25 May 2010

Sourdough Pita Bread

2-3/4 c (5:6--water:flour) barm
10 oz flour (6 oz in barm)--separated: 1 c, unsifted + 1 c, sifted if working without kitchen scale
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons oil

1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for a scant 1/4 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead until it comes together.

2. Dust the counter with a little of the reserved flour and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Scrape the dough with bench scraper and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. If it is too sticky to work with, cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. Then knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary.

3. Let the dough rise in bowl, lightly greased with oil. Press the dough down and lightly oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. (At this point, you can refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days.)

4. Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level with a baking stone.

5. Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.

6. Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed and just beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray each remaining piece with water before baking.

7. Once the pita has puffed, you can flip it to lightly brown the other side.

8. Proceed with the remaining dough, baking as many at a time as can fit on the stone without touching. After they are baked, transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. You should allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches, but it isn't completely necessary.

The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving, if needed.

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