Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homemade Pita Bread: Cooking For Julia 100th Birthday

Julia Child would have turned 100 this August and PBS is celebrating her 100 birthday all this summer. I chose to celebrate Julia Child 100th birthday because Julia inspired me like many others.
She was this big framed, tall and messy woman who made cooking look fun. She started her career in her 30s and that means the world to me. I had a career before moving to the states and I now in my mid thirties, I find myself a stay home mom by choice (which is a luxury by all means). But it is time to reinvent myself and this blog is all about it. Julia is an icon not only because she introduced French cooking to Americans but also because she laid the foundation of a good cookbook. I chose to cook Julia Child's recipe for Pita Bread from her Julia's Casual Dinners Book. (I bought the book for 1 dollar at our public library sale). I mean what is more appropriate for a Middle Eastern American blog?

For 12 Pita 6 inches in diameters
1 package of yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of trip water
About 1 pound (450 g) of flour as follow: 2 3/4 (390 g) of all purpose flour, unbleached recommended and 3/4 cup (105 g) of plain bleached cake flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup (1.4 L) of tepid water, droplets more as necessary

Ingredients for Pita

Best, a tile or stoneware baking surface to fit your oven rack; second best, an aluminum baking sheet. A wooden sliding board, shingler, or pee;. A long handled pancake turner. A cake rack or racks for cooling baked pita. A rolling Pin. (I used a Pampered Chef Baking stone)

Making the dough: (by hand)
When yeast is thoroughly dissolved, combine it with the ingredients listed, kneading in enough of water ti make it moderately firm dough. When well blended, let it rise for 2 minutes, then knead vigorously until dough is smooth and elastic and does not stick in your hands- 5 minutes or more. 

I used a stand mixer and this is how I did it:
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment  and mix all ingredients (after the yeast is thoroughly dissolved) on low medium speed until dough is wet. switch to the dough hook and knead on medium high until dough is smooth and elastic and does not stick in your hand.
Mixing the dough with Paddle and Hook attachements

Place in a clean, fairly straight-sided 4 quart (4 L) bowl, cover and it rise at 75 F to 80 F until slightly more than doubled in bulk- 2 hours or so. Deflate by pulling dough inward from sides of bowl, cover and let rise again to slightly more than double about 1 1/2 hours.
Second rise may be completed in the refrigerator and when risen, you may punch down dough, cover with a weight to keep it down and leave for 24 hours, or you may freeze it.
Dough after mixing, first rise, deflated, and second rise

Forming the Pita:
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and lengthen it by rolling it back and forth under the palms of your hands, forming a thick sausage shape about 16 inches kong. Cut even proportions ll th same size by halving the dough crosswise, halving the 2 halves, then cutting each of these 4 pieces into thirds. 
Cutting the Dough

Then to make the pancake shape more even, first make a cushion out of each piece of dough by bringing the 4 corners together and pinching to seal them, then turn seal side down and roll under the palm of one hand to make a ball; set each aside, as you form it, on a floured corner of your work surface, and cover with a lightly floured sheet of plastic.

Forming the dough into cushion and rolling into a ball

These balls of dough are now to be rolled into a pancake size disks which are to rest either on a floured wooden surface or on floured towels for 20 minutes or so while the oven heats. Process as follow: one at a time, with a rolling pin on a quite heavily floured surface, roll each ball into a disk 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches across. Place disk on prepared resting surface, cover with floured plastic, and continue with the rest.
Rolling the Pita into disks

Baking the pita
set quarry tiles, griddles, or bake sheet in lower middle level of oven and preheat to 500 F to 550 F highest heat! when oven is ready, lightly flour the sliding board,place on it 2 or 3 pita and slide them onto the hot baking surface. (I made each pita at a time because I was so scared)  In about 1 minute, large bubbles will appear on the surface and will then quickly and dramatically puff up like pillows, reach their maximum and subside slightly. (Not all the pita puffed all the way, I noticed that when you have a crease it really affect the puffing) leave for a moment (baking time should take about 2 minutes in all) and remove with a pancake turner before they have time to color or harden. (I baked them for 4 minutes because they tasted too raw for me) Continue with remaining pita. Let cool completely; let will gradually collapse. 
Leave on a rack for an hour or two and then stack together and pressing out air and store in a plastic bag; refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze.
From bubbles, to puffs to yummy!

I like to eat the homemade pita with homemade Labneh but that night, my husband barbequed some chicken on the grill and it the pita was delightful with easy Arabic salad and some leon juice garlic and olive oil dressing.  Happy Birthday Julia!
Homemade Pita with grilled Chicken, homemade Hummus and easy Arabic Salad

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