Friday, July 16, 2010

Things owed

I suppose I owe you pita.

I’ve never owed anyone pita before. Money, sure. Favors, yes. But never pita. I’ll have to say, it’s not the worst kind of debt to have over your head. In fact, it’s actually quite nice. I’ve been running around lately, thinking every now and then about how I need to get on here and tell you about pita, and I’ve never once felt like hiding my checkbook, feigning forgetfulness, or say, screening your calls.

Pita is in the category of things that sound more impressive than they are difficult, like homemade pasta or figure eight knots or big pot blanching. Which, lucky for us, is the perfect combination in food. The oven does most of the work, combining the high heat and the moisture to make the steam that puffs up the pita.

I am human, though, and realize that pita is most common when it comes store-bought and plastic-wrapped. Also that, so long as you’re with me out on the east coast, heat waves and five hundred degree ovens don't make the best companions. I still think you should try this, at least once. (I’ve always been stubborn.) It’s really not so hard, and you’ll have pita to eat for weeks. Plus, you can add it to your list of things accomplished. For now, I can cross it off mine of things owed.

Whole Wheat Pita

(Adapted from
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy. While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms. (I used a stand mixer for this step.)

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to 1 of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Roll out the rest of the dough in the same manner. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more. Cool pitas on a cooling rack. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner.

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