Friday, March 24, 2006

Un altro tipo di pane un po' speciale

After making the bagels, I began to enjoy baking bread. So I decided I would try to make pita bread. Pita bread is a typical middle eastern food, known because of its opening like a pocket, which makes it nice to make sandwiches. It is also cut in wedges and used to scoop up sauces like hummus or tzaziki. I just found out on wikipedia that it has a lot of nice meanings in Bulgurian cuisine, where it is given to guests with salt or honey as a sign of welcome, or in other special occasions such as weddings or the day before Christmas. Quite interesting.
To me, making pita was interesting because its texture is very unique: it is soft inside the pocket, but very firm outside.. and I was curious about the whole idea of making the pocket. I found a few recipes and in the end I more or less followed a mixture of this and this recipe. The trick to make the pocket seems to be the really high temperature that this bread needs to be baked at. In fact, wikipedia mentions 700 F.. obviously my oven reached only 500 F, but anyway, I tried.
The preparation is quite easy. As usual, warm up the water (2 cups), add yeast (1 tablespoon) and a bit of sugar, leave it a few minutes to activate. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Then begin to add flour. The recipe I was using suggested whole flour, and so I did. I like whole flour bread, anyway. After a while the dough becomes harder.. supposedly you should use about 5.5-6.5 cups to make it with the right consistency. I think mine was made with about 5.5 cups. Work for about 5 minutes and the let it rest covered for about 30 minutes. Then divide it into 8 balls and roll each ball on the table, to make discs about 6 inch wide. Put the discs on a baking sheet, wait for about ten more minutes, and then place the baking sheet at the bottom of the oven that will be heated at 500F. Leave it there for about 3 minutes. This should induce the formation of a 'ball' of air inside the dough, due to the CO2 that is suddenly freed inside the dough and cannot get out. So that's how you have the pocket. Then, bring these breads on an upper level in your oven and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until they are brown.
My oven was probably not hot enough, so not all my pita breads were really empty inside, but most of them were, at least partially, and one could then separate sort of an upper and a lower layer by hand, if he really wanted the pocket. The parts that were well separated had a really nice texture. The flavor was very good.. we actually really enjoyed them, even in this imperfect version. :)
This is the little pile of pita breads that I made:

And this is a serving suggestion for this bread (the meats and vegetables can be put inside the pocket):

To make this, I stir-fried onion and cabbage (with salt), then after about 10 minutes I added the sausages. I had two pieces of turkey sausages and two of lamb sausages. They both turned out to be really good, expecially the lamb ones. Then, I cooked the sausage under high heat for the first 5 minutes, and then I left them simmer with some white wine for another 15 minutes. In the end, the whole thing was very good, since the cabbage had taken up the taste of the sausage, and everything had a bit of a wine taste.
For the spinach part, I just steamed the leaves, then chopped them and added some finely cut garlic. I wanted to make a sort of sauce with yogurt, but I didn't have enough yogurt, so I ended up adding some cheese and heating it up to melt it. It was actually good. It went very nicely with the lamb sausage.

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