A few months ago, we posted a blog written by a friend of mine, Dani, detailing her daughter's wedding, and the gluten-free cake she baked for it.
The couple was married in the bride's hometown here in America; then traveled to Israel for a second ceremony, in the groom's native country.
Wouldn't you know it? Out of that ceremony came the inspiration for another blog – this one focusing on one of the memorable foods Dani enjoyed in Israel.
Dani and her significant other, Mike, couldn't stop raving about the golden pita bread served at every meal, usually with a simple salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers.
“This is like no pita bread you'll ever buy at the store,” enthused Mike.
What makes this pita special? Could it be that it's homemade, and eaten hot, just minutes out of the oven?
Let's find out.
Dani came back with both tales of delicious meals, and photos. Here's the view from the wedding site, overlooking the city of Karmiel.
Dani found a woman making pita bread at an outdoor oven. The pita on the table had risen for a while, and was ready to go into the oven.
Dani watched as the pita went onto a hot stone in the oven, and was turned once.
It was taken out and painted with a variety of olive oil/garlic/tomato/chopped olive toppings. As Dani said in the email accompanying this photo: “YUMMMY!!!”
Further quizzing revealed that this was probably a whole wheat pita, and that it was usually served with a simple yet superb salad made of chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, and olive oil.
Hey - this sounds very approachable, right? Let's replicate it.
First, the whole wheat pita.
We'll start with King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour on the left, and King Arthur Organic 100% White Whole Wheat Flour on the right.
Our white wheat is lighter and milder-tasting than our Premium Whole Wheat Flour. Use it when you want mild (rather than full-bodied) whole wheat flavor.
Put the following in a bowl:
1 3/4 cups (7 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Organic 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
*Use the greater amount in winter or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer or a humid climate.
Why the orange juice? Just a little trick we learned while writing our Whole Grain Baking cookbook. Orange juice smooths out whole wheat's flavor. But go ahead and substitute water if you don't want to bother with the OJ.
Mix till the dough comes together...
...then knead to make a smooth dough. This should take about 7 minutes in a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it's just about doubled in bulk.
While the pita dough is rising, make the chopped salad.
Dani recalled that some versions of the salad included scallions and lemon juice, along with the tomatoes, cukes, and olive oil. So I gathered all the ingredients I might possibly need.
First, the tomatoes.
But, time out – here it is, the best $7.95 you'll ever spend! This American-made tomato knife slices tomatoes better than any knife I've ever used. Its ultra-thin serrated blade glides through tomatoes like – well, like a hot knife through butter.
Yes, $7.95. And just in time for tomato season. Put it on your “next time I order” list.
I was a skeptic; now I'm a believer. I'm buying one of these for home...
Start with equal parts chopped tomatoes and chopped, unpeeled cucumbers. I've used 1 large tomato, and 1 medium-large cuke. Each measured about 2 cups chopped.
Toss the vegetables in a bowl.
Next, we'll add salt.
When you're preparing something with just four ingredients, you'd best be sure those ingredients are top-notch. If you have any fancy salt, now's the time to use it.
I love this Fleur de Sel. Unlike table salt, its flavor is absolutely pure; not a hint of that metallic taste iodized salts sometimes carry.
See how coarse it is, compared to table salt? You'd think it would be crunchy; but I found that it dissolved quickly, and I actually used less Fleur de Sel than I would normal salt. Maybe it's extra-salty?
Sprinkle the tomatoes and cukes judiciously with salt. I probably used a heaping 1/8 teaspoon - really, that's all. If you're using table salt, you might want to use more. But err on the side of not-enough. Remember, you can always add more; it's tough to take it away.
Drizzle in your favorite olive oil. How much? Just enough. This is one of those “play it by mouth” recipes. I'd guess I used about 2 tablespoons.
Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the salt.
At this point, you can add sliced scallions, and/or lemon juice to taste. I added both, just to see how it all tasted. Excellent.
OK, back to the pita.
Towards the end of the dough's rising time, you'll want to start preheating your oven to 450°F. If you have a pizza stone, set it on the bottom rack.
The dough is nicely risen. Who says whole wheat dough doesn't rise well? Yeah, this is mixed with bread flour, but still – nice!
Gently deflate the dough.
Next, we're going to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Using a scale makes this easy.
Round the pieces into balls.
Cover the balls and let them rest for 10 minutes; this will make them easier to roll. A deli platter cover comes in handy – I keep one on top of the fridge here in the test kitchen.
Work with two pieces of dough at a time. Pull each into a rough disk...
...then roll into a 6” to 7” circle. Your goal is about 6”, once the dough stops shrinking.
A lightly greased silicone rolling mat is handy here.
Two dough disks, ready to bake.
Gently flop the pitas onto the hot stone.
Four minutes later, they might look like this.
Or, if your oven is TRULY at 450°F, they'll look like this. The first two pitas I baked, the oven wasn't quite up to temperature. What a difference 25° makes!
After 4 minutes, turn the pitas over. Bake for another 60 seconds.
Remove from the oven, and place on a cotton towel; this will help keep the pitas soft.
Next, choose your favorite flavored olive oil. I happen to like Moroccan Blend, with its oregano, chilies, fennel seeds, and cumin.
Brush the hot pita generously with the oil.
Oh, boy... lookin’ good, eh?
Pull the towel up around the pitas to keep them warm and soft.
Bake the remaining pitas, brushing them with oil while they're hot.
We're ready for the salad.
Tear the pitas into pieces...
And use them as a “mop” for the salad.
Warm pita, fresh-picked vegetables, olive oil... it just doesn't get any better than this.
Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Whole Wheat Pita with Middle Eastern Salad.