I made pita bread. I did and it is so easy and delicious that I cannot believe anyone buys it! (... well, actually I can because I am aware that there is a huge segment of the population that would apparently rather buy convenience pre-made everything than make just about anything themselves but that's another discussion for another time.) But this was really exciting for me because making pita bread is super easy and really fun. It is even relatively fast given that it is a yeast dough and needs a bit of time to rise. I decided quite late* in my dinner game-plan to take a stab at this bread and I am so glad that I did - it tastes so very much better than the somewhat uninspiring rounds one can buy at the grocery store. I had so much fun and success that I am looking for another reason to make more. Really, I don't know why I have never tried it before!
I used a recipe for Lavash Crackers that I found in The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. In a side bar on the page he suggests that the same dough can be used to make pita breads. I doubled his recipe and we all wished that I had doubled that. (My recipe yielded 9 breads that were roughly 6" in diameter.) This dough is kneaded by hand rather than by machine and as I was kneading the dough I wondered why so many people resist doughs that need to be kneaded by hand. I find it to be an extremely enjoyable and even soothing process. Folding the dough over on itself again and again I remembered how I had loved working with clay - largely because I loved kneading the clay in preparation for working with it (that and I loved the whole glazing process). This dough is fairly stiff and becomes nice and silky as you knead it.
The recipe here is the amount that I made...
(tweaked slightly from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in a mixing bowl.
Add the honey and olive oil to the warm water and mix, then add that mixture to the flour mixture and stir just enough to bring it all into a rough ball.
Sprinkle a bit of flour on a table or counter and move the dough to that surface. Knead for about 10 minutes. The dough should be medium-firm, not sticky at all, and stretchy when pulled.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. When the dough has risen for about 2 hours, punch it down and it is ready to roll and bake.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Divide the dough into eight or nine equal portions. Roll each portion into a rough circle that is slightly less than 1/2" thick. The breads can be baked on a baking stone or simply on a cookie sheet. (I used a cookie sheet because my oven was already hot and I had forgotten to put the baking stone in - the good news is that the cookie sheet method worked beautifully.) This next bit is the important part. Bake just until the breads inflate and form a pocket. Count to 10 and take them out of the oven with a spatula before they brown. You will want to do this and pay attention to the baking (I know this because I didn't pay close enough attention with the first three pieces). The breads are still delicious when allowed to brown slightly but the whole pocket thing is kind of lost and they become a bit heavy, whereas if removed at the count of 10 mark they are lovely and light as air - very tender and moist. The entire baking time is really very short, just a few minutes but it is quite entertaining to watch, so just enjoy the process
We ate our pitas with kebabs, Greek salad and a yummy Feta-mint dip. Absolute yummy heaven.
This would be totally fun and do-able with young children. Next time some of our littles are around I think I may do it with them just for fun.
* late in the plan as in at 2:00pm for a 5:00pm meal. To be truthful I probably wouldn't have started them much before then anyway but I may have worked out a bit more of the other meal details in a different order....but that's another story entirely. lol.