Pita Bread From Laurel’s Kitchen

The other day I was reading about a basic bread recipe in one of my favorite old cookbooks Laurel’s Kitchen. She suggested to make one loaf from half of the batch of dough and then make about a dozen pita breads out of the other half.

Puffed Pita

Puffed Pita

My curiosity was peaked. I’ve taught how to made pita bread in the bakeshop classes before, but I never considered making them at home. So, I though I’d give it a try.

I divided the dough into 12 round smooth balls, rolled them out and baked then on the hot pizza stone.

Dough balls for pita

Dough balls for pita

Here’s the recipe from Laurel’s Kitchen, not quite verbatim.

This is half of the original recipe since we aren’t making an additional loaf here today.

Pita Bread

  • Servings: about 12
  • Difficulty: moderate to skilled
  • Print

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 cups whole wheat bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups warm water (not over 110°F)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Mix the dry ingredients, make a well in the center of the bowl. Mix the wet ingredients then pour them into the well made in the dry ingredient bowl. Mix on low-speed in a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook  until everything comes together.

If the dough seems too dry at this point, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach  the desired consistency. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour.

The perfect dough will feel slightly sticky, not firm and clay-like.

If kneading by hand, knead for 20-30 minutes. Using the mixer, knead on medium speed for 8-10 minutes until the dough in elastic.

Oil the surface of the dough, cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F, place a baking stone (if you have one) on the bottom shelf. Remove all other shelves before you heat the oven.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide the dough into 12 or so smooth round balls. Cover and allow the dough to rest in a draft free area for 10 minutes. Laurel claims this step is essential.

Starting with the first ball made, roll out 2 or 3 balls into a disk “about the thickness of a good wool blanket” or 1/8 of an inch thick. The circles should be about 6″ around.

Roll to a thickness of a heavy wool blanket

Roll to a thickness of a heavy wool blanket

If using a heated baking sheet, place 2-3 dough circles flat onto the hot stone. Move quickly to retain heat in the oven, but don’t get burned either.

Quickly shut the oven door and set the timer for 3 minutes.

Turn on the oven light and watch the pita bake.

At 1 minute they look like Mrs. Douglas’ hot cakes on Green Acres; the next minute the magic happens as the dough begins to puff up like a balloon! It’s fun to watch! Let it cook through the third minute. The dough is done when the bottom side is lightly brown and the top side slightly moist, but not shiny wet.

Poofy Pita!

Poofy Pita! I flipped these over so you can see the brown on the underside. Don’t let the top get brown or the bread will be too crispy.

Don’t let the pita get golden brown on top too or else the pita will dry out and be crispy instead of flexible and all foldy like.

The key is to be sure the dough circle lay flat on the stone or the baking sheet, whatever you use.

Cut the pita in half and you’ll see the perfect pocket for stuffing!

My favorite pita sandwich is a couple of slices of roasted chicken, turkey or ham filled with chopped salad and drizzled with Italian dressing, top with shredded cheese.

The chopped salad has lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, radishes and shredded carrot in it, cut so it fits easily into the pocket pita.

Try it if you want, I sure had fun!

We’ve had pita sandwiches of all kinds, pita pizza, and toasted some for pita chips to go with the guacamole.

If you make them, be sure you watch them rise. It really is like magic!Baked pita

A word about Laurel’s Kitchen: The New Laurel’s Kitchen is a vegetarian cookbook published in 1976. It was one of my favorite books when it came out. I have literally worn out 2 copies and am working on a third.

A Pile of Pita

A Pile of Pita

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Lavash – An Easy Cracker to Make

Lavash

Lavash

Lavash is such an easy cracker to make I think if more people knew how, more people would make them.

So here goes my attempt to teach everyone how to make Lavash.

Here is another added bonus, this recipe also makes great pita bread! Just weigh the dough balls to 4 ounces and roll it to 1/4 inch think.

Bake them on a baking stone in a 500°F oven. (Yeah, that’s HOT!) Place the dough disks onto the baking stone, wait for them to poof and begin to brown. Remove them to a cooling rack to cool. Lovely pita!

Sometimes I’ll make two 4-ounce pita and roll the rest out into lavash. Sometimes it’s all lavash others, all pita. Either way , this is a great formula and it comes to you by way of Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice, which if you don’t have it, I highly recommend it. But only if you like to bake bread.

OK!

Back to Lavash!

  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup room temperature water
  • Spray bottle with water (hopefully you have one dedicated to baking!)

DSC_0021Some topping suggestions:

  • Sesame seeds, both white and black
  • Poppy seeds
  • Cumin and caraway seeds
  • Sweet and/or hot Paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 7 seed mixtures

To make crackers:

Put all ingredients into a bowl of an electric mixer, add enough water to bring everything into a ball. You may only need 1/3 of a cup or you may need all the way up to 1/2 cup. If you need more than that, add it only 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Inf using an electric mixer to knead, knead the dough 6 minutes on medium speed. If kneading by hand, do it for 10 minutes.

The dough should be firm to the touch, satiny and not sticky.

Oil a bowl, roll the dough ball in the oil so it gets a light coating. Place the dough in the bowl and allow to rise for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

If you don’t feel like finishing the crackers now, you can store the dough in the refrigerator overnight at this point.

If you want to make a couple of pita, weight out 2 4-ounce balls, give them an initial roll and set aside to rest.

Line the back side of a sheet pan with parchment paper. (The crackers get baked on the backside of the sheet pan.)

On a lightly oiled or floured surface, roll the dough into a paper-thin sheet. You may need to lift the dough to ensure it isn’t sticking to anything during this rolling process.

If, while rolling, the dough ‘fights’ you by shrinking back, cover it with a clean towel or piece of plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Place the thin dough onto the parchment lined sheet pan. Spray with water and sprinkle on the topping of your choice.

You can cut the dough into crackers or long strips using a pizza cutter before baking. Don’t worry about separating the crackers now, they will snap apart once cooled.DSC_0006

Bake the crackers in a preheated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Freshly baked crackers are a real treat to share with anyone dropping by for a glass of wine and a few nibbles. Don’t be surprised if your Lavash crackers become a topic of interest!