Sesame Pita Bread
October 13, 2011
There is no substitute for home baked bread. When baking at home we can experience each magical step of the baking process. The bubbling of the yeast as it proofs and the rapid transformation of dry flour, salt, and water into an elastic mass that rises with life. We shape the bread into loaves or braids or flatbreads (or the strange masses my kids insist on baking). Once baked, the breads’ fragrant steam is intoxicating. These are the secrets of the home baker. None of these special experiences can be found in a bag of bread on a market shelf.
Regretfully, my life is too full to bake all of our bread at home. While there are a few bakeries that offer excellent breads in our area, I have yet to find a great source for pita breads. Since pita bread is so thin, it becomes stale very quickly. Most of the doughs are treated with conditioners to extend their shelf life, but in the process destroy the quality of the bread. This recipe, adapted from Baking with Julia, is a perfect solution to this problem.
Sesame Pita Bread eliminates the need to settle for store-bought pitas. The dough is made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Cut off pieces, shape, and quickly bake for fresh bread throughout the week. The pita is fragrant and flavorful. It yields just the right amount of chewy resistance when you bite into a piece. The sesame seeds add just a hint of flavor and texture to this otherwise plain dough. Serve the pitas on the side of any saucy dish, brush the tops with garlic butter a different twist. Slice them in half and fill with lamb, hummus and veggies, or the classic falafel. I am still searching for a fantastic falafel recipe. Please share a link below if you have one.
adapted barely from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
makes 16 pitas
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purposed flour
Combine yeast and water in a large bowl. Stir the mixture with a spoon while adding the whole wheat flour one cup at a time. Stir 100 times until the mixture is “smooth and silky”. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. The longer it rests, the more flavor will develop.
Sprinkle the salt, olive oil, and sesame seeds over the sponge and mix. Add the all-purpose flour one cup at a time and mix until the dough is too stiff to stir. If kneading by hand, transfer dough ball to a floured board. I prefer to use the dough hook on my Kitchenaide. Either way, slowly add the remaining flour while kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough will be slightly firm.
Transfer dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise 2-3 hours, or until it doubles in volume.
**After it has risen, you may store the dough in a covered bowl or roomy sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. The flavor will continue to develop.
baking the pita
Place a baking stone on the bottom rack of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. For best results, let the oven come to temperature for at least 20 minutes before baking to ensure that the stone is heated through.
Deflate the dough and divide in two. Take one piece of dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Place a damp towel over the balls you are not working with to keep them moist.
Working with one ball at a time, press the ball into a flat disc. Place the disc on a well-floured surface and use a rolling pin to flatten into an 8-inch diameter, 1/4 inch thick disc. Cover until ready to bake. Do not stack discs as they will stick to each other.
Place as many discs as will fit directly onto the preheated baking stone in the hot oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until breads puff up like balloons. If pitas puff up incompletely, gently press on the bubble with the back of a spoon to force the air into the other parts of bread. If they still do not puff up they will not be easy to fill, but they will still taste wonderful.
Wrap warm pitas in a towel and serve.
Print this recipe: Sesame Pita Bread
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