Whole Wheat Pita Bread

It was 95 degrees last week when I decided to bake a batch of Whole Wheat Pita Bread out on the grill! Later I filled the pockets with a mix of kidney beans, garbanzo beans and vegetables in a light vinaigrette for a "Let's Not Heat Up The House" dinner. I used freshly ground hard white wheat flour for these and they puffed beautifully without cracking at all. Photos of the process follow the recipe.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

16 ounces (approximately 3-3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, preferably ground from hard white wheat)
1/4 ounce (1 teaspoon) salt
1/4 ounce instant yeast (about 2 teaspoons) aka Quick-Rise or bread machine yeast
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) room temperature water
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) olive oil

Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the oil to the water and stir into the flour mixture. Add additional water if necessary to form a soft dough. Knead, by hand or machine until dough passes the windowpane test (you should be able to stretch a small piece of dough out so it is transparent with out tearing). This will take 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 8 to 10 minutes in a mixer. Try not to add too much flour to the board if kneading by hand.

Place dough in a lightly greased or oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Deflate, replace in bowl, spray lightly with oil, cover and let rise until doubled, about another hour. Or cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and divide into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how large you want the pitas. Shape each piece into a ball and let rest, covered with plastic wrap 20 minutes (30 minutes if refrigerated.)

Begin preheating a baking stone in the oven at 500 degrees or line the grill of a gas barbecue with firebricks and preheat the grill (lid closed) at the highest setting.

With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a flat disk about 1/4-inch thick. Roll from the center out to the edges, turning the disk as you work your way around it. Rolling it very thin helps the pitas puff evenly, so that both sides of the pocket are the same thickness. Otherwise you end up with one thick side and a very thin side that tends to break and tear when you fill it.

Allow the pitas to rest on a the board, covered with a cloth or dish towel for 10 minutes before baking.

Sprinkle a bit of flour or semolina on a wooden peel or the back of a baking sheet. Place 3 or 4 pitas on it and slide them onto the hot stone or firebricks. Immediately close the door (or lid) and turn the oven down to 450 degrees or turn the burners on the barbecue down slightly. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes until the pitas are puffed but not beginning to brown. Remove to a wire rack. The pitas will soften and flatten as they cool, but will have a nice pocket when sliced open.

Repeat baking process with remaining pitas.

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