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2 cups of warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet or scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1 to 2 cups pumpernickel*
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional but will help the pitas stay fresher longer)
1 scant tablespoon salt
1 cup finely chopped onion, scallions or chives
2 tablespoons caraway seed (or dill seed)
4 to 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
*Since the protein in rye flour or meal doesn't translate into "gluten" when it is mixed with a liquid, this dough won't have the stretch that an all-wheat dough will. If you use this ratio of pumpernickel to wheat when you're making pita bread, a pocket is reluctant to form. It is easy enough to make one with a knife after the pitas have baked. If you want the pocket to happen by itself and if you don't mind a milder rye flavor, use only 1 cup of pumpernickel and increase the wheat flour by the same measure.
Put this together as follows, using the pumpernickel in the initial "sponge:"
Mixing: Pour the water into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, the yeast and about 2 cups of flour without worrying too much about lumps. Leave this little "sponge" to begin to work and expand while you prepare other ingredients.
When everything is ready to be put together and the sponge looks full and bubbly, mix in the optional oil, the salt, the onion, the seeds and a further 3 1/2 cups of flour.
Kneading: Stir this together as well as you can in the bowl and then turn out onto a kneading surface where you've sprinkled the remainder of the flour. Knead the dough, adding enough more flour to keep it from sticking to you or the board, until it has really come together, about 2 or 3 minutes. Then give it a rest while you clean out and grease the bowl.
After this little rest, the flour will have better absorbed the moisture, the developing gluten will have relaxed, the dough will feel less lumpy and more cohesive. Continue kneading until the it's springy and smooth (or as smooth as it can be with spinach and garlic pieces in it).
Rising: Shape the dough into a nice ball, place it in the greased bowl and turn it over so that the top has a thin film of grease on it. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the yeast go to work. While the yeast is busy, you can make fillings to go in the pitas when they're done.
Shaping: After the dough has doubled in bulk (when you can poke a finger in it and it doesn't bounce back at you), begin preheating your oven to a hot 500°F. Knock the dough down, knead out any stray bubbles and divide it into 8 (or 4 if you've make only half the recipe) pieces.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each out into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Place two each on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Baking: After the circles have rested, place the baking sheet on the oven bottom (if you have a baking stone, place it on that), close the oven door and keep it shut for 2 minutes. It's this initial intense heat that begins to create the pocket. The outside of the dough bakes very quickly while the carbon dioxide bubbles inside expand and separate the top layer of the dough from the bottom.
After the initial 2 minutes, place the baking sheet on a rack higher up in the oven and continue baking for another 5 to 6 minutes. During this part of the baking process, the pitas should blow up like balloons.
Cooling: When they are done, remove the sheet from the oven and slide the pitas onto a cooling rack. As the gas inside them cools, they will deflate somewhat. Once they are completely cool, you can press the balance of the gas out of them so you can slide them into an airtight bag until they're ready to be cut in half and filled.
Nutrition information per serving (1 piece, 196 g): 416 cal, 8 g fat, 13 g protein, 70 g complex carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 7 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 736 mg sodium, 424 mg potassium, 2 mg vitamin C, 5 mg iron, 152 mg calcium, 255 mg phosphorus.
1 pound lean corned beef, sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces Toss together the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl blend the remaining 4 ingredients. Adjust any for taste and then gently stir into the corned beef mixture. Chill and serve in the Rye & Onion Pita.
1/2 cup (or more) chopped onion, scallions, or chives
1/2 cup (or more) sauerkraut rinsed and squeezed fairly dry
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 or more tablespoons capers (optional)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons horseradish (to taste)
2 to 3 teaspoons sharp mustard (to taste)
Nutrition information per serving (1/8 of recipe, 128 g): 320 cal, 27 g fat, 13 g protein, 4 g complex carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 1 g dietary fiber, 64 mg cholesterol, 818 mg sodium, 160 mg potassium, 10 mg vitamin C, 1 mg iron, 151 mg calcium, 158 mg phosphorus
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 5, May-June 1992 issue.