Pita bread

Our new place is right around the corner from a small grocery/liquor store that sells some of the best pita I’ve ever had. When I was planning a big Middle Eastern dinner for family, I just counted on picking up a few packages of bread, knowing I’d be pretty busy with grape leaves, spinach pie, hummus, tabouli, baba ghannouj, and dessert (which ended up being chocolate cupcakes – doesn’t really fit, but is there ever an occasion for which chocolate cupcakes are not a permissable dessert? NO!)

Of course, the night before my all-day cooking marathon, the store was out of pita, and since the owners have to drive all the way down to LA whenever they need to restock, he said it would be a few days until they got any in. So I ended up making pita myself, and I’m glad I did! Because although this might not be quite as good as the stuff they sell, I love that it’s partially whole wheat, and I get a little giddy when I see the loaves puff up beautifully on the racks of my oven. Really, the whole situation was win-win.

I don’t remember where I read about just putting the dough directly onto the oven racks, but it really does work (and you don’t have to grease the racks or anything!) If you have a pizza stone, it would probably be better to use that, but if not, don’t worry. Yes, the breads will have some little lines on them, but I think it adds character. Also, I love that this recipe can be done start to finish in around 2 hours. As yeast breads go, that’s not a long wait at all for hot, fresh bread!

Recipe:
(adapted from The Fresh Loaf)

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (about 90 F)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a rubber spatula. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour, salt, remaining water and olive oil and stir with a wooden spoon. When the mixture comes together and is too thick to stir, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (If the dough seems sticky, add a little flour, and if it seems too dry, add a little water – trust yourself and go by feel).
Grease a large bowl with olive oil and shape the dough into a ball. Put the ball of dough in the bowl and turn a few times to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and set aside to rise for about 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
After the dough has risen, fold it over on itself a few times, then cut into 8 equally sized pieces. Let them rest under a damp towel for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (with the baking stone inside, if you have one).
One or two at a time, roll the pieces out to about 1/8″ thickness, using a rolling pin, then put them directly on the pizza stone or oven rack. Bake for 2-4 minutes, until they puff up nicely. (When I put them on the oven rack, I usually bake them for about 2 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another minute or two.)

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