Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pita Bread or Pizza Crust

For a "Book and Cook" program on Ancient Greece that my daughter Anna ran for my grandson August and several of his friends this summer, I had the kids make pita bread in one of the cook sessions.

I standardized a bread recipe based on what my Turkish friends at Decatur's Café Istanbul make as their flat bread. Their approach was, in turn, based on a pizza crust method. The method includes proofing in a refrigerator at least 24 hours.

The small pita breads were shaped by the kids from dough I had prepped the previous day. The breads were a success, other than not being as regular and round as they might be. The kids dipped them in olive oil that had been seasoned with minced garlic and herbs, and ate them along with Kalamata olives and feta cheese.

Several weeks later, I used the bread recipe for a "workshop" on pizza (and fresh pasta). It made an excellent crust. The pizza crust was then successfully made again, from mixing and kneading to proofing to shaping, topping and baking, by a teenage boy who had been part of the workshop.

Last week I prepared the pita bread dough again for shaping by a group of new University of Georgia students at a quasi-educational cultural class at our restaurant as part of their summer orientation program. They ate it with homemade hummus and tzadziki sauce, olives, feta cheese and grapes.

The method I'm showing is for pita. However, the same dough topped with tomato sauce, cheese and other toppings can be used for pizza.

Pita Bread (or Pizza Dough)

[Make the dough the day before cooking]

2-3/4 cups flour, half of it all-purpose flour, half bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rapid dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water

In large bowl (or in bowl of mixer fitted with bread hook) mix flour, salt and yeast.

Add oil and water. Mix with fork (or bread hook) around and around until moistened. With hand (or bread hook) continue to mix about five minutes, kneading dough in bowl. If sticky, dust with a little flour. Dough will pull away from bowl and form a ball that is not sticky.

For pita bread, divide dough into 8 equal pieces, for pizza only into 2 pieces. Roll each piece with hands into a ball and place it in its own zip-lock plastic bag.

Store overnight or longer in refrigerator to proof (rise).

When ready to bake, let bagged dough warm 15 minutes out of refrigerator.

Set oven for 400 degrees.

Remove dough from its bag onto floured work surface. Flatten dough with hands, dusting often with flour. Then either roll it or flatten it out till thin with hands, squeezing and stretching it gently to even out the edges and make it round.

Place on lightly floured baking sheet -- the best has small perforations to allow steam to escape . (For pizza, smear with sauce and sprinkle with cheese and desired toppings.)

Bake quickly on top shelf in oven, until browning lightly (darker golden for pizza).

Serve warm. For pita, brush with olive oil if desired.

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