A Pocket of Deliciousness
Baking bread is a tricky art. I find the toughest part is the proving process and making sure dough rests enough, rises enough, has enough of the flavor you want after it's baked!
One type of bread that I have been dying to make, and master, is Syrian (Pita) bread. It's a really tough bread to master mainly because getting the bread to rise as well as making sure that we create the perfect pocket isn't a simple task. While I have an old recipe from my grandmother, I've never gotten it to successfully pocket properly. However, I did find a great recipe from Milk Street where they provide a step by step process for making whole wheat bread that is not only super easy to make, but divine tasting. The ingredients they use are good, but I augmented it a bit based on several batch testing.
6-8tbs Avocado oil
1 1/4 cups Bread Flour
1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2tsp white sugar
1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 cup warm water (100F-110F) + 3tsp
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 baking stone (preferable)
1 food scale
1 pizza peel
First thing you want to do is make sure you have all the ingredients you need here. Typically, it's good to lay them out so that it's easy to reach. In your Kitcheaid (or any stand-mixer) attach the dough hook. Then, combine the flours, yeast, and sugar and mix on low for about 5-15 seconds until it's fully combined. Add 3/4 cup water, yogurt, and 2tbs of avocado oil and mix on low/medium-low until the dough is smooth, pliable, and slightly sticky. Now, according to Milk Street this is all the water you'll need. However, I have often found the need to add an additional 3tsp of water on top to get it to the right consistency.
Once you've added enough water and it's fully incorporated, let it sit in the mixer for 5min. Next, add the salt, and knead until fully combined. The dough should be smooth and still slightly sticky. This should take roughly 10min to combine and knead thoroughly.
After the salt is combined, get a medium-large bowl and brush the bottom and sides with some avocado oil. Form the dough into a nice ball, place in the oil brushed bowl making sure that the entire dough has a light coating of oil. I simply roll the dough ball gently around in the bowl until it's coated. Cover with plastic and place in a room-temperature, draft-free area and let rest for about 1hr 30min until it has doubled in size
Do not lift the wrap within that rest time whatsoever. So much good stuff is happening and the yeast is working its magic. Let it rest, and walk away.
Once the dough has rested place on a clean countertop. I put out a clean cutting board with a very light dusting of bread flour. Next, take your scale and weigh out 2oz balls of dough. Fold the dough so all the edges are on the bottom of what seems like a disc. Then roll gently into a tight ball and place on a baking sheet with a lip. I have used a glass casserole dish which works great as well, as long as there is a lip, it should work fine. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for around 45min. Meanwhile, put the baking stone in the oven 2nd highest level up, and set the oven to 500F. Lightly flour 2 baking sheets using bread flour and set aside.
Once you've finished your 2nd rise, lightly flour the counter (or cutting board) and take each ball out and roll out until it's roughly 5 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on the floured baking sheet, and continue until all the balls are rolled out. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 10min.
Lightly flour, again using bread flour, your pizza peel and place on the baking stone in the heated oven. Set the timer to 3 min total to bake, immediately remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
I baked 2-3 at a time, and they literally only take 3 minutes to bake. Once out of the oven, if you want to freeze them, poke a small hole on the edge of the pita and gently compress. Once they are cool, you can then place in a ziplock bag and freeze.
Each batch makes roughly 12 rounds. For many many years, I have purchased my khubbuz (bread in Arabic) from a bakery...after getting the hang of this recipe I hope to only buy if I absolutely need to. This recipe is delicious, delightful, and makes a perfect pocket each time.
So what are you waiting for? Get your pita on!