Every meal needs a base, usually, like rice or an accompaniment such as bread. Of course, there are soups and stews that are perfectly well-rounded and can be eaten without bread. But, rarely does that happen in our household. Bread is essential! Period. Whether is it chapati as part of a north indian meal or a toasted slice of whole wheat bread, sliced baguette or warm pita. No meal is complete without one of these.
I was introduced to pita a couple of years ago when visiting Canada. It was the mix of the familiar, it is very similar to leavened breads made in the Indian subcontinent, and the convenience that packed pita offered that sparked my affinity for it. Pita is a mediterranean leavened bread made from wheat flour. In many cultures, and interestingly in Punjab too in the 19th and early 20th century, bread making was a communal affair. Today, there are places in Central Asia, Middle East and the Mediterranean regions where people have bread baked in local bakeries from a batch of homemade dough. Isn’t that great! I would love to have such a facility near me.
Until such a day I am going to make my own pita. Why, you ask? Well, for one we finish pita as soon as its home. Secondly, I can make my own pita chips, flavoured as I wish. That’s the real reason.
So here goes, a recipe for whole wheat pita and pita chips.
For Whole Wheat Pita
Time: active 20 minutes, resting: 1 hour.
Yield: 12 approximately
3 cups whole wheat flour,
1 1/4 cup warm water; 1 for kneading & 1/4 for yeast,
2 tsp active dry yeast (I use fast rising),
1.5 tbsp olive oil,
1/2 tbsp sugar,
a pinch of salt,
2-3 tsp dry herbs; oregano, basil, coriander/cilantro, thyme. (optional)
1. The dough: Warm up 1.4 cups of water. Keep aside 1/4 cup for the yeast. In a bowl mix sugar and water and then add yeast. The mixture will become frothy in a few minutes. Let it sit.
Next in a large mixing bowl or a flat platter like a parath, a large plate with high edges commonly used for kneading dough in India, mix flour and the rest of the ingredients. The best way to start kneading is to first put all the flour in the utensil. Next make a depression in the center and add the remaining dry ingredients and liquid there. I used a pinch of oregano and basil to flavour the bread. Gently start mixing the wet and dry ingredients. The mixture will become lump. At this point add the yeast mix and carry on kneading. As you use your hands, the dough will come together. If using a stand mixer, follow the same order.
Cover the dough and let it sit for 1 hour. It will rise at the end of this time.
2. Roll the dough: After an hour the dough would have risen and it will be soft and elastic. Put it on a lightly floured surface and gently knead once more. Next, break into balls. I use the grip around a ball of dough as a measure. Usually I use a ball large enough that I can overlap my fingers and thumb without mashing it up. You can try a couple of sizes and stick to the one you like. The bigger a ball, the larger your rolled pita will be. Once you are done making balls, lightly dust them with flour, and roll using a rolling-pin. Not too thin nor too thick.
While you do this preheat the oven to 400 F.
3. Bake: You can put the rolled flat bread directly onto the rack or use a baking sheet. I like the rack because it creates lines on the pita. Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on how dark you want them. The pita will begin to puff up almost immediately.
Remove from the oven and let them cool. I keep them in a kitchen towel and wrap them to trap the moisture.
Pitas substitute well for bread in sandwiches. Slice a pita in half, open the pocket that this creates and add your sandwich ingredients. Viola! Lunch, dinner or snack, ready in a jiffy.
To Make Pita Chips
Time: 10-15 minutes
2-4 tbsp olive oil,
2 tbsp Cajun mix,
1 tbsp dry garlic powder or
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced/shredded,
Ground black pepper (to taste),
Chilli flakes (to taste).
Baking the chips.
First preheat the oven to 375 F. The next steps are simple.
1. Mix all the seasoning and olive oil. When using garlic powder be careful. It burns quickly. If you have a mortar and pestle, I recommend crushing garlic cloves in that along with a drizzle of olive oil. This will result in a granular paste. Remove and mix in the remaining oil and seasonings.
- In case you can’t find cajun mix: mix together chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, salt and black pepper. To this add garlic and olive oil.
2. Slice pita breads into wedges. Toss them in the mix that you just made and then lay them out on a baking sheet. I usually use my pizza platter. Bake for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they tend to get charred very quickly.
3.Remove from the oven, cool and eat with your favourite dip. It’s that easy! My chips had herbs inside and Cajun mix on the outside. Feel free to play around with the spices you enjoy.
Homemade hummus, fresh chutney or guacamole, the pita pairs perfectly with any dip. It’s also a great stand alone snack.
We’ve been experimenting with Hummus, check them out: