfect! Yum, Yum!!
P.S.: You don't have to make these in a food processor, it's just easier that way. To make them by hand, sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl, and use a whisk to combine them. Make a well in the center of the flour, and put the sugar, salt, water, and oil into the well. Stir the liquid with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar and salt. Then gradually blend the dry flour into the wet ingredients. It should clump together to form a dough. Knead it gently in the bowl until it forms a ball, adding more flour or more water if needed to make a moist, but not sticky, dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny. Shape the dough into a ball, and proceed with the recipe at step 6. (You can see that using the food processor cuts down on your chances of overworking the dough.)
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