Have you ever loved an obscure band and then run into a total stranger that loves them, too? And you’re like “No way! I didn’t know anyone from insert random distant point on the map had ever heard of them!” And then you’re friends for life?
A local greek restaurant has been my “obscure band obsession” for the past few years. It was the beginning (but not the foundation) of one of my most meaningful friendships. Although she had been my chiropractor for awhile, Dr. Cindy and I really bonded when she asked me to lunch at my favorite restaurant. She was pregnant and I was nursing Katie. We nibbled on completely consumed pita bread with hummus, savored the souvlaki lamb (um, yes we both ordered the same dish) and talked.
Greek food is good for the soul.
Greek food is also easy to make at home! Homemade versions are healthier and cheaper, too. Big selling point in the Dessinger household.
This recipe for soaked pita bread was adapted from a recipe I found at The Fresh Loaf. If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of soaking grains, here’s a quote from Sally Fallon’s VERY helpful cookbook, Nourishing Traditions:
All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss . . . Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. (p. 452)
For a more in-depth explanation I highly recommend this post from The Nourishing Gourmet.
No more explanations . . . here’s the recipe!
The night before you want to serve this light, airy bread, mix the following together:
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp sugar or raw organic honey
- 1 1/4 cups water (roughly room temperature)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, butter, or coconut oil
- 2 tbsp whey, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar
- The night before you want to serve this light, airy bread, mix the above ingredients together.
- Leave covered on the counter for 12-24 hours.
- After the flour has soaked add: 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 packet of yeast (2 tsp).
- Follow the instructions as given on the The Fresh Loaf (see below).
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner
All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water (I had to add an extra 1/4 cup).
Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (or until your hands get tired). If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.
(The purpose of kneading is to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to break down the flour so that the dough will become stretchy and elastic and rise well in the oven. A simple hand kneading technique is to firmly press down on the dough with the palm of your hand, fold the dough in half toward you like you are closing an envelope, rotate the dough 90 degrees and then repeat these steps, but whatever technique you are comfortable using should work.)
When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. I use canola spray oil, but you can also just pour a teaspoon of oil into the bowl and rub it around with your fingers. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.
After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.
If you have a spray bottle in the kitchen, spray a light mist of water onto your baking surface and close the oven for 30 seconds. Supposedly this step reduces the blistering on the outside of your pitas. I’ve skipped it many times in the past and still been pleased with my breads, so if you don’t have a bottle handy it isn’t a big deal.
Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.
Dip in some hummus or make a falafel pita sandwich with yogurt sauce. Enjoy!
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