While cooking, listen to this: Hassan's Mimouna - Balkan Beat Box
You know what I'm always in the mood for? A good pita.
And let me tell you, good pita is nearly impossible to find at your local grocery store. The kind that comes in the plastic bag with the twist-tie seal is mediocre at best, and, even warmed up, delivers a stale, sad taste. To find a good pita, you have to head to your local family-owned Lebanese restaurant, where they serve pita in a cute little basket, kept hot with a napkin or towel.
But sometimes, the effort of putting on pants and stepping out into the world is just too much. That's where we come in, and, boy, are we more than happy to support your no-pants decision.
This week, Rina and I are trying something a little different. We'll be doing some recipe-compounding - a day-by-day guide of recipes leading up to one of the best dishes we've ever made at Gateau | Gato. I'm keeping my mouth and pita bread shut - I don't want to give away too much. All I will say is that you're going to love it -it's EGGsactly what you need after this endless summer heat.
To no one's surprise, these pitas from our favorite food experts at The New York Times are truly fantastic. They require a bit of thinking ahead, and do need to rise, but it's nothing that can't be done in between episodes of your favorite show (I'm planning to delve into Friends from College - anyone on board)? And what's even better, pita goes with virtually everything and is the cute younger sister to your average loaf of bread. I'm imagining caprese pesto pita pizzas, cucumber and dill pockets with tzatziki sauce... the possibilities are truly endless.
Please let us know if you make these by tagging us and using #gateaugato on Instagram (and while you have the app open, won't you follow us?). If I were you, I'd whip a batch of these up tonight. If you do, can we come over for dinner?
Servings: 4 large or 8 small pitas
Active Cook Time: 15m
Inactive Cook Time: 1h 45m
Category: Baked, Mediterranean
Source: The New York Times
Special Equipment: chopsticks (optional)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
35 grams whole-wheat flour (¼ cup)
310 grams unbleached all-purposed flour (2 ½ cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Prepare the sponge: kind of a gross term, I know. Put 1 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl. The water should be the temperature you would feel comfortable taking a bath in - not too hot, but with some warmth. Add the yeast and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add the whole-wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and whisk together. Place the bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until the mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
Prepare the dough: after 15 minutes, add the olive oil, salt, and almost all of the flour (keep ½ cup out) to the yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks (we use chopsticks), stir until the mixture forms a "shaggy mass." Look to this Food52 article for a visual reference. While the dough is still in the bowl, dust with a little bit of flour and knead for about 1 minute, making sure to incorporate any dry floury bits.
Knead the dough: turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, and then knead for another 2 minutes.The dough is going to be sticky! Don't add too much extra flour. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough in a large zippered plastic bag for several hours or overnight. When you're ready to bake it off, bring it back to room temperature, knead it into a ball and proceed with the recipe.
Let the pita rest: clean out the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and then a towel, and allow to rest in a warm (not hot!) place for about 1 hour, or until it's doubled in size.
Knead the dough, again: preheat the oven to 475 F, and on the bottom shelf place a heavy-duty sheet pan, pizza stone or cast-iron skillet. Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 or 8 pieces, depending on the size you want your pitas to be. Form each piece into a ball, place them on your floured work surface, cover with a damp towel and let them rest for 10 minutes.
Form the pitas: working with one ball at a time, leaving the others covered, roll into a flat disc with a rolling pin. Roll into a 6-inch circle, then an 8-inch diameter, about ⅛ inch thick. Let it be known that I am terrible at spatial reasoning, so I eyeball these kinds of things - feel free to do the same. Dust with flour if necessary.
Bake the pita: carefully lift the dough circle and quickly place it onto the sheet that's been heating in the oven. I carry mine directly to the oven because you want the sheet to be as hot as possible. Shut the oven and let the dough bake for 2 minutes. It should start to puff up. Turn over with a spatula or pair of tongs and bake for 1 more minute. The resulting pita will be pale with a couple brown spots. Transfer the pita to a basket or bowl lined with a napkin and cover so that the bread stays soft. Repeat this process for the remaining dough balls.
To serve: these are amazing at any temperature, but warm pita is pretty hard to beat. They're amazing with a big dollop of your favorite hummus, but they can also be filled with delicious things like falafel and Israeli salad. I was also known to make kick-ass pita pizzas when I studied abroad, I highly recommend.
To keep: these can be kept for a few days in a tightly sealed zippered plastic bag. In the freezer they'll last even longer.