This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005.|
Pita bread INGREDIENTS: (Makes four small pitas, enough to serve two)
3/4 cup (6 oz, 180ml) water
1. Using water that's warm to the touch (120F, if you're precise enough to measure it, although the touch test works for me), put the water and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir to dissolve. Stir in the yeast with a fork, and set aside for 5 minutes or so.
2. Mix the flour and salt. Stir it into the water and yeast mixture, about half at first, then adding the rest a little at a time, stirring until it forms a rough ball. Don't be surprised if you don't need all the flour, or if you need a little extra. It's unpredictable, depending on the flour and perhaps the weather.
3. Put the dough on a bread board or clean counter top and knead it for 5 minutes or so, adding a little more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking. When it's smooth and dry, pat it with a little olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave it to rest and rise somewhat for 30 minutes. Unlike many breads, it need not double in size, but it will expand a bit as the yeast works.
4. Preheat oven to very hot, 500 to 550F (260 to 290C). Cut the dough into four equal parts and form each into a ball. One at a time, roll them out quite thin, no more than 1/4-inch (0.65cm) thick. They're attractive if you keep them circular, but they'll taste the same even if you're not finicky about it. Let them rest under a cloth towel for 15 minutes or so, then gently turn them over and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet or baking pan. Bake them for 5 to 7 minutes, just until they puff and become lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature. They come out of the oven crisp, but reportedly soften as they cool. We didn't give them time enough to prove it.
TECHNIQUE NOTES: This recipe vividly demonstrated that our oven, like most home ovens, heats anything but evenly. The pita in the front corner was much darker than the rest; if I had turned the baking sheet around midway through the process, they might have browned more evenly. The oven may also have been implicated in the fact that two of the pitas puffed up well - one became almost a spherical balloon - but the others expanded less enthusiastically or evenly. They split nicely for stuffing, though, as pitas should, and the only real ugly duckling was one that I rolled a little too thin. Take your time and be patient about rolling them out, and don't over-work the dough. Even thickness seems to pay off in handsome pitas. But, as noted, even the esthetic failures still tasted good.