Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pita Bread

This bread takes literally an hour to make from start to finish, and it's a bajillion times better than any pita you'll get in the supermarket. It's best straight out of the oven when it's almost too hot to eat, dipped in some really good olive oil or hummus. You can also freeze it by wrapping it in tin foil after it's cooled and then reheating it for a few minutes in the oven.

Makes 8 small pita breads

2 1/2 cups BREAD flour (not all-purpose -- it makes a huge difference), plus more for sprinkling and rolling out dough
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp active (or fast-rising) dry yeast
2 Tbs good olive oil
1 cup warm water (105 - 110 degrees)

8 8-inch squares of aluminum foil for baking pitas

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the oil and water. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoons for three minutes, then stir in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be a rough, shaggy mass that will clean the sides of the bowl. If the dough is moist, add a small amount of additional flour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll into balls, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a damp tea towel. Let rest for 40 minutes. (If the dough isn't rising after 20 minutes or so, it's a good idea to place them in an oven that's been preheated to about 200 degrees and then turned off).

Use the palm of your hand to flatten each ball into a disk. Finish with a rolling pin, rolling them into disks about 6 inches in diameter. Use as few strokes as possible -- over-rolling seems to keep the pita from puffing.

Place each round on a square of foil, and carefully place them directly on the oven rack. Do not roll out pitas until you're ready to slip them into the oven -- they'll harden as they sit out. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they are puffed, golden brown, and smell delicious.


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