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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.

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Over the last few weeks, several batches of focaccia made their way through my oven.  Each batch took on a different personality.  I topped one with oven-dried figs, walnuts, and blue cheese as an appetizer, another I brushed with garlic oil and served as a side dish.  Another batch I made into a simple pizza and the last I topped with apples and cinnamon sugar for breakfast.  Anyway you top this bread, it is delightful.

Besides its versatility and incredible taste, this bread is also very convenient to make.  The dough rises twice, then rests in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.  When you are ready to bake, just pull a dough ball from the fridge, stretch it out, and top it as you please.  Twice I served this bread for brunch.  Usually I do not even consider a yeasted bread for brunch, because of the time it takes to rise, but since rises the day before, it is easy to pull off for a meal any time of day.

Though I have topped this bread many ways, my favorite remains brushing it with a garlic infused olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh herbs, and scattering coarse salt over the top.  The outside becomes crunchy and brown, but the inside stays chewy and moist.  The garlic flavor permeates the whole flatbread and the salt provides a crunch.  It was a great accompaniment to our Huevos Diablos con Chorizo the other morning.  Topping it with thinnly sliced apples is a close second, for a sweet version that is suitable for both brunch or dessert, though I would sweeten it up a bit more if serving it for dessert.

These recipes were submitted to Yeastspotting.

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