This Week's Adventure

The problem with pitas

I’m finding that I’m rapidly running out of recipes that can be made at a moment’s notice. Many of the recipes in TBC require some forethought, whether for getting certain ingredients, figuring out where to borrow special equipment (pudding molds for steamed bread???), or planning for a certain amount of down time.

So when Husband suggested that I make bread last night instead of Wednesday night as I had originally planned, it took a lot of flipping through pages to find bread recipes I haven’t made that don’t require more than the standard hour fermentation, hour proof, and bake. Basically, it got down to a focaccia recipe, which looked lovely, and pitas, which looked simple. I chose the latter.

Aside from the final shape and the minimal final rise, the pitas have a very basic bread recipe. No non-standard ingredients needed (though an optional dough relaxer is suggested). “This is just a simple white bread recipe cooked in an unusual way,” KAF notes.

The dough came together almost immediately with a few stirs of my Danish dough whisk. It was very soft, but with my recent kneading experiences, I figured some kneading would even out the hydration and result in a nice, cohesive blob within a few minutes.

I was wrong.

mixing dough
While quick to come together, the dough was not quick to smooth out. At the lower right, you see it just after mixing, and on the lower left, what it looked like after ten minutes of scraping and smooshing with my dough scraper. Also, with this new countertop, my photos are likely to become much more monochromatic.

The recipe–which calls for three cups flour and one cup water–contains no comments on the appearance of the dough, just an instruction to knead by hand for 10 minutes “until it’s smooth.” I kneaded it entirely with my bench scraper because it coated my hands when I touched it. (It tasted like pizza dough… but wetter.)

My instincts were to add a touch of flour, but since I didn’t have special revelation for what the dough was supposed to feel like, I decided to let it work itself out. Into the bowl to rise it went, and it did nearly double.

But it was very nearly as sticky as before. While rolling the pitas out with an oiled rolling pin worked, scraping them off the counter to deposit them on the baking sheet resulted in not-round, not-even, rather stretched slabs of dough that looked like they didn’t know what they wanted out of life.

sad dough
At top, the stickiness of the dough about to rise. On bottom, sad, badly-shaped rounds of dough. Not pictured: my hopes and dreams for becoming a master baker.

Then there was the fun adventure where I set off the smoke alarm in the new apartment for the first time. Apparently no oven I have access to will get up to 500 degrees without somehow releasing enough invisible vapor for the smoke alarm to detect it. So, down to 400 the oven went, and a further nail in the coffin for puffy pita pockets.

Not certain how long to bake them at the lower temperature, I pulled them out after about eight minutes, thoroughly frustrated.

“It’s a sad pita pocket,” I said, depositing one on the cooling rack.

“It’s a practice pita pocket,” Husband suggested. “A learning-for-the-future pita pocket.”

Sad bread
At right, evidence that the dough was way too wet.

They were soft and had a good, sweet bready flavor, so it wasn’t a complete loss. I ate mine with the slightly unorthodox choice of creamed spinach, because sometimes you just need your comfort foods that other people think are gross. Husband had his with tuna salad, keeping with the theme.

I don’t see any reviews that other people have had the too-wet problem with the recipe, and I did measure my flour by weight, so I’m figuring summer just made things too humid. Next time I make these, I will adjust the flour to get a good, kneadable dough and see what happens. And I might see if I can bake them in my sister-in-law’s oven, since she doesn’t have neighbors on the other side of the wall to worry about bothering if the smoke alarm goes off.


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