pita bread

I recently learned an important lesson as part of my breaducation: when baking at 500 degrees, do be sure that no meatloaf drippings remain in the bottom of the oven, lest you anger the smoke detector and scare the crap out of the cat.

(Professor Meowington is a scaredy cat by nature, and really should not be antagonized.)

When the smoke cleared in the galley kitchen and the professor emerged from the music cabinet, we discovered golden, chewy puffs of delicious pita bread, and all was forgiven. Bread means never having to say you’re sorry.

The recipe is Marie Wang’s Baked Puffed Flatbread from Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club, and it was a perfect beginner bread – really quick and easy to put together, with clear instructions and simple ingredients.

It made eight tasty and sturdy wheat rounds, just right for stuffing with tuna salad or smearing with hummus.

The book, fast becoming one of my favorites, includes charming stories and beloved family bread recipes from fifteen bakers of the St. Paul Bread Club. It was a gift from my fabulous friend, Alison. She has really good hair.

Recipe below the fold

Baked Puffed Flatbread
Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club¹

Makes 8 breads

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, shaken through a wire strainer before measuring to remove coarse flakes of bran
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In either the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a stainless steel blade or, if working by hand, a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Add oil, sugar, and yogurt, and pulse to mix, about four 1-second bursts or, if working by hand, mix with a wooden spoon until combined well. Add salt, sieved whole wheat flour, and 2 cups bread flour; process until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary or, if working by hand, mix with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Process dough (adding more flour as necessary just until dough pulls completely away from sides of bowl) until soft and satiny, about 30 seconds, or, if working by hand, turn dough out of mixing bowl onto very lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 12 to 15 minutes. Squeeze dough gently with full hand; if dough is sticky, sprinkle with flour and knead just to combine. Place dough in medium bowl or tall food storage container, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm, draft-free spot until dough doubles in size, 30 to 45 minutes. (At this point dough can be punched down, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerated up to 2 days.)

Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; sprinkle surface very lightly with flour if sticky. Cut dough into 8 pieces and form into balls. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a flat circle, about 4 inches in diameter. Cover and let rest again for 5 minutes. If using sesame seeds brush tops of circles lightly with water, sprinkle each circle with 3/4 teaspoon seeds, and gently roll over with rolling pin once or twice so seeds adhere to dough.

About 30 minutes prior to cooking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, line rack with unglazed baking tiles, pizza stone, or preheated baking sheet, and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bake dough rounds on preheated tiles or pizza stone until bread is puffed and golden brown on bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer breads to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; wrap in clean kitchen towels and serve warm or at room temperature.

1. Marie Wang, “Baked Puffed Flatbread,” in Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club, ed. Kim Ode (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2006), 48-49.
Linked to: Eat at Home

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