I don’t bake bread much, despite eating it by the bucketload. Most recipes seem quite complex and I’ve never been able to quite get the hang of kneading bread dough properly. However, one type of bread I’ve made quite a few times now is pitta (or pita) bread, thanks to a brilliant recipe by the baking genius that is Dan Lepard.
I’d only ever had shop-bought pitta bread and the occasional ‘proper’ pitta at restaurants up until last year. Then I acquired a fantastic cookbook, The Greek Vegetarian, and became convinced that the delicious dishes in there could only be accompanied by homemade bread. I bought Dan Lepard’s latest cookbook not long afterwards, and after trying his recipe for the first time, I became a full convert to the joys of real pitta.
My first go at this recipe seemed to take forever, but I was delighted with the results. The bread is wonderfully thick and ideal for tearing and dunking into houmous and Greek stews – a far cry from the suspiciously thin, dry pittas you get from the supermarket. The bread has turned out well on each go ever since, and I think all the practice has made the process a lot quicker.
The recipe does seem quite faffy when you first tackle it (what’s the point of kneading for 10 seconds?!) but it’s definitely worth the effort. As you might have gathered from my post on why I bake, I’m not exactly a dab hand with rolling out dough. My pittas are never perfectly oval, which is partly due to my rubbish rolling ability, but also partly due to the fact I have to use my mum’s chapatti rolling pin, as I left my standard rolling pin at the last place I rented when I lived in Manchester (and I keep forgetting to buy a new one!). Not that it matters much; the bread is still delicious, whatever the shape!
The one thing I can’t stress enough is that if you decide to try this recipe, having a very hot oven is an absolute must. I have a gas oven and crank it up all the way to gas mark 9 to make pitta bread, but I think I would probably get a little bit more rise in a hotter oven. That said, the bread does seem to rise fine at 9, as long as I don’t put too many pittas on the tray (Dan’s suggestion of baking two at a time seems about right). Definitely be careful to open and close the oven door as quickly as possible to prevent heat from escaping!
I made the latest batch of pitta yesterday in preparation for a day of Greek loveliness – homemade houmous and Greek salad for lunch (below) and potato and kalamata olive stew with feta for the evening meal (we ate it all before I remembered to take a photo!). Both the houmous and the stew came from The Greek Vegetarian – I would definitely recommend this book if you love Greek food, whether you’re a vegetarian or not.