September 11, 2012

Whole Wheat Pita Bread and Tzatziki

I do enjoy the smell of yeast. Fresh bread baking in the oven. Watching it puff and expand. What a magical thing to witness.  If you have some time to allow the dough to rise, this recipe will produce the most wonderful soft pockets of goodness. I could kill hours watching it puff up in the oven. This recipe being fairly easy, throwing all ingredients into a stand-mixer, and then letting it do all the hard work for you. All you really need is some time to kill.

There are a few fundamentals for a nice puff in your pita. Mostly heat and moisture. The oven needs to be hot enough and the pita needs to be moist. Allowing it to rest in its final stages after its been rolled out, and giving it a few spritzes before baking will ensure a nice rise. Most pita dough recipes are quite similar, whether they call for AP flour, AP + WW, or WW + bread flour. You can adjust the amount of oil and salt, but the basics should be kept the same. Three cups of flour for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups of water. The real skill lies in the procedure, kneading, rolling, resting, baking. What we truly desire is that pillow of air ready to be filled with hummus, tzatziki, falafel, and vegetables. 

Although, don't be too upset of your pita does not puff up on the first go. They can be enjoyed as a snack cut up into pieces and dipped into tzatziki. It has taken me a few goes to get a consistent puff in my pita. I remember my first batch, I was ever so sad that they didn't rise. I think it was a combination of not enough moisture and not allowing them to rise before baking. But they still tasted amazing. I'm also sharing a recipe for my favorite tzatziki, just in case we need some sauce for dipping. It is a combination of fresh herbs, cucumber, and lemon juice. Brought together by rich and creamy yogurt. It is important to let the tzatziki sit in the fridge overnight, so that all of the flavors can be absorbed into the pita. Tzatziki can be served with fresh fish, as a dressing for salad, a sauce for pasta. It is a versatile and a delicious accompaniment to any meal. 

makes 8 pita breads
notes: if your pita bread does not puff up during baking, you oven is likely not hot enough, or your dough needs more time to rest after it has been rolled out. You may be rolling the dough for too long. All you need is a few quick rolls. Or, you may need more moisture in the dough. If the first pita does not rise, spritz the dough, re-roll and let it rise for 20 minutes.

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water 110 - 115ºF
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting
1/2 tbsp salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and then honey. Allow the yeast to sit for 3 - 5 minutes until it has proofed. The yeast mixture will create a beige foam layer on top when it has proofed.

Add the olive oil, whole wheat and all purpose flour to the bowl. With the dough hook attachment, begin to need on low speed. Add the salt, and then slowly start to drizzle in the rest of the water. The dough should be slightly sticky, not too dry. Knead for 10 minutes on medium speed until smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it into a large well seasoned bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and place into a warm spot to allow to rise for 90 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down. Cut the dough into 8 equal size pieces, a scale works best. Form them into round balls with your hands and place onto a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for 20 minutes.

Place a pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 500 - 525ºF, depending on how hot your oven will get. If you do not have a pizza stone, bake the pitas on a baking pan by placing it upside down in the oven. Just before baking spay some water onto the walls of the oven with a spray bottle increasing the moisture.

Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface. Roll out the dough with a few quick rolls, into flat circles 5" diameter and 1/8 - 1/4" thick. Try and keep an even thickness. Let the dough rest on the counter covered with a cloth, for 20 minutes. Spritz the dough with water 2 - 3 minutes before baking. This will help them puff up while baking. Place 1 - 2 pieces of dough at a time onto the pizza stone, if it fits, and watch while it starts to puff up. Once it has fully puffed, flip it with tongues and allow it to brown on the other side. Total cooking time should be between 5 - 6 minutes. If it takes 2 minutes to puff up, then cook it for 2 minutes on the other side. Remove from the oven and continue the process with the other pieces. Allow the oven 5 minutes to reheat between batches. Do do touch the pitas once removed from the oven, as they have a lot of hot air trapped inside. 

Pita breads are best if served warm. Store in an airtight bag for a couple of days. 

makes 2 cups

1 medium regular cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 mint leaves
3 sprigs of dill
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 3/4 cups Greek yogurt

Peel and remove the seeds from the cucumber. Removing the seeds by sliding a small spoon down the center of the cucumber. Chop the cucumber into small pieces and place into a bowl. Sprinkle the salt on the cucumber pieces and toss. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the water to seep out. Drain the excess water from the bowl and then pat dry with a paper towel.

On a cutting board, place the pureed garlic, mint, dill, and cucumber. With a sharp knife continue to chop the ingredients until well blended. Add to the Greek yogurt and squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir.

Place into the fridge to let settle for a couple of hours. The tzatziki is at its best when it has been left overnight, allowing the flavors to be absorbed into the yogurt. Keep refrigerated for up to a week.


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  3. Your photos are beautiful and your blog is wonderful. Thanks for posting! I have made pitas in the past and they thankfully puffed the first time and turned out quite well. I haven't made them for a long time though, so I'll be pinning your recipe in hopes that I will make a batch this winter...Blessings, Nancy