Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pita Perfection

So a casual question from a friend had me wondering why I hadn't baked the pita breads in my previous post on 'pita au chocolat'. I love baking bread and I am a huge fan of pita so why have I only tried to bake them once in my life and then allowed my failure to put me off for over 20 years. So another attempt was well overdue and I am delighted to report this batch put an end to my pita baking anxieties.

The recipe, available online, came from Dan Lepard, and truly lives up to its title Perfect Plain Pita , published in the Guardian way back in 2007. The recipe is also included in his excellent baking book Short and Sweet.

This dough is quite soft, well frankly quite sticky, and I found myself slowly kneading in a little extra flour.  I know the current mantra in 'real bread' is that wet is better and I'm not in disagreement, but there comes a point when the 'better' dough is the one you can actually cope with and if that means a little extra flour well so be it. Better to enjoy the process and trade off a not so perfect texture than to be bossed around in your own kitchen by an amorphous mass of flour and water.

So my dough ball was no doubt a little firmer than it should be but it was still quite 'flowing' until I had gone through the stages of kneading lightly every 10 minutes for three times and then the 30 minute rest.  So here it is at the end of that stage.

The dough is then portioned up into 100g pieces and a plastic dough cutter is really useful here.

The dough is still pretty sticky and although I have a more than  a 'light dusting' of flour on the counter top I do try to not work the flour into the dough. The dough balls are rested under a cloth for 15 minutes and during this time the oven should be on preheating. Place a good thick baking tray in there as well so the dough goes onto a really hot surface straight away. My oven has a circotherm intense setting that heats to 270C which I use for these as like with pizza you are aiming at a short intense bake.

The rested dough portions are then rolled out into the traditional ovals and rested for a couple more minutes each before baking. I had them on a flat tray for this rest so that they can be slipped straight off this tray onto the hot tray in the oven as quickly as possible rather like using a pizza peel. 

Then the magic starts as the breads balloon up in the oven into magnificent puffs and within 5 minutes you have piping hot and beautifully tender pita.

The baked pita are placed on a rack and covered with a cloth to keep them soft and tender. Check the oven is back up to temperature before you pop in the next batch and pretty soon you will be looking at a beautiful batch of tender pita that I hope you will be very proud of. I may never buy pita bread again!

No comments:

Post a Comment