Living in Metro Detroit we are never too far away from fresh baked pita perfection, either directly from a bakery or at the grocery store. However making our own seemed like the Martha thing to do…
Bread baking is something that I have always found intimidating. I know those whom are seasoned in the craft tout how easy and simple it is, but the seemingly mystical properties of yeast, fear of over kneading the dough, and the time commitment have held me back. In what seems like ages ago, I did try making pita, though only a few of my loaves came out of the oven with somewhat of the characteristic pocket, the loaves were still had a light and tender consistency. Even though making my own bread did give me a sense of accomplishment, the time and effort did not seem to justify the end result, so I have not attempted it since, until now. Kristin and I were not quite sure what to expect in our pita making adventure, but armed with Martha’s recipe, we forged ahead…In Martha We Trust.
As we went through the bread making process, all seemed to be going according to plan. However when the moment of truth arrived, baking the bread that is, it was clear we fell short of our goal. The bread failed to significantly puff up and took much longer than the total of 3 minutes specified in the recipe to turn golden in spots. We continued with the rest of the loaves, hoping we maybe, just maybe could get a few to turn out. Alas, we had a Martha Fail on our hands. Five hours of our day gone, all for naught.
I wouldn’t characterize our results as leaden; however, the bread was very dense and chewing it did give our jaws a workout. When dropped on the table from a height of approximately a foot, it landed with a clear thud. Luckily we were able to pick up some proper pita at New Yasmeen Bakery (along with some amazing baklava). Our husbands tried to ease our disappointment with proposing other ways to serve the bread, but their solutions seemed half baked (pardon the pun). Kirsten’s husband Carl noted that the bread seemed to have an never ending capacity to absorb moisture, but still remain dry.
In a post mortem analysis of our “pita” it became clear we were doomed from the start…
I inquired to Google “why is my bread so dense?” and the answer resoundingly was too much flour. After examining other pita bread recipes, it became clear that for the amount of flour and yeast that was used we should have either made loaves with a greater diameter (8 to 10 inches) or make quite a few more 6 inch loaves. Now that we know the error of our ways, we are considering a do over on the pita bread and welcome any recipe recommendations or technique tips. However, we are not sure as to when we will give it another try. Aside from our pita problems, the rest of the dinner was a delectable success and we’ll be sharing pictures and recipes with you soon.
Pita Bread recipe
via Martha Sterwart
Prep: 1 hour 30 min Total Time: 3 hours Yield: makes 16
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
Fine cornmeal, for sprinkling
Making the dough
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour, yeast, honey, and 1 cup warm water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, oil, and remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead, dusting hands and work surface with more flour as needed, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Form and bake the dough
Punch down dough and form into a ball, then turn out onto lightly floured surface.
Quarter dough. Working with one piece at a time (drape a kitchen towel over the rest), divide each into 4 smaller pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and pinch, tightening ball. Turn pinched-side down and flatten with your palm.
Flatten each ball into a 6-inch round with a lightly floured rolling pin.
Transfer rounds to rimmed baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal; drape with kitchen towels. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500 degrees with a rimmed baking sheet (flipped upside down) on rack in lowest position. Place 4 dough rounds on preheated sheet. Bake until puffed, about 2 minutes. Flip and bake until golden in spots and just cooked through, 1 minute more. Transfer to a basket lined with a kitchen towel; cover to steam and keep warm. Bake remaining pitas.