Monday, July 30, 2012

Fresh and Fluffy Pita Bread

This recipe came from merging the pita recipes from and a Pastry Chef textbook.  It's a pretty complicated recipe, but don't be fooled - most of the recipes on this blog will NOT be this complex.


2 1/4 tsp yeast, rapid rise or regular (1 package)
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading (mine was pretty damn sticky)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 cup warm water (more if needed)
1/3 cup olive oil


Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add sugar (or honey) and stir until dissolved.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is frothy.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the yeast water into the hole.  
Add 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of warm water (more if needed) and mix with a rubber spatula until it is an elastic dough.

Knead the dough on a well-floured surface by hand, or use the dough hook in a standing mixture.  Knead for 10-15 minutes.  It should theoretically not be sticky, but smooth and elastic, when it is done.  My dough was still sticky at the end, but I decided to move on anyway.  I also added a lot of flour when I was kneading. 

Make the dough into a ball.  Coat the ball with some olive oil and place in a large bowl.
Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 3 hours (until it has doubled in size)
I have a gas oven, so I just stuck the bowl in the oven when it was turned off - it's always warm in there.

Divide the dough into several balls, approximately 4 oz. each.  I made 12. 
Place the balls on a floured surface.  Let them sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

Place oven rack on the lowest tier and Preheat oven to 475 deg F.  
Put a baking stone (preferred) or baking sheet on the oven rack to heat up to the temperature of the oven.
In the textbook for professional chefs, the instructions said to place the dough directly on the hearth of the oven (the center, bottom, with no rack) but my oven is not that clean, so that's not happening.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) in circles.  Add flour if still sticking.  Each circle should be 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.

Put four of the dough circles in the oven at a time.  I used a floured pizza peel to transfer the dough circles to the stone in the oven, and I could do all four at once. (It helped me imagine I was a real baker in Lebanon with a brick oven). A large spatula would have been my next choice.

Bake for 4-5 minutes.  The bread should puff up halfway through cooking.
Try not to open the oven much - it needs to be super hot in there.
Some recipes say to flip the dough over after 3-4 minutes of cooking.  I did not flip them, so the bottom was a little crunchy, but the top was soft and fluffy.

Be careful you don't overcook them!  They might not look burned, but they get hard.  My first 4 turned out very hard.

Remove each pita with a spatula and transfer the next four dough circles to the oven for baking.

Gently push down the puff with a spatula.  Place in a basket or bowl, wrapped with a towel to keep it warm for immediate serving.  Or store in a plastic bag.

(Okay, so I promised better pictures and did not really deliver.  More to come when I make wheat pita bread tomorrow!)

Warning: the bread is fluffy and warm and smells good.  But be careful - it's still hot!  Matt and I burnt our poor wittle fingers trying to tear at the 475-degree bread.

Eat with hummus, laban, kalamata olives, cheese, herbs, or peanut butter and jelly.

Can be stored for up to a week in a pantry or bread box.  Or in the freezer indefinitely.
Use freezer bags when storing in the freezer, so they don't dry out.

You're done!  Good job!  Your kitchen is probably covered in flour like mine was/is, so you get to feel like a real baker!
Yes, this recipe takes forever.  Next time, I am planning to make a huge batch (like 5 times the amount) and freezing the majority of it.  Though it's hard not to eat every single fluffy piece.

My mom will be sending me a recipe that uses mostly whole wheat flour, so I'll be trying that out tomorrow and posting pics, giving the recipe, the whole shebang!

Tofu Smoothies and Why am I doing this to myself.

If you like berries and chocolate together - you'll probably love this breakfast.  It's super easy, cheap, and healthy.  Plus, it makes more than two servings, and keeps well in the fridge, so you have a snack, or tomorrow's breakfast, ready to go.

I know the tofu thing sounds crazy, but the other ingredients cover up any tofu taste (not like there's much taste to cover up anyway), and the tofu gives it a creamy consistency.  Plus tofu is super healthy - lots of protein to start your day right.

This recipe is gluten free and vegan.

1 16-oz package of soft tofu - including the water in it (this costs about a dollar at the Asian market)
1 bag frozen strawberries (I used a small bag from the dollar store, plus some extra frozen blueberries we had in the freezer)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Honey to taste

You might need more liquid.  I only had firm tofu, so I had to add about half a can of coconut milk.  But you can use whatever milk you have on hand.  Modify it to suit your own needs and desires!

In the past, I made a chocolate peanut butter one with:

1 package tofu
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
sugar to taste (now I would recommend honey)

Matt said it was the best protein shake he had ever had.

I made the strawberry chocolate smoothie a couple days ago before I thought to blog, so here's the empty blender (notice, the smoothie is a purple color).  Next recipe, I promise to photograph the process for you all.

Now the segment about why I'm doing this blog.  Last year was crazy enough - why complicate matters?  Well, just because I'm in school, doesn't mean I'm going to stop cooking, by any means.  But blogging might help keep me in check because I will try to blog every time I cook (so that will definitely cut down on the cooking happenings).
Also, cooking helps me keep my sanity, and I love sharing my ideas, so voila.  Here we are.

And this may seem crazy, but I see similarities between the practice of law and my style of cooking.  In the law, you have your statutes, cases, procedure, and client.  You use the ingredients you have to provide the client with the best legal services possible.  In cooking, for me, there are always restrictions - either I don't have the ingredients, or I'm trying to operate within a theme (like Caribbean), or I'm taking a break from certain foods (like grains).  Gotta get creative with what I have to make something delicious.