One night last month I realized at 9pm that I had no bread for the next day’s bread-dependent lunch. I had intended to make some, but one thing and another got in the way, leaving me breadless. I cursed myself for not having a well-stocked freezer and started flipping through cookbooks in search of an inspired, somewhat-speedy recipe, and sure enough I found one: Deborah Madison’s pita bread from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
This recipe took me two hours start to finish, and most of that was not active time. Though my pita did not “puff” and therefore did not have pockets, it tasted good and was wonderfully soft, despite its generous complement of whole-wheat flour and wheat bran. Adam posted a recipe for white-flour pita here last October: the rising time is slightly longer, but the good tips provided for rolling out the breads properly should work in either recipe.
Hummus or tabbouleh or even peanut butter and honey would have been great, but I topped my last-minute bread with soft goat cheese and roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped up and tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette and capers. A hard-boiled egg and some yogurt make it a meal.
About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was really cutting into her cooking time. Now she is a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey or barley malt syrup
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, preferably coarsely ground with flakes of bran, OR 1 cup whole-wheat flour mixed with 1/2 cup bran [I chose the latter]
- 2 cups bread flour
Put the warm water in a bowl, stir in the yeast and honey, and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, oil a bowl for the dough.
Stir in the salt and olive oil, then beat in the whole-wheat flour and bran until smooth. Add the rest of the flour in small increments until the dough is too heavy to stir. Turn it onto a counter and knead until it is smooth and supple, adding more flour as required; this should only take a few minutes. Put the dough in the oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and set aside until doubled in bulk, 50 minutes to an hour.
Punch the dough down and divide into 10 pieces for 8-inch breads. Roll each piece into a ball and then cover them with a damp towel. Put a baking stone or 2 sheet pans in the oven and preheat to 475°F. Allow the dough to relax while the oven heats—about 15 minutes—and then roll each ball into a circle a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Do not stack the rolled-out dough.
Drop the rounds of dough directly onto the stone or heated pans and bake for 3 minutes. At this point, they should be completely puffed; remove them from the oven and cover with a towel to help them deflate.
A confession: only 1 of my breads puffed. I assume I did not roll them out quite thin enough. In any event, I left them in the oven for a total of 6 minutes, probably, waiting for them to puff; but finally I removed them when they no longer looked or smelled raw. And they were delicious, so I can only assume this is a very forgiving recipe and look forward to trying again and eventually getting it right.