It is an honour to host Fresh From the Oven’s June Challenge. I would like to thank Michelle Rice of UtterlyScrummy and Claire of Purely Food for giving me this opportunity. It has been wonderful attempting challenges with yeast and each month I wait eagerly to know what the month’s challenge is going to be. For the month of June I would love everybody to participate together in make these easy-peasy pita bread. The details for how to participate are here and link to
http://purelyfood.wordpress.com/fresh-from-the-oven/ and the round-up for this ( for the month of June) will be done by Purely Food.
I have been living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the past 2 years and the food of this region fascinates me more than others. The addictive tastes, the rustic textures, the haunting flavours, the clever methods of cooking, the influences that this part of the world takes from other cultures shines through from the Arabic Cuisine. In my time here, I have enjoyed cooking these Arabic dishes as much as I have enjoyed eating a hearty meal outside in restaurants. The food of this region inspired me to do a full-blown article on the Food of Bahrain called Bahrain: A culinary Oasis which got published in a compendium of sort called, My Beautiful Bahrain.
An excerpt from the book would tell you how fascinated I am with the food of this region. I went food-hunting literally, to write this article and the this insightful journey is the one I will cherish for a long time.
“About the famed bread making- Khuboos shops of Bahrain: It is fascinating to watch a queue build up by nightfall outside these traditional bakeries. A burning clay hearth and experienced pairs of hands slap the dough to make khuboos, the most popular flatbread that the country eats every single day of its life. This hearty bread forms the base for almost all the food that is served at homes and in restaurants. A freshly baked Khuboos emanates an aroma that tantalizes the senses with its simplicity and flavor. Khuboos comes in a lot of sizes, shapes and flavors; sesame, melted cheese, honey brushed, to name a few. My personal favorite is the plain khuboos that I love devouring bit by bit with some vegetables and Hummus (chickpea dip).“
Below are some photos of how Arabic bread is made traditionally in these Khuboos -houses.
Charmed by this, I have replicated the Arabic bread baking process in my oven very, many times. Pita “Pocket” bread, in this part of the world is also called Lebanese bread though there is no evidence proving that this bread originated from Lebanon. This bread is popular all over the Arab world and the Mediterranean region.
To make these, I usually use a combination of wholemeal flour and All purpose flour but for the challenge, I used All purpose flour entirely. You are free to experiment with different types of healthier flours to make your pita. You can follow my lead with step by step pictures for your better understanding:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
(I apologize for missing out the proportions of ingredients as I have made this so many times and remember it by heart. It just made me focus more on the method of preparation than the quantities. )
Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low-speed for 10 minutes.
When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil.
Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into any number of pieces depending how big or small you like your pita. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone like I don’t too, then just use a normal baking tray, like I did.
After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling-pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick approximately. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.
Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it is not mandatory. I did, because that is how we like pita bread; a little brown and crisp. Not all my pita puffed up but some did and it was a delight to see them puff up.
It is advisable to have pita bread as soon as it is out of the oven with hummous ( chickpea dip) or labneh dip ( yogurt dip) or even with meat or vegetable curries. It can be stored for many days in an air tight container and can be microwaved to soften them ( by sprinkling some water before putting it in a microwave)
Hope everybody who attempts this finds it easy and tasty an endeavour to try again and again.