Catching Air

December 9, 2011

Air. It’s one of those things we need.

See also (at 1:19):

Anyhoo, air is awesome for a number of reasons, none less than because it is the essential ingredient to many other delicious things. (Marshmallows, meringue, or nougat anyone?)

Today, however, I want to talk about pitas. They are amazingly easy to make, and amazingly fun to watch. Here is the basic recipe:

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to active it (see the note on yeast above). Otherwise, mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. 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).

You might have to play with the flour/water ratio until you get a good consistency (springy), especially depending on climate. We usually need more of both in Denver.

Once the ingredients are balled up, knead the dough by hand or machine for about ten minutes. Not only does this combine the ingredients well, but it helps develop the texture of the dough.

Place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. 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. It’s important that this is screaming hot so that your pitas cook quickly.

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.

Spray a light mist in to the oven when you are ready to begin baking your pitas to reduce blisters on your pita.

The pitas will only take a couple minutes to cook- you should see them start to expand and then pop!

That picture is blurry, but you can see it puffed up with air. When you take the pita out it will immediately deflate. Not all will pop nicely so don’t be bummed out if a few don’t work. They keep well for several days.



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