Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Operation Bread Experimentation: Artisan Pita

I was reading Cat J B's blog the other day, and she was raving about this little something called artisan bread. Did you know that you can make ultra delicious, ultra simple bread with minimal ingredients and minimal time? ArtisanBreadinFive.com shows you how you can make so many different types of yummy bread- with just four, cheap ingredients- flour, salt, yeast, and water.

I'll show you how I made delicious pocket pitas for our family's dinner.

First, you take 3 cups of warm water and put them in a large bowl. To make warm water, I use one cup of boiling water and two cups of cold tap water. This ensures that the water is warm enough for the yeast to grow, but cool enough that the yeast doesn't die.
Add 1.5 tablespoons of yeast and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Mix well.
Add 6.5 cups of white flour to the mix. (Yes, I said white flour. There's a way to make this with whole wheat flour, but I haven't tried that yet as I'm running low on whole wheat flour.)
Mix very well so you have no clumps of flour. The dough will remain sticky. Resist the temptation to add more flour. You want it sticky.
Let the dough rise on the counter for 2 hours. I usually stick the whole bowl in a plastic shopping bag to trap in the warmth (after having a bad experience of getting dough stuck on to a towel when I tried letting it rise using that method).

Once the dough as risen, sprinkle the dough with some flour so you don't get the dough stuck to your hand while you pull out a chunk. Grab a fistful of dough, cut off the dangling pieces with kitchen shears (any clean scissors will do, really), dust the dough lightly with flour, and shape it into a ball by stretching the smooth parts around and under the bottom. (See this video for a better explanation- the technique of forming the ball is at approximately 3:25)

Now heat your oven to 500 degrees. The original recipe calls for using a pizza stone, but I used an unlined metal cookie sheet instead. Let the cookie sheet heat up in the oven while it is preheating.

Flour your dough ball lightly and roll it out to a half inch thickness. Once your oven heats up, you can make this pita immediately and store the rest of the dough in the fridge for up to a week. However, as you're heating the oven up really hot, it is most cost efficient (and heat efficient, if you're living in a warm place like I do) to make a whole bunch of pitas and cook them one after the other and then store them in the freezer until you use them.

So, either put the rest of the dough  away, or make balls and roll out the rest of the dough, whichever you prefer. (The pita doesn't need to rise a second time.)

Very carefully, remove the cookie tray from the oven and drop one or two pita rounds onto the cookie tray. You want these pitas to be flat on the tray so you have a decent looking pita with working pockets.
Slide the tray back into the oven and close the door.

It'll take a few minutes for these pitas to be ready. They'll start puffing up almost immediately, and as soon as they start changing color, you can take them out. (I like mine totally off white with just a few darker spots on the bottom.)
Very carefully, remove the tray and slide the pitas onto a kitchen towel, and add more pita dough to the tray and repeat the process.
As soon as the tray is back in the oven, wrap the pita with the towel. This helps the pita retain moisture and not get stale.

(The uppermost pita got folded while I was cooking it- I didn't put it down completely flat. The pitas usually are flatter and without the crease, like the ones underneath.)

When cool, you can freeze the pitas as is, or you can cut them along the side and pull them apart to form pockets to stuff. Alternatively, you can dip them in homemade yogurt cheese and sprinkle with hyssop.

Method nameArtisan Pita
Why do it? It came highly recommended. Its easy.
Method: See above

Immediate Result: Absolutely superb! Reminded me of going to the open air market and buying pita breads from the vendors, so delicious that they are gobbled up plain.
Result a Few Hours Later: Just as good. I don't know why I ever bought store bought pita when homemade is so easy and tastier than the bought stuff.
Work Required: 5 minutes of mixing, 5 minutes of watching the oven closely so it won't burn. A drop timely because I could only fit 2 pitas in the oven at one time, so I needed to do a few batches.
Extra Cost, Specialty Ingredients: Cheap, cheap, cheap ingredients. The cost to heat the oven to 500 degrees probably makes up for the cheapness of the ingredients though. I suggest making them all at once so this costs less.
Worth repeating? Definitely!
Worth the time? Absolutely!

This is part of my "Operation Bread Experiment" series. Other posts in this series:
Seitan Based Bread
Make it Fluffy
Crock Pot Bread

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for my giveaway! Who doesn't want a free book to help become more frugal?

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