Pitta breads

Home made pitta breads are a real treat, easy to make, and can be the base for a variety of snacks and meals. You don’t need any particular expertise or equipment, and in fact I make mine with my usual white bread recipe, which is always more tasty, more yeasty, for its overnight rise in the fridge. They puff up in the oven, so you can easily split them to make a pocket to fill with all manner of delicious things. I like them just with salad, or eaten with a meal, torn into pieces and used to mop up sauce. You can just dip them into houmous, or if you feel like something a little more energetic or exotic, some spicy lamb burgers or falafel would be good. In taste and texture, these are far better than some commercial offerings, flat dessicated rounds that are almost impossible to split neatly, although in appearance they may be a little rustic. I suspect this is rather down to my own impatience and consequent lack of dexterity, so your own breads may well be perfect rounds or ovals. Whether neat shapes or lumpy-bumpy almost-rounds like mine, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

500g strong white bread flour, preferably organic, plus more for kneading

1 sachet (7g) easy blend yeast

1 teaspoon sugar (optional – I have just always added this)

2 teaspoons salt

1 glug good olive oil

300ml warm water

Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar, if using, into a bowl. Add the oil then tip in the water and mix everything together with a butter knife or a wooden spoon. Try and get as much of the flour incorporated as you can. Flour your worktop, tip the contents of the bowl onto it, including any flour not worked into the dough, and knead for at least 10 minutes. As you’re kneading, you’ll feel the dough changing from a sticky, wet mixture into something smooth, far less sticky, and quite elastic – when you push the dough away from yourself, it will start to spring back.

Form the dough into a ball, and smear the inside of a large bowl with a little oil, spreading it up the sides. Drop in the ball of dough, turn it over so both top and bottom are lightly oiled, cover the bowl with clingfilm and whack in the fridge overnight, and for up to 24 hours. If you’re not going for the overnight route, leave your bowl in a warmish place, not in a draft, for an hour, maybe a little more. In both cases, it’s ready when it’s twice the size, or therabouts, it was before.

If you’ve left the dough in the fridge, get it out and let it warm a little, then remove the cling film and press the dough with your fingers until it deflates. Preheat the oven to 220C, and stick a large baking tray (or a baking stone) into the oven to get nice and hot. Knead the dough for just a minute, and then divide it into 12 pieces. I can never seem to get 12 even pieces, but think that adds to the rustic charm. The easiest way is to halve it, halve it again and then split each piece into three. If you want to be a little more precise, you can shape your dough into a sausage and cut 12 equal portions. Leave them to sit for 5 -10 minutes.

Depending on the size of your baking sheet, take three or four portions of the dough and roll them into ovals about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Place them onto the hot baking sheet, and bake for 5-10 minutes, until puffed and beginning to turn brown. How long they take really depends on your oven, as some, particularly fans, are more ferocious than others, even at the same temperature. Start checking at 5 minutes. While they’re cooking, roll out the next batch ready. When you take them out of the oven, immediately wrap them in a clean tea towel – this will trap the steam as the cool slightly, keeping them soft rather than crunchy, which you really don’t want.

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