I had a little anxiety while standing in Costco the other day as I read the list of ingredients on a package of pita bread. There were so many preservatives and several types of unnecessary sugars and a whole list of additives I didn’t even recognize. There must have been no less than twenty-five ingredients!
My basic rule of thumb is ten ingredients or less on prepackaged food (that’s generous!) but I usually prefer five or less. And the fresher, the better. I firmly believe the longer it lasts on the shelf (by using added preservatives and all kinds of scary magic), the harder it is on your body to digest. If it’s so fresh it’s only got a shelf-life of three days (like the freshly-baked bread we bought at the farmer’s market today), kudos! That’s where a refrigerator comes in handy. :)
Here’s my basic recipe for 100% whole wheat pita bread. [Sidenote: I grind my own wheat and store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This will help preserve all the nutrients, and I find by grinding it fresh I get fluffier, lighter flour, which in turn makes fluffier, lighter bread. In a lot of cases, I can use my freshly ground wheat in place of all-purpose flour. Score!]
This recipe takes 3 hours from start to finish, but the hands-on time is only about 30 minutes. It’s perfect for an afternoon when you’re staying home.
100% Whole Wheat Pita Bread
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tb vital wheat gluten*
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
cornmeal for sprinkling the baking sheet
1. Stir yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup of warm water in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
2. In another bowl, stir flour and vital wheat gluten together. Whisk 1/2 cup of this flour mixture into the yeast mixture. Cover and let stand for 45 minutes in a warm place, until doubled and bubbly.
3. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup of warm water, and remaining flour mixture until a dough forms.
4. If you have a mixer, knead the dough on low for 5-7 minutes (or on a floured countertop for 8-10 minutes) until a smooth, elastic dough is formed (see picture below). Cover dough in a bowl and let rise again for 1 hour.
5. Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces, forming each into a ball. On a floured surface, flatten each into 6-7″ rounds. Transfer to baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Loosely cover pitas and let rest for 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 500-degrees, and move rack to lower 1/3 of the oven.
7. Transfer 2 pitas at a time directly onto oven rack.* Bake until just puffed, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip pita and bake another minute. Cool pitas on a cooling rack. Cut in half and serve warm.
*Bob’s Red Mill is the brand I use. You can find it with the specialty flours (gluten-free, barely, etc.)
*I found that putting them directly on the oven rack created too deep of grooves and it was hard to get that “pocket” in some of the pitas. Next time, I am going to try putting them directly on a preheated cookie sheet.
I served these with The Sprouted Kitchen’s Beach Day Tuna Salad (below, from her cookbook), but I replaced the tuna with canned chickpeas. It was so tasty we didn’t have leftovers, and I wish I had made a double batch for lunches. (I may post this recipe sometime, but until then just know you’re missing out on a beautiful salad full of chickpeas, red onion, raisins, celery and parsley, smothered in a whole grain dijon mustard, lemon and olive oil dressing.)