Sometimes just getting through the day can be enough to deserve a medal. And I will take mine in the form of carbs, thank you.
Recently, such rewards have come under the guise of fresh pitas. The first time I made them they came out gorgeous. They came. They puffed. They conquered.
They carried me through a week notable only for its fantastic lunches. Pita with homemade hummus and shaved lemony Brussels sprout salad. Pita with marmalade and sunflower seed butter. Pita with roasted cauliflower and raisin caper sauce. (A sauce so good it really deserves its own post.) You get the idea. I was riding on a puff of pita.
But then I stumbled into a chaotic week. Instead of tending to the paper I was supposed to be writing, I turned to pita. I can admit this now: I was procrastinating. Pitacrastinating.
I was also multitasking. I was punching down dough. I was responding to neglected e-mails. I was rolling pita into little balls. I was noticing that corners of my apartment had cobwebs with their own cobwebs. I was putting pita rounds into the oven. I was not paying attention.
I was opening the oven door too often. I was leaving the pita in too long. They were crisping. They were not puffing. I was stress-eating half risen pita. I was trying to destroy the evidence. My pitas were deflating. I was deflating.
And none of this was about bread. This was about my ability to bring it. These pitas are not all that difficult to make. They just require your attention. They are probably not the thing to make on a busy weeknight when you are in graduate school and have a full time job. Or have not talked to your father since his birthday last month. Or have laundry piling up and fury dust boards. You get the idea.
I wish I could say these bitches didn’t faze me. I wish I could say I was sort of hoping for a thick, cracker-like lavash. I may have a few issues—including a weakness for homemade breads—but being a liar is not one of them.
I will, however, admit to being a bit fanatical. And stubborn. (And a closeted lover of certain rap artists.) So I went for an encore and made them again over the weekend. I put on a little Jay-Z for background inspiration. The Black Album. And I concentrated. This time the pitas were soft. They puffed. They had the ability to be sliced and stuffed. They were not going to get me down again. Not then. Not ever.
So I can now tell you in hindsight, this is not the recipe to make if you are feeling like you have a lot to contend with. It’s a wonderful recipe. It even uses some whole grain flour. But tuck it away for a leisurely day. Don’t go for the even 100. Trust me. Yes, I may have 99 problems, but homemade pita ain’t one.
2¼ tsp dry active yeast
¼ cup warm water plus ~¾-1 cup additional warm water (about 100-110 degrees for both)
1 tbsp sugar, divided
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1½ tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Combine the yeast with ¼ cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl and let it sit “to bloom” (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, combine the remaining 2 tsp sugar with the flours and salt in a medium bowl. After 10 minutes, add the yeast into the flour mixture, along with ¾ cup of warm water and the oil. Knead by hand (with floured hands) on a floured countertop for about 10 minutes, adding additional water or flour, as needed. The dough should not be too sticky to work with, if it is add additional flour during your kneading. If it seems dry, add a little more liquid.
After kneading the dough, place it in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 minutes. After the dough has roughly doubled in size, punch it down and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a round ball and cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel for 20 minutes (to let the dough rest). While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a cookie sheet upside down on the middle rack of your oven. (Alternatively, you could use a pizza stone if you have one.)
After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, on a floured surface (using a rolling pin) roll out each ball into a flat circle between 1/8 and ¼ inch in thickness and about 5-6 inches in diameter. Spray the cookie sheet with a mist of water or carefully wipe the cookie sheet with a damp paper towel and close the oven for 30 seconds (this is supposed to help prevent the pita from blistering). Place as many pita rounds as you can (likely 2-3) on the hot sheet pan (or pizza stone) in your oven and quickly close the oven door. Let the pita cook for 3 minutes, until just puffed. (They should start to turn golden brown on their bottoms, but just barely.) Repeat with the remaining rounds, working quickly to prevent too much heat from escaping from the oven when you open the door. Eat warm or let cool on a wire rack.
Makes 8 pitas
-I feel like I should mention Jay-Z here, as well. Love him or hate him (I love him), the man has worked it. And he snuck in as the inspiration for this post, especially his ability to juggle 99 problems.
-If your pitas do not rise it likely means the oven wasn’t hot enough or the pitas weren’t thin enough (get out a ruler if you need to, it helps).
-I’ve also used 1 cup of your standard whole wheat flour, instead of the white whole wheat, but I wouldn’t substitute much more than that because it might make the dough to heavy to puff. You can find white whole wheat flour from King Arthur.
-So go forth, make pita. It’s worth it. And like most things I bake, they freeze; I like leaving them whole, but they also freeze well after being cut in half. I’ve found the microwave has worked best to bring them back to life. Reheating in the oven crisps them too much and they have a tendency to dry out if you let them defrost on the countertop. (You’ll want to freeze them if the pitas will be hanging around longer than 2 day because they’ll start to get a little stale.)