Food & Drink

Middle Eastern Pocket Bread, Pita

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 9 minutes per baking sheet

Makes 14 6-inch pitas

This recipe comes from "The Good Cook, Techniques & Recipes: Bread" by the editors of Time Life Books (Time-Life Books, 1981; $19).

Gluten flour is high in protein and comes from hard wheat. It is treated to eliminate most of the starch, resulting in a flour with a high gluten content. You can find gluten flour at Raley's supermarkets.

Ingredients:

2¼ cups tepid water

1 teaspoon sugar

One ¼-ounce package active dry yeast

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup gluten flour

About 4½ cups all-purpose flour

Cornmeal

Instructions:

Combine ¼ cup of the tepid water, the sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let stand until very foamy, about 10 minutes. Beat in the remaining warm water, olive oil and salt. Beat in the gluten flour and beat vigorously for two or three minutes. Gradually add all-purpose flour until the mixture is too stiff to beat, then turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead well, adding enough additional all-purpose flour to make an elastic, nonstick but not-too-stiff dough.

Form the dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long and cut it into 14 slices. Lay the slices 2 or 3 inches apart on a floured towel. Cover with a dry cloth, then with a well-dampened one, and let the slices rise until doubled, about one hour.

On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter. Lay the rounds on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal, spacing the rounds at least 2 inches apart. You will need four or more baking sheets for this quantity of dough. Cover with dry cloths topped with damp ones and let the loaves rise for 30 minutes. The dough should be not quite doubled.

While the loaves are rising, preheat oven to 475 degrees. If yours is a gas oven, put one baking sheet directly on the oven floor and bake the loaves for 4½ minutes (they will balloon), then transfer the pan to the top shelf, at the same time putting another baking sheet of pita on the oven floor. At the end of the second 4½-minute period, remove the upper sheet from the oven, move the lower sheet to the upper shelf and put the third sheet on the bottom, proceeding in this way until all of the loaves are baked.

If yours is an electric oven, follow the same leap-frog method, but bake the loaves first on a shelf placed as close as possible to the bottom of the oven before transferring them to the upper shelf. As the bread is removed from the oven, stack the rounds and wrap them in a dry towel, then in a damp one. Keep adding to the stack and rewrapping it, then allow all the loaves to cool thoroughly, unless you want to serve some of the bread right away. The loaves will deflate, but the pockets will remain. Store in plastic bags or freeze. Before serving, rewarm the pita.

Note: The prep time does not include the 1½-hour total rise times for the dough.

Per pita: 167 calories; 6 grams protein; 33 grams carbohydrates; trace fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 333 milligrams sodium; 1 gram fiber; 1 gram sugar; 4 percent calories from fat

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