Sunday, June 24, 2007

Homemade Pita

My theory is that some people are very good at baking with yeast and some people are very good at baking pie crusts and very few people are very good at both. It’s just a theory. I’m not sure if I came up with it all on my own or if my grandmother Gagee stated it as a fact in order to make me feel better. As a young child, I liked baking bread and rolls. I happened to be good at it, which was a natural and powerful reinforcer to baking. But pie crusts - not so much. Even years later, when Pillsbury came out with a pre-rolled, refrigerated pie crust which I only had to drop in the the dish and crimp, I still managed to make a lousy pie crust!

Over the years my two favorite yeast bread recipes have been an “English Muffin Toasting Bread” and “Two Day Rolls”. So naturally, when Buréka Boy over at Is That My Buréka? posted his Pita 101 Recipe back in February, I was intrigued. He writes clear recipes interspersed with lots of step by step photos. He has a warm chatty style and often includes a bit of history. But back in February my stove was on its last legs and I had difficulty getting the oven to heat reliably. But a week or so ago he posted his alternate cooking method under the heading Summer Pita. In this variation, instead of baking the pitas in a very hot oven, you griddle them on top of the stove. Hmmmm.... We just replaced our stove a couple of weeks ago, so I have a great oven, but this new range has three continuous grates. The middle grate can be swapped out for a griddle. OK! Where’s my yeast?!

This morning I made 8 small loaves of homemade pita bread. They were not perfect, in that they did not all poof up that magical little steam bubble which creates the pocket. But they are delicious. The ingredients are simple and it made a lovely, silky textured dough which was elastic and not at all sticky. Next time (and Chuck let me know how much he wants there to be a next time!) I would roll them out a teensy bit thinner. But that’s the only thing I would change. And next time I’ll have a better feel for the temperature of the new griddle. All in all, not a bad first effort.

I served them today with sliced cucumber rounds, wedges of tomato, feta cheese and olives. I also made a coarsely textured white bean spread with lots of gently sauteed garlic and a touch of lemon and tahini. It’s a nice variation on a chick pea hummus.

Many thanks to Buréka Boy!


purpleronnie said...

sounds heavenly!!!

burekaboy — said...

hi there :D thank you so very much for the nice words & write up.

i'm glad you took a shot at trying out the pita. i have to say they look quite fine for a first time trial (hope you will try again as it is something which takes practice which can only be gained through making them and it does get easier the more you do it).

getting them to puff up, again, takes practice and requires good rolling. any tears or creases will mess it up, usually. over time, you'll have success. i hope at least a few of them did on your first try ;P in the end, what matters is how they tasted. i hope they came out soft.

i think that you either had your heat a bit too high or, more likely, you cooked them a little too long [judging from the colour in the photos]. sometimes that will also make the final texture hard and may impede the pocket from forming. i'm not sure how your new stove works. it should only take about 3 to 3 1/2 min per side (but that depends on your heat) and should be tan coloured as in my post in my blog.

in terms of thickness, i make mine fairly thick but that can be changed to suit your taste. they will still cook perfectly and finish cooking as they steam in the tea towel. sounds like you had excellent accompaniments to go with them :)

and i think you & your gran were right ... some people are better at breads than with pastry. a very few are naturally good at both.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Ronnie -
The pita really were delicious! That menu is one of our favorites for a summer breakfast or brunch/lunch - very refreshing!
- Lee

Hi Bureka Boy -
Wow! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to give me such useful feedback! I think I did cook them too long because I was afraid they might be doughy on the inside. But the tea towel trick worked great and they had a wonderful chewy texture to them.

I now have a gas stove with an oval shaped "fifth" burner down the center. That's where I put the interchangeable griddle. I felt that worked fine when I kept it on medium.

I'd say five out of the eight got decent bubbles. One was all over and so uniform that I got very excited!

The dough was easy to make and such a pleasure to work, that I will definitely make them again.

Thanks for the recipes, the personalized tips and the encoragement!
- Lee

burekaboy — said...

lee, glad to help.

i must say i'm jealous! that new stove sounds great, especially having that griddle attachment. reminds me of an old time stove of my own. have you ever posted a picture of it? i hope to, one day, have a gas stove. electric ones just don't work the same.

re: overcooking the pita, don't worry, as long as they are say, no larger than a healthy 1/4 inch thick [before cooking] they will cook fine in that time frame. the steaming cooks them further. they are, in reality of the bread world, quite thin and cook extremely fast with this method as it's on direct heat and blistering hot metal.

much success with batch number 2! you'll not buy them from the grocery store again :P

Roo said...

Lee - hot hands or cold hands?

As a rule of thumb (no pun intended)it's;

Hot hands = Bread maker
Cold hands = Pastry maker

I'd like to thank my old college lecturer Celia Berry for that one.
Peter is the Bread maker, I'm the Pastry boy ;o)

Roo said...

Lee - can you pass this onto Burekaboy too.

BB - I tried popping in to say hi, but I can't seem to post to the site - OR, I'm an idiot and posted the note twice in two different ways... hey ho

burekaboy said...

lee -- oops, typo: meant reminds me of an old time stove (not sure how or why i added "of my own").

ROO -- lol, got both your messages so they did go through. blogger has been causing issues for people posting on my site so it's no surprise (for me) you had problems. thanks for your comment; i left you an reply on my blog :)

Pink Granite said...

Hi Guys!

Sorry I dropped out of the conversation!
I've been fighting a summer cold for a week and yesterday it was much worse. Plus I managed to get some sort of stomach bug on top of it. I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say I was down for the count much of yesterday!

Hey Roo -
Yup, hot hands! Who knew the answer was so simple? Thanks to you and Ms. Berry for an elegant explanation!
Also glad you and Bureka Boy were able to communicate via Blogger.

Hey BB -
The new stove is wonderful. Our old stove was about 16 years old and had been repaired several times. The new one is a GE Profile with a convection oven. Here's a link. What's nice is that it's a standard 30 inch width, but it performs more like a professional range. The simmer setting on the burners is fixed, so no more worries about the flame blowing out when it's set very low! We got it on sale plus rebates. BTW, it has a certified Sabbath Mode.

Lastly, the pita was delicious the second day. Late last evening Chuck made me a very mild sandwich and it was just what the doctor ordered!

- Lee

Roo said...

OOOh I sooooo want want of those cookers - take it from me, it was as camp as that when I said it, even the dog looked at me...

I could be jealous, but I am soooo going to get a bigger one for my new kitchen... laughs into the sunset...

Pink Granite said...

Hey Roo -
If I didn't own it already, I'd be envious of me too --- If you know what I mean?!?! ;o)

I know you have a culinary background, but here are my favorite features: each of the five burners is a different size and has a different BTU output. I also really like the continuous grates (instead of four like I used to have). But what sold us in the store was the convection oven. I've been using a little countertop convection toaster oven for about a year, so the convection was a big plus. The first batch of scones I baked in the new oven, using my usual recipe, Chuck and I couldn't get over how yummy they were - fully cooked, but tender and moist!

Hope whatever new cooker you get for your kitchen leaves you as happy as I am with this one!

- Lee

burekaboy said...

hey lee, sorry to hear you were so ill :( getting sick during the summer is the absolute worst.

re: the new stove/oven. wow ... stainless, even sexier. convection is a definite plus; cooks much faster and more efficiently. my friend has one with a rotisserie attachment and has been roasting every chicken in town within arm's reach, LOL. different burner sizes, double oven and sabbath mode...pretty good, i'd say. all that for a great price and i'd be sold, too. i guess the double oven does away with the standard drawer for pans, etc.

glad to hear the pita was still good the next day. i completely lose my appetite when i get sick. here is something to try when you're feeling better. i'd make them for you but they'd be stale by the time they arrived, ;)

LOL @ ROO -- poor dog :P i hope you're, at least, going for a customized "la cornue" one.