Our food “intelligence” is shaped by everything that we ate while growing up. Children who grew up on Jollibee spaghetti, for instance, are likely to experience culture shock when presented with dishes like spaghetti alla vongole. Children whose acquaintance with bread is limited to soft and airy loaves straight from the factory have a hard time appreciating sour dough bread with its crusty exterior and dense and chewy interior. Some outgrow the fear to venture beyond their comfort zone; most never do.
I am one of those children who was raised on factory-baked soft and airy bread. I hated anything crusty that I would cut off the sides of the bread. Two things took me out of my comfort zone — paratha and tortilla. Farther down the road, I was introduced to naan and pita. I loved them all. But it wasn’t until Alex started making bread at home would I truly realize the magic of flatbreads. If you think that the pricey tortilla from some trendy bakeshop is good, you probably haven’t experienced tortilla fresh off the grill.
Alex has successfully made three flatbreads on different occasions — pita, naan and tortilla. Yes, in that order. And the recipes will be published in that order too.
Pita is Arabic in origin but is also widely eaten in the Mediterranean. It is traditionally baked at an ultra high temperature to make the dough puff and form an air pocket inside. If making a modest number of pita at home, it isn’t necessary to cook the bread in the oven. For such a short baking time, preheating the oven will take three times as long and that’s a lot of wasted gas. A thick-bottomed pan set on the stove is all you need to make pita.
- ½ cup warm milk
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups bread flour
- Pour ⅔ cup warm water into the bowl of your mixer. Add the milk and stir.
- To the milk mixture, add the yeast, sugar, olive oil and salt. Stir.
- Lock the mixing bowl in the mixer. Attach the dough hook.
- Add a cup of flour to the mixture in the bowl. Mix on LOW speed. When the flour has been incorporated, add another cup. Mix again. Add the third cup of flour and mix until the dough has a more uniform appearance.
- Knead the dough for four to five minutes.
- Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and let the dough rest for an hour.
- Transfer to the dough to the work surface and pinch into eight portions. Arrange on a plate and cover with cling wrap. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
- With a rolling pin, flatten each piece of dough to a thickness of about a quarter of an inch. If you're particular about the shape of the flattened dough, you can place a plate over it and cut off everything that falls outside the circle.
- As you roll a piece of dough, keep the rest covered to keep them from drying out.
- Heat a pan large enough to fit the flattened dough. Cook the pita over medium-high heat until puffed and lightly browned. If the temperature is correct, this shouldn't take more than a minute.
- Flip the pita over and cook for another 45 to 50 seconds.
- Repeat until all the flattened dough has been cooked.
- You can split the pita to expose the pocket and put all the fillings inside.
- Or you can place the fillings on top of the pita then fold the bread, gyro style.