Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Pity The Pita

Pity me instead……

Yeah, fine, that was a cheap joke…..sorta….

Friends....it's been a day.  Yeppers, a day.  And then some.  And yet, I had this TASK I needed to get done.

OK, as always, full disclosure.  I had intended to write this article yesterday, (and actually the day before), and to make it much more *meaty*.  I had made a rather excellent , and well received, Greek/Middle-Eastern feast for my friends and wanted to share the results.

Right.  Truly, I had started thinking about writing it on Sunday, but see…..Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are *most* excellent TV days in satellite/cable land.  See...on Sunday you have “Food Network Star” (oh the shame) and then “Big Brother” (more shame) and then “True Blood” (no shame THERE, that show is HOT) and then Dr. Drew (scrapin’ the bottom here….).  So that’s Sunday.  Then, well MONDAY has “Design Star” really, really early on the Left Coast (like dinner time…oy), and then “Hell’s Kitchen” (head starts hanging again) and then “Master Chef” (even more so….), and I’m still peeved that at least on DirecTV, without a DVR, Bourdain’s “No Reservations” is on when I can’t see it fresh because of the other stuff I’m guiltily addicted to….

And then there’s Tuesday; more “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Master Chef” and maybe some “Chopped” (about the only thing I watch on Food Network any longer, well except for “Next Food Network Star”) and I try to squeeze in some Dodgers somewhere, even though like all True Blue Dodger Fans, I’m actively boycotting them until McCrook is gone, but I digress as usual….

PHEW.  I wore me out with that.  In a nutshell, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, at least during the summer, ain’t gunna get my attention to Le Blog in the evenings.  Let’s just say, I get distracted real easily…And you now know all my dirty little secrets.  At least TV-wise...

So.  I got up today, Wednesday, fully intending to post the entire Greek/Middle Eastern meze feast that happened a week or so ago.  Because, truthfully, it’s been a dry spell in the little kitchen since then.  Inspiration has taken the last train out of Dodge.  I think I’m feeling the call of heavy Autumn/Winter comfort food; stews and chilies and braises and baked pastas, oh my.  And even though we in SoCal have been blessed, blessed I tells ya, with a remarkably mild summer, boeuf bourguignon just doesn’t seem right in August.  Not with all the fresh Summer produce in the market and the CSA.  But they ain’t been coming together in a nice, unified, coherent way for me.  Oh, I'm lovin' grazing on the stone fruit and the melon slices wrapped with prosciutto and the tomatoes (I have mentioned tomatoes, haven't I?) and the summer squash.  But a coherent, well-thought out meal ?  Or even a stellar main course....not happening so much.  Lot's of grazing going on does not lend itself to dazzling, brilliant blog articles.  Oh, there was a tomato pie from the current (August) issue of "Bon Appétit" I thought was going to be the bomb.  Instead…….it just……bombed.  So, speaking of scraping the bottom of the barrel, I’m rapidly running out of things to talk about.

But I had this meal to pull out of my bag ‘o’ tricks to tell you about, because I was (and am) really proud of it, and I was gunna tell you about it.  Today.  For sure, today.  It was on the agenda.  The “To-Do” List.   Until……..until……the adorable, cosseted, beloved, angel-baby, lights of my life, preshy-weshy little fur bombs decided to become POSSESSED UNGRATEFUL HELL DOGS today.

Suffice it to say, they found the last nerve I had going, and they both decided to twang it like a bad Metal anthem.

And I was gunna blow this  whole thing off, until….until……

I remembered how much I really hate going to blogs that *I’ve* gotten hooked on, and being so piqued when they didn’t update more than once every week or two.  And how I VOWED (insert Scaaaahlet-O’Hara voice here) *as Gawd is mah witness, I’ll update my blog regularly*, when I started this venture.

So, here, rather than the entire meze-ztravaganz-o, is, at least, the homemade pita breads.  Watch this space, as they say, for the rest of the meal.  It includes homemade falafels.  It’s pretty impressive.  I’m just not up to writing it tonight….

Not after BOTH Ungrateful Hell Dogs escaped through the wormhole in the rear fence that allows them free (and unfettered) frolicking access to the neighbor’s (thankfully fenced) yard.  Which happened in the batting of an eyelid while I was filling a watering can to take care of my faithful tomato plant (*mental note* consider trading in the Ungrateful Hell Dogs for more tomato plants….).  Not after Ms. Princess Rosie Ungrateful Hell Dog dumped the kitchen trash not once but twice in search only of, apparently, really slimed, sadly decomposed mint sprigs from the CSA which hadn’t made it into delightful adult beverages, but should have.  Not after BOTH Ungrateful Hell Dogs decided that barking at the breeze blowing, and the leaves skritching and just the idea that someone could be possibly thinking about walking down their street, sometime in the future was a good idea and that just the concept of that was enough to have them hanging from the valances and tearing apart the sofas.  OK, I exaggerate on the last part, but just a bit.

A long time ago, I realized that *sternly talking to them* or *removing them from the stimulus* was about as useless as me standing on my head and shooting fireworks out my ears.

So, somewhere, I’d read that a squirt of water, from a water pistol or a spray bottle, was a really good deterrent, and a negative reinforcer.  I figured it would especially be good for Lulu, who hates being wet.  Yeah, not so much.  At this point, I’ve got two very wet dogs, both of which have been locked into the spare bedroom with no contact with the Mazziedog and no “goodstuff” for dinner.  They got crunchies.  No wet food, no veggies (and there were some to be shared, and they knew it), no contact, nuthin’.  They’re on lock-down, with the equivalent of bread and water.

And yet, I still need to get an article up.  So…..let’s forget about the Ungrateful Hell Dogs for the moment (Yeah, I’ll probably forgive them when we go to bed….so……don’t mommies always forgive their kidz?) and get onto pita bread.  Which is NOT a *PITA* if you get my drift…….

(And hey, let’s give me an award for the longest digression YET in this blog from food and baking related topics !  YAY me !)

Here’s the required ingredients:

That’s bread flour, yeast, honey (a really, really nice local sage blossom honey I got through The Growing Experience), salt, olive oil and obviously water, which isn’t in the picture because I didn’t want it to cool off.

Put the honey, oil and warm water (a little warmer than room temp, only, let’s say 90°F) into a measuring cup and let the water dissolve the honey and combine with the oil.

Put the flour, yeast and salt into the bowl of your KA.  Some sources I’ve read say that salt will inhibit the action of the yeast.  I don’t know if this is scientifically proven, nor do I have actual experience.  So, to play it safe, when I combine all the dry ingredients like this, I try to keep the salt separate from the yeast until I power up the mixer.

You should also note that the recipe I based these pitas on was written to make the dough in a food processor.  I needed The Cuiz for other things that day, so I chose to make the dough in the KA.  I’ve made it in The Cuiz before, and I didn’t notice a difference.  Choose whichever method floats your particular dinghy.  After today, I ain’t gunna argue or judge…    ;-)

Combine the flour/yeast/salt in whatever mega-powered, bad-assed electrical appliance you choose.  Let it go for a couple of seconds (using the dough hook on the KA, and the metal blade on The Cuiz).

With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil/water/honey mix, and let it go until it becomes a dough.  Frankly, with The Cuiz that happens a lot faster.  A LOT.  But, as I said, I needed Mr. The Cuiz for other chores that day, so the KA was it for me.  And, I had to adjust the water.  It’s been very dry here this summer (as it usually is) and my flour must be thoroughly dehydrated.  I needed a  couple of tablespoons more warm water until I got this:

With The Cuiz, you’ll get that in less than a minute.  If you need to add water with The Cuiz, do so in tablespoons-full and pulse for 5-10 seconds after each addition.  In the KA it took me about 8 minutes to get to dough-dom.  You want the dough to be barely sticky and pretty easy to handle.

Time to rise.  You should know the drill by now.  Oil a large bowl or a doubler, form the dough into a round, turn to oil all the sides, and cover.  Let it go for a couple of hours or until it’s doubled.

Yeah.  Love those yeastie-bugs.  They’re so obedient.  Not like Ungrateful Hell Dogs…..(sorry….still peeved at them….)

Using your scale (yes, no pics of Mr. Weighing Device, but he did get used…..), divide the dough into 6 to 12 pieces, depending upon how large you want your pita to be.

I did eight.  I wanted not huge, but not puny.  They turned out to be a good size for the meze-feast.

Keep all the ‘lil’ dough blobs under a towel until you’re ready to work with them, and roll them lightly in flour if you need to.  I didn’t.  I found the dough pretty easy to work with, and pretty forgiving.  Not sticky and not needing much (if any) extra flour.

And….here’s when the wheels fell of the picture-taking excursion.  I dunno what happened.  I guess I figured you’d all seen me shape stuff a bazillion times before, or my hands were gloppy, or somethin’, so we’re just gunna have to rely on those wonderful word pictures I paint (yeah….anyone still there????  Hmmmmmmm, didn’t think so…..).  For those of you hanging in, let’s carry on, shall we?

While the dough is doubling (since it’s only going to rise once) get your oven pre-heating hard to 500°F.  When I say to “preheat hard”, I mean let it go through a couple or three on/off cycles.  One cycle just doesn’t get it hot enough, and as soon as you open the door, the temperature will plummet monumentally.  Let it go at least an hour before you want to bake.

If you have a baking stone, preheat it as well for the full time.  If you don’t you can use a metal sheet pan, placed upside down on each oven rack, so you’re using the back.  Preheat them the full time as well.  I only have about a 12-inch diameter stone, so I end up cooking one pita at a time.  No big deal, since they bake sooooooooooo very fast.

When the oven and stone/pan are screamin’ hot, start to shape the pitas.  Take each little dough blob, and using our favorite technique of cupping your hands and circling, form each into a ball.  Then, take a rolling pin, and roll each ball out into a 6- to 8-inch circle.  The more dough balls you have, the smaller the circle.  Again, to roll a neat round, roll in one direction (let’s say top to bottom), then turn the dough 1/4-turn, roll from top to bottom again, and repeat until the dough is the size you want.  Use your ruler !

Use a little flour as you need it to keep the dough from sticking to the board, and lightly flour each round as you’re about to toss it in the oven.  That will give the pitas their characteristic finish.  You can form them all in advance, but don’t stack them.

Place a round(s) on the stone(s) or pan(s) (as many as will fit without crowding).  Start with the ones you rolled out first.  In 2 to 3 minutes, the dough will start to puff up.  Gently (using tongs), flip them over for a minute or two more.  All of them may not pooooof up, and they may not pooooooof totally around.  Just like tortillas, don’t sweat it, the breads will still be fine.  Instead of splitting them for your sandwiches, you can just use them as a flatbread.

Et voila…(er, sumthin….) we have pitas.

Like everything else I throw out here for all y’all, sooooooooo very much better than store-bought, and not really all that much trouble.

Here’s the proportions for the ingredients.

Pita Bread
Makes 6-12 pitas
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman “How To Cook Everything

3&1/2 cups (about 1 pound) bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1&1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to grease doubler
1 cup warm (90°F) water (plus drizzles more as needed)
1 tablespoon honey

Combine flour, salt and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or food processor.  For processor, pulse for about 5 seconds, for mixer spin a couple of revolutions.  Combine water, 1 tablespoon oil and honey in cup, and with machine running, drizzle in and let dough form.  For processor, that will take about 30 seconds, for stand mixer about 2-3 minutes.  Adjust with drizzles of warm water or sprinkles of additional flour as needed.  For stand mixer, knead formed dough for about 5 minutes or until the dough is barely sticky, pliable and well-defined.   Oil a large bowl or doubler, and place dough round in it.  Cover and let rise for about 2 hours, then deflate and form as described above.  Bake in a well-preheated 500°F oven on a stone or the back of a baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, on the first side, and another minute or two on the second.  Wrap in a clean towel to keep soft, and serve with falafels, gyros, koftas or souvlaki.  Nuttin’ better.

Well, honestly, well behaved *and* grateful Ungrateful Hell Dogs would be better, but that’s askin’ a whole lot….

(Yeah ok, they’ll be under the duvet with me in about an hour.  So…………)

Come back soon for the rest of the meal, homemade falafel (from scratch !  YAY !  I *can* cook ...), tahini sauce, tzatziki and Greek salad.  It was yummy.  It was involved.  It was....way more than I can deal with explaining right now !

If it's bread (or made with yeast), the cool place to be is Yeastspotting !

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