Search This Blog


The Pita Bread Incident aka The Beginning of the Blog

Today is the day that I decided to begin on online blog that would highlight some of the things that make my life what it is. It all began when I was in the kitchen knee deep in bread flour with sticky dough covered hands, attempting the challenge of making homemade pita bread that this idea of a blog came to me or was it because it is too freezing cold outside to walk to the stationary store to purchase a new journal.

Maybe you are wondering, "Who makes their own pita bread? Why not just go to the store and buy it?" Well there are two reasons for this. One, I live in Korea and there is no such thing as going to the store and just buying pita bread, and two, which is my main reason ... things just plain taste better when they are homemade and you can join in the process of putting it all together. That is how I roll in my kitchen. So that brings me to the topic of my first blog post ... the creation of homemade bread.

It all began around 10am, after about 3 cups of coffee, to make sure that I was good and awake before attempting such a venture. I gathered all of my supplies from the pantry and set them out on my countertop. Well actually since the whole of my countertop measures 8 inches wide by 10 inches long, some ingredients were propped on the windowsill, while others were placed carefully in inverted pots in my dish rack, so that I could make room for my bowl. (I am not sure if my cooking methods would pass the latest issue of the health department's cooking safety rules-but I am improvising to say the least!)

Now it is time to begin. I slowly let the yeast dissolve in warm water, then mixed in a dash of sugar and let that dissolve as well, before letting it sit for about 15 minutes to come to a nice frothy stage. Then I added it to the well that I prepared in the center of flour and salt mixture. Slowly, I added another cup of water and mixed everything together with my lone wooden spoon, until it was ready to be kneaded on my prepared floury surface. I kneaded and kneaded for what seemed to be a lifetime, but at least my forearms got a good workout, as did my fingers. I kept thinking about the end result the whole time. I wish that I could take the same approach when it comes to exercise, but we shall save that idea for another day. I rinsed out my flour bowl and coated it with some fine organic olive oil from a small family run farm in Greece (thanks to a student) and plopped my dough in there to rest for about 3 hours before it was ready to be twisted, rolled , flattened, and cooked.

After about 2 hours, I peeked at my dough, hidden underneath my cookie sheet covered bread bowl, and noticed that it was not rising as nicely as I would have hoped. Luckily I have become the master of improvising and here another opportunity arose to do just that. I was going to make Massaman Curry, a Thai favourite, for lunch so I decided to get a head start. As I set a few potatoes in a pot to boil, I propped by bowl on top of the pot to catch the rising steam to heat up the bowl at an attempt to warm the dough. This went as planned until the pot of potatoes started to boil and I needed to remove the bread bowl. Somehow I had forgotten what my high school physics teacher taught me about metal being a good conductor of heat. I nearly burned my hand off in the transfer of the bowl to the free burner on my gas range that would provide for its close enough to a heat source place to rise. I walked away from this near catastrophe and took comfort in a cup of tea that quickly made me forget about my hand.
Now with cooking I have learned that times quoted in recipes are often mere suggestions as so many factors influence the actual amount of time needed to prepare something well. I remembered this, as still after 3 hours, my dough had not risen as much as I was going for. But I didn't give up. I just walked away and decided to allow it some more time. It was at this point that I researched how to create a blog. Because like I mentioned earlier, this is my very first attempt at something so "modern." Now I would be ready to begin documenting my account at taking part in a process that seems so foreign to many of my generation.
After about 4 hours, I finally gave up on the rising and faced the fact that this bad boy was not going to work with me. So I just continued with the next step anyway, hoping for a miracle to happen inside of the oven. I preheated my oven to 500 ° F and prepared my floured surface. I rolled out the dough into a log and tore off about a dozen balls and left them to cover beneath an assortment of Tupperware containers and cereal bowls while the oven became fully heated. One by one, I rolled them out to the closest form of a circle that I could come up with using a pint glass in place of a rolling pin. I transferred them to my preheated cookie tray, two at a time, because like my counter top, my oven is VERY small, but at least it is an oven in a country where they are hard to come by. I put them into the oven and crossed my fingers that the heat would make them come out of their shell and turn into something magical. The recipe I was using mentioned that they would puff right up in the oven, so I squatted down (because my oven is on my floor) and glued my face to the oven glass and watched for this to happen. But it didn't. "Oh well," I thought, "I have yet to eat a kind of bread that does not taste good." 6-8 minutes later, they were golden brown with the coloring of a good piece of Naan bread. I took them out and flattened them with my handle-less spatula, which got broken in a previous episode of my adventures. But it still does the job that is was created for-so why throw it away, maybe that is just the part of my father in me, who knows. In the midst of all this, the rack from the oven slipped out from under the tray and nearly sent my bread flying and burnt the toes right off my feet, but luckily Bob was close by and he came to the rescue.
I let the steam subside for a few minutes before ripping into one and sharing half with my husband, who always so graciously offers to be my taste testing guinea pig. They have passed both of our expectations and now the ideas fill my head about what they can be used for ... meatball subs, stuffed with chicken salad, falafel, or for dipping into the curry that was next on the list if creations.

Following the cleanup of the flour scattered all over the kitchen, I began preparing what would be our "lupper", since lunch didn't really happen because of the rising issue and because dinner time was not for a few hours and our bellies were ravenous . I held onto the old saying, "Eat when you are hungry" and forgot about the unconventional time of our meal. I chopped an onion and threw it into a pan preheated with olive oil and then added a packet of prepared curry paste. Once the onions were browned, I tossed in leftovers from last night's chicken which I deboned while the bread was cooking. I retrieved the potatoes that I boiled earlier and tossed them in with a can of coconut milk. After testing for the perfect flavour, I added a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of sugar and a handful of peanuts. Finally the curry was ready to be served. I ladled it into a bowl, plated the bread which I topped with a smidgen of butter and garlic, and brought it to our little table that is set in the middle of our living room floor. Yes, we sit on the floor for almost all of our meals, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do. As we enjoyed our dinner, we reflected on previous trips to the beaches and islands of Thailand and cranked up the tunes. Maybe we even downed a few beers to top off all of the hard work of the day. The whole time I thought, "Our life sure is grand." Despite the few mishaps that occurred along the way, today's challenge was ultimately successful and will be attempted again in the future. Until next time.
Homemade Pita Bread
Makes about a dozen.
Recipe from About.

1 package of yeast, or quick rising yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teapsoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 min:utes until water is frothy.
2. Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.
3.Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded.
4. Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated. Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
5. Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to preheat your baking sheet also.
7. Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.
8. Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes. 9. Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking. Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
NOTE:Pita bread can be stored for up to a week in a pantry or bread box, and up to a month in the freezer. Be sure to use freezer bags when storing in the freezer.

No comments:

Post a Comment