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LOCATION: Recipes >> Middle Eastern >> Pita 04

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Pita Breads
Makes about 16 pitas.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups tepid water ( 80 deg. F to 90 deg. F )
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir the yeast and water together in a large bowl. Using a wooden
spoon and stirring in one direction, stir in the whole wheat flour
about a cup at a time; then stir 100 times, or until the mixture
looks smooth and silky. Let the sponge rest, covered with plastic
wrap for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours in a cool place.

Sprinkle salt over the sponge and then stir in the olive oil, mixing
well, again stirring in the same direction. Add the all-purpose
flour about a cup at a time, mixing until the dough is too stiff
to stir with the spoon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured
work surface and knead it mixing until it is smooth and elastic,
8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be moderately firm and have a
slight sheen.

Clean the mixing bowl, dry it, and coat it lightly with oil.
Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn the dough around to oil its
surface, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise
at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until it doubles in bulk.

If you want, you can make the dough ahead at this point and keep
it refrigerated for up to a week. Pack the dough into a plastic
bag that is at least three times as big as the dough; seal the bag
at the very end, to leave as much room as possible for expansion.
When you're ready to bake, cut off as much dough as you need,
transfer it to a bowl, cover, and bring it to room temperature
before proceeding with the recipe. Don't be concerned if the aroma
of the bread changes as it remains in the refrigerator. This aroma,
reminiscent of sourdough, is the result of the dough's natural
fermentation.

If you have quarry tiles or baking stones, use them to line the
bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch border free around the
tiles so that the heat can circulate properly. You can simulate
the quality of a tiled oven by lining the rack with two small baking
sheets, leaving a similar border. Preheat the oven to 450 deg. F.

Deflate the dough by kneading it briefly. Divide it in half and
keep one half under plastic or a cloth while you work with the
other. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and, with lightly floured
cupped hands, form the pieces into tight balls; keep the balls
under plastic as you work on the others. On a well-floured surface,
flatten the balls of dough with your fingertips and then, using a
rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a circle 8 to 9 inches
in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Cover but do not stack
the rolled-out breads.

Place as many of the rolled-out breads as will fit onto the preheated
tiles or baking sheets--you'll probably be able to make 4 to 6
breads at a time-and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the breads
resemble well-blown-up balloons. Don't worry if you get seams or
dry spots or less-than-full balloons ( your tiles may not have been
hot enough ); the breads will still taste good. As the breads come
from the oven, wrap them together in a large kitchen towel. Finish
baking this batch of bread, roll out the remaining dough, and
continue baking.

To bake the breads on the stove top, preheat a 9-inch griddle or
cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and lightly oil the griddle.
Bake one rolled-out circle at a time on the griddle, putting the
pita top-side down on the griddle and cooking for 15 to 20 seconds
before turning the bread over gently. Cook for another minute, or
until big bubbles appear. Turn the bread again and cook until it
balloons fully. Pressing a towel on those areas where bubbles have
formed will push air into the flat areas. The breads should bake
for no more than 3 minutes. Oil the griddle after every 4 or 5
breads.

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