I was putting things together for our monthly gathering of The Book Club and thought a modified Mshalale salad would be a good thing on a cool late spring day, so I asked Rich to pick up some pita bread while he was at Target.
Who knew? Target, in our area at least, doesn’t carry pita bread. Fortunately, I had this recipe from last year to fall back on, so the salad was saved!
•2-1/4 tsp yeast, or quick rising yeast
•1/2 cup warm (110º) water
•1 tsp granulated sugar
•3 cups flour
– I added an additional 1/2 cup while kneading, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the dough came together
•1-1/4 tsp salt
•1 cup lukewarm water
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and set aside for about 15 minutes until it is quite frothy – as you can see, it puffs up, so use at least a two cup measure to avoid spills.
Combine the flour and the salt in a large mixing bowl – or, like me, the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook – and make a small depression in the center.
Pour the yeast mixture into the depression then, with the mixer running on low, slowly drizzle in the lukewarm water.
Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough comes together and is nicely elastic. It’ll still be quite sticky.
Increase the speed and knead the dough, adding additional flour as needed for 15 to 20 minutes. When the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, it’s ready.
Note: the first time I made this recipe, I did not need to add additional flour, but this time, that extra 1/2 cup was needed to make it all come together, and I probably ended up kneading the dough with the mixer for about 30 minutes total to reach the right consistency and non-sticky level. Bread can be tricky, depending on the weather, so be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
Dough nicely kneaded and not too sticky, turn it into a large, lightly oiled bowl, rotating to coat all sides with the oil.
Cover tightly and set aside in a warm spot for about three hours – or until the dough has doubled in size. Mine was easily doubled in about an hour, but I let it be for another 90 minutes or so until I was ready to deal with it. Remember, YOU are the boss of that dough; if it’s ready and you aren’t, just let it rest a while longer, punch it down and let it rise again, or even punch it down and stash it in a lightly floured bag in the fridge until it’s a good time for you.
When you ARE ready to deal with the dough, Place your chosen baking sheet on the bottom most rack, and heat your oven to 500º.
Form the dough into a rope on a lightly floured surface, then pinch off 10 or 12 more-or-less evenly sized pieces and shape them into balls.
Cover and let rest for ten minutes.
Roll each ball into a circle, about 1/4 inch thick and five or six inches across – I did mine in batches of four.
Bake each circle for four minutes, until the bread has puffed up, then flip it and bake for another two minutes.
Remove from the oven, gently push down the puff, and stash in a storage bag (I used my bread crock).
Repeat with the remaining circles.
The pita will be good for up to a week in your bread box (or storage bag), or you can freeze it for up to a month.
This bread is terrific as is, especially fresh from the oven (try it with a bit of peach butter), but I had other plans…
First, of course, was the Mshalale and blueberry salad, which this time I made with feta, because our Target also doesn’t carry Lebanese string cheese, so I brushed the pita with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, sprinkled it with sea salt, Tellicherry and Aleppo pepper, then baked them at 400º until golden and crispy – five to ten minutes.
Second, I’d made a fresh batch of feta spread, and found that a schmear on top of a bit of fresh pita makes a really nice lunch with a tossed salad of romaine, sun-dried tomato, and onions with a bit of celery seed or French dressing.
Third, I spread some more of the pita with the feta spread, then topped it with marinated artichoke hearts and…
Well, those details to come. Monday, I think.