Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Once summer starts in Davis (and it has, no matter what the calendar says), I become a permanent fixture of the porch.  Breakfast turns into reading the news turns into work in the morning, then the late afternoon wanders in with a book (and quite possibly a beer).  I like to eat late, when the sun has set, but it is not quite dark and still a little warm.  I like to eat lightly, and ideally with my fingers, some bread and cheese and tomato, or a few salads with some warm pita.

The other weekend I was in a park, instead of parked on the porch.  One of the local high schools was putting on a free, outdoor play ("The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)," the first half of which was hilariously bad, the second half was just hilarious - think Hamlet with only three actors, done forwards, fast forwards, and backwards in under five minutes), and the Professor and I met some friends there, to watch and have a picnic.  I'm not sure if the things I brought were ideal finger foods, but they were certainly delicious, and would be perfect for a late supper on the porch.  I will post the salads over the next few days, but start with some pita with your next rendition of your favorite salad.

From The Bread-Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhardt

When making bread, if at all possible, I use a scale.  Weights are a much more accurate (and way easier) way to measure out your ingredients, especially since you're mixing it all together in a bowl anyway.  Though, honestly, I use a teaspoon measure for things like salt and yeast.

This recipe makes four, approximately 7-inch (diameter) pita.

1.5 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp (0.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (0.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tbl (0.75 oz) honey
1 Tbl (0.5 oz) vegetable oil (I used olive)
1/3-1/2 cup (3-4 oz) water, room temperature

Put the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil, and 1/3 cup of the water in a mixing bowl, and stir together until you get a solid mass (it's cool if there are some bits of flour left at the bottom - you can knead those in later). 

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface.  Knead the dough for about 12 minutes, adding more flour, or wetting your hands as necessary to get a dough which is firmer than bread dough, but not as firm as bagel dough.  It should not be sticky or even tacky.  When you're done, the dough should be silky smooth and pass the windowpane test (cut off a small piece of dough, and see if you can stretch it thin enough to see light through it with tearing or breading the dough).  If you find that the dough is breaking or exceedingly tough to work with, feel free to take a minute or two break.

Form the dough into a ball, and transfer to a clean, lightly oiled mixing bowl.  Cover (I usually stick the bowl in a plastic bag) and let sit for about 1.5 hours, until the dough has doubled (it may take more or less time than that - be prepared to be patient!).  You can also twist-tie the bag shut at this point and put it in the fridge overnight, to delay the rising process.  Take the dough out about two hours before proceeding with the next step, so it can warm up.

Remove the dough, and divide it into four pieces.  Form the dough pieces into balls, and let rest 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven with a stone or sheet pan to 500F.  Roll the dough out to 7-inch circles (they will a bit more than 1/8" thick).  

(If the dough is being difficult and won't roll out, let it rest a few minutes, then try again.)  Place the rolled-out dough onto the stone, and cook until it puffs up like a balloon.  Count to 10 slowly, then remove onto a towel (watch out!  The air inside the puffed-up pita is hot.)  I baked two at a time, and the whole baking process usually took a little less than two minutes.

Cut them in half, stuff them with bean salad, sprinkle them with feta, dip them in a little honey - the possibilities are many (and hard to resist).

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