I love bread. I love the smell of fresh bread, and few things get me more excited than catching a whiff of freshly baked bread from a bakery as I walk down the street. My very first apartment in school was located across the street from a wonderful French bakery – completely unintentional on my part, and as it turned out, very dangerous, and every Saturday morning I would be woken up by the smell of fresh loaves coming out of the oven…the only downside was that I could never sleep in late, because the smell would wake me up no later than 8AM. And of course I bought countless loaves.
As a result of my love for bread, I also happen to be very picky about my bread. It has to be good bread, and it has to be fresh. I’ve started experimenting with making bread myself, although I am by no means a confident baker. Here is my attempt of making pita bread to go with a Moroccan style braised chicken:
(adapted from Christine Benlafquih)
4 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon yeast
2 cups water
1. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1/4 cup of warm (about body temperature) water and mix to dissolve. Add yeast and let stand for about 10 minutes until puffy.
2. Blend the flours, salt, and the rest of the sugar in a large bowl 0r the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, if using either to do your kneading for you. Add the yeast mixture and the oil. Add the rest of the water and mix. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
3. Cut the dough into small balls and let rest on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel to avoid the dough drying out.
(Here is where my fledgling baking skills failed me – I was distracted when I read the recipe instructions and left the balls rise for an hour and a half while I walked away. I then rolled them out and cooked them. They still turned out into great tasting pita, but the pocket was not as defined as I would have liked. Letting the dough rise after you roll it out is important.)
Here is what they looked like after an hour and a half:
4. Roll out the dough into approximately 8 inch discs and let rise under the towel for about 1 hour – 1 1/2 hours.
5. Heat a cast iron skillet on a medium flame, and lightly oil the surface. Cook the pita for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.