pita bread + tzatziki

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm a snacker.

Cracker and cheese.

Peanut butter and apples.

Peanut butter and celery.

Peanut butter and anything.

Almonds and dried apricots.

Pineapple yogurt and pumpkin seeds.

Those are a few of my favourites. But on the weekends, I like fancy pants snacks. Okay, maybe not fancy but more time intensive. This weekend, to feed my bread baking kick, I made pita breads.

Uhh-mazing. Warm, fluffy, full of air pockets, perfect for dipping. Better than any restaurant or grocery store pitas. It's true, the husband confirmed it.

But a girl can't live on pita breads alone. It needed something else. Something creamy, cool, garlicky and crisp all at once. Tzatziki. What else?

Dead simple to make, tzatziki completed my weekend snack attack. And will probably fill my week long snacks, as the recipe makes quite a lot, for 2 people that is.

Pita Breads
[ from Baking with Julia ]

Makes about 16 pitas. I baked mine in the oven but they can also be cooked on a griddle top or in a cast iron pan.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups tepid water (80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix together yeast and water in a large bowl. Stirring one way only, add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup at a time. Once all flour has been added, stir 100 times, or until it looks smooth and silky, similar to pancake batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm, draft free area for at least 30 minutes but up to 8 hours. Note: the book said an 8 hour rest is ideal, but I only rested the sponge for 30 minutes and it tasted fine to me. If your snack attack can be stayed for that long and you let it rest for 8 hours, let me know how it tastes.

After the rest, sprinkle the salt over the sponge and using a wooden spoon stir in the olive oil, mixing well, stirring in one direction again. Add the all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough is too stiff to stir by hand. I could only add 2 1/2 cups before my weak arms gave out.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic. The dough will be fairly firm and have a nice sheen to it.

Oil a clean mixing bowl and transfer dough to bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until dough has doubled.

To bake the breads in the oven : Place baking stones or baking sheets in the bottom half of the oven, covering all but an inch around each side, to let the heat circulate properly. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Deflate dough by turning out and kneading briefly. Divide the dough in half and place one half under plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Divide the second half into 8 equal pieces and using lightly floured hands, shaped each piece into a tightly shaped ball. Keep balls under plastic wrap while you are working on the others. On a well floured counter, flatten balls using your fingertips and then roll out, with a rolling pin, to an 8 - 9 inch round, less than a 1/4 inch thick. Cover rounds with a kitchen towel, but careful not to stack them, they will stick. Hard lesson learned.

Place as many rounds as you can on the preheated baking sheets, I got about 3 to 4, and bake for 3 - 5 minutes or until breads look like blown up balloons. Some may not puff up quite as much, but they will have large air bubbles. Remove breads from oven and wrap them in a large kitchen towel. Continue baking the remaining rounds and then repeat this process for the remaining dough.

To bake the breads on the stove top : Preheat a 9-inch griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat and lightly oil. Place one rolled-out round at a time on the griddle, cook on one side for 15-20 seconds before gently turning the bread over. Cook for another minute, or until big bubbles appear. Turn the bread again and cook until it balloons fully. Pressing a towel on the areas where bubbles have formed will push air into the flat areas. They should cook for no longer than 3 minutes.

[ adapted from Grazing ]

1 small cucumber, peeled
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups Balkan-style plain yogurt
salt & pepper to taste
squeeze of lemon juice

Grate the cucumber with a box grater on to a kitchen towel. Squeeze towel to remove as much excess liquid as possible.

Stir together cucumber, garlic, yogurt and lemon juice until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served immediately, but I like to prepare the dip a few hours ahead of time and let it rest in the refrigerator as the garlic flavour intensifies as the mixture sits.