Making pita at home is fun and easy! Now that I've done it, I think I'll do it a lot more. Any time I make hummus from scratch or roast chicken shawarma, there's time to make fresh pita. The beet baba ganoush is a delightful winter substitution when eggplant is out of season - you can also try it with other roasted veggies.
Back in Albuquerque, we loved this Middle Eastern restaurant and grocery called San Pedro Mart - a hidden gem, in true ABQ style. The building was obviously an old mini-mart, off a seemingly characterless thoroughfare, but wow, did they make great pita and falafel. Every time I eat pita, I think of that place.
There was a guy about our age behind the counter who absolutely cranked it out all day long - the crispiest falafel in town, silky hummus, spicy shawarma, creamy fava bean foul mudammas... and fresh pita. You could buy pita by the dozen and they were so delicious.
All the while he was chatting, serving tables, cleaning up, super friendly and so energetic. I remember one night he told us he wanted to go on the cooking show Hell's Kitchen, and I thought yeah - he could totally do it. I know I couldn't handle that kind of heat, but I can make pita at home when I can't go to San Pedro Mart.
I'm so excited to try all the fresh-milled Methow Valley flours I got in the Bluebird Grain Farms sampler pack. For this recipe I used 100% Pasayten Hard White wheat flour and it made gorgeous, flavorful pita - they even puffed up just like they're supposed to! The hard white wheat looks like white flour but is actually whole grain.
Pita Bread (adapted from David Tanis, New York Times)
2 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 C lukewarm water
2 1/4 C hard white wheat flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
Whisk yeast, sugar, and water together in a medium bowl, then stir in 1/2 cup flour. Let it rise in a warm place about 15 minutes. This is called making a sponge. It allows the flour to soak up water and the yeast to grow without salt (which slows down these processes).
Add the olive oil, salt, and remaining flour. Stir until a shaggy dough forms. Knead in the bowl for a minute to combine, then turn out onto a clean work surface. Knead lightly for 2 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to your hands. It should be soft and moist. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest 10 minutes, then knead again for 2 minutes. At this point you can refrigerate the dough for a day or two.
Clean the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Heat oven to 500F. Place a baking sheet or stone on the lowest rack of the oven.
Gently deflate the dough and break it into 8 pieces of equal size. Roll each piece into a ball, cover them all with a towel or plastic wrap, and let them rest 10 minutes.
One at a time, roll out a ball of dough to about 1/8 inch thick. It should be about 6-8 inches wide. Carefully lift the disc and slap it on the baking sheet. Bake 2 minutes (it should puff up during this time) then flip and bake 1 more minute. It should be pale with just a few brown spots. Transfer to a basket lined with a napkin and cover. Repeat until you have 8 pita!
If your first pita doesn't puff, don't worry - it will still be delicious. Try rolling the next one a bit thicker. If that doesn't work, try thinner. Another thing that can help is to close the oven for a minute after removing each pita, so it gets back up to full temperature.
Beet Baba Ganoush
1 pound beets
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 Tbs za'atar or parsley for garnish (optional)
Cut beet into 1/2 inch chunks, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast at 500F for about half an hour. Combine with all remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.