Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I Pita the Fool...

I've tried making pita bread before, with less than perfect, puffy result. Recently in the mood for gyros, I decided it was time for round two, under the tutelage of baking perfectionist Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Since I was doing this last moment, there would be no time for an overnight flavour-intensification. Encased in plastic wrap, it sat for a quick rise while I worked on a few other things.

Now, Rose warns you that it is extremely important to have a hot oven, and recommends that you let it pre-heat for an hour. I let mine and my pizza stone go for about an hour and a half at 500-degrees, before turning it down to the recommended temperature. The inflated blobs of dough were rolled out, and quickly tossed two at a time into an extremely hot oven.
Success! At long last, baby, the perfect puff is mine! Not so much the perfectly round pita, but it's always nice to have something to work towards.

A friend was dining with us that night, and brought along a ZD Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. This was a busty, big wine that reeked of Nero Wolfe's study. Fine leather, cherry pipe tobacco and a dusting of cocoa waddled around my tongue in pleasing harmony. The finish was smoother and far more sensuous than an Archie Goodwin pick-up line. Well done, Diner-Knight, well done!

Palates tantalized, we gathered around the kitchen counter, slicing DucCat's hot-smoked lamb, shredding lettuce, chopping tomatoes and onions. With a little help from Trader Joe's tzatziki sauce and red pepper spread, the gyros were done.

Pita Bread

from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible

[Ingredients are listed as volume/ounces/grams]

-unbleached all-purpose flour (use only Gold Medal, King Arthur, or Pillsbury) 3 cups,plus a scant 1/4 cup / 16 ounces/ 454 grams
-salt 2 teaspoons/ 0.5 ounce/ 13.2 grams
-instant yeast 2 teaspoons/ --/ 6.4 grams
-olive oil 2 tablespoons/ 1 ounce/ 27 grams
-water, at room temperature 1 1/4 liquid cups/ 10.4 ounces/ 295 grams

Begin mixing the dough about 1 1/2 hours before shaping, or for best flavor development, 8 hours to 3 days ahead.

Mixer Method: In the bowl of stand mixer, combine all ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (#2 on a KitchenAid), just until all the flour is moistened, about 20 seconds. Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium (#4 on a KitchenAid), and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should clean the bowl and be very soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary. (The dough will weigh 27.75 ounces/793 grams)

Let the dough rise. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough in to a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.

Preheat the oven to 475-degrees 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level, and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before pre-heating.

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, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4-inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, 10 minutes before baking.

Bake the pita.
Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed, but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray and knead each remaining piece with water until the dough is soft and moist; allow to rest again and reroll as before. (However, those that are not puffed are still delicious to eat.) Proceed with the remaining dough, baking 3 or 4 pieces at a time if using a stone or baking sheet. Using a pancake turner, transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. Allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches. The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving.

s'kat's notes: Rose doesn't specify what type of salt to use; I used regular ol' table salt. The salt flavour in the finished product was pronounced, but in a good way- it really made the bread. I also didn't bother transferring the freshly-mixed dough into a different bowl. I sprayed olive oil under, around, and on the dough, covered the bowl with a kitchen towel, and tucked it into the oven for rising. The freshly cooked pitas were not only placed on towels, but covered by one as well. Don't forget to get that oven hot-hot-hot!


Blogger iamchanelle said...

mmmmmmm, gyros. i used to grab chicken gyros (oxymoron? i dunno) on my college campus for lunch at least once a week - so good!

and i LOVE pita bread! way to go s'kat! thanks for the HOT HOT oven tip - i think that is what i have been missing here - my bread tends to be on the non-puffy side...

May 09, 2006 3:09 PM  
Blogger Tea said...

You're my hero! Those look piping hot and delicious. Might have to take the pita challenge myself (as soon as the Eat Local Challenge is over and I can use yeast again!).

Way to go!

May 09, 2006 3:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

I'm envious, as I tried to make pita bread years ago and only got flat unpuffed lumps. I may give your recipe a try.

May 09, 2006 5:53 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I am this >< close to building a tandoor in my back yard so I can make breads like naan and pita. All you need is a brick kiln, a few cords of oak and a large dose of insanity. I have at least one of those!

My breadmaking has fallen off considerably with other life events creeping in on the weekend, but soon I shall be set free from my life of bondage to the Man and I will become, once again, the Bread God.

The only thing better than fresh pita is fresh pita stuffed with stuff. I'll be reporting it all at 12tutufondue.

All the best,

May 09, 2006 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Clare Eats said...

Niiiice pitas girl!!!

They are so so very puffy!

May 09, 2006 10:01 PM  
Blogger krysten said...

wow! those came out great! i've had not-so-much luck with pitas puffing up, so i've turned to making flat-bread! *snort*

i may try again with the hot hot hot oven tip though....although maybe in the fall, i see the temps will hit triple digits this week here in the desert i call home. ack!

May 10, 2006 12:31 AM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those pita breads look delicious! I love pita souvlaki with tzatziki sauce and raw onions...

May 10, 2006 3:21 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Pita really is fun to make. BTW, when baking any bread (including pizza) it's a good idea to preheat the oven for an hour to make sure you have even heat distribution.

May 10, 2006 8:08 AM  
Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

Congratulations! They look perfect and delicious---Great work :)

May 10, 2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

What did you do for the gyros? Did you actually make them or just use some spiced lamb?

May 10, 2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

iac- Chicken gyros works for me!

tea- Thank you so much, I'm still a bit shocked at my success!

Barbara- Give it a whirl. The thrilling feeling at seeing them puff up is indescribably giddy!

Bill- You work for The Man? I am shocked and horrified. Build that outdoor oven, and I'll have no problem worshiping the one, the only, "Bread God".

Thanks, Clare!

Krysten- Fall most certainly sounds like it will be the better opportunity for you.

Rosa- mmmm, tzatziki....

Kevin- You are so right! My bread fu is still not strong.

Melissa- I am truly honoured, thank you so much!

wmm: Okay, full disclosure here. A few nights previous, DucCat had smoked a couple of legs of lamb. One we devoured that night, the rest was saved for pita night. However, I can't seem to find any pictures of the whole lamb-smoking scenario, nor does DucCat remember the spices he used for the lamb. I feel a little odd posting about something with no recipe or photo, so I kind of skimmed over that detail.

(just in case he's reading- thanks, honey!)

May 10, 2006 10:31 AM  
Blogger Gabriella True said...

wow. I would never even think about making that. I am terrible bread maker. totally jealous

May 10, 2006 2:55 PM  
Blogger Alanna said...

This makes me want to move straight into the kitchen ... NOW. Nice work!

May 12, 2006 8:21 AM  

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