Pita Bread

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Years ago I bought a cookbook called Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno and I love this book.

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I’ve made several of the breads recipes; it would be great fun to try them all.  I’ve given this book as a gift more than once. If you see it on the shelf at your local book store I’d recommend buying it.  Today I decided to take a stab at the Pita bread. Several years ago a friend was staying with us and I decided to attempt an authentic Mexican meal including homemade tortillas. Well, our friend was kind and said the tortillas were great, but in reality they were awful!  Like plastic frisbees. Here’s hoping my pita bread will be better than my tortillas.  If they are a success my plan is to make lamb meatballs and yogurt cucumber sauce to serve with them.

Ingredients:

2 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/4 cup water

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 tsp salt

2 T olive oil

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Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water and leave for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.

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Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast and olive oil into the well.

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Stir the flour into the liquid. Add the remaining water as needed to form a firm, soft dough.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. About 15 minutes. Kneading bread can be very therapeutic.

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Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and put in a draft free place to rise until doubled in size. About 1 1/2 hour.

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Once dough has risen punch it down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425.

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Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll each into a smooth ball.  On a lightly floured surface roll each into a 9″ oval about 1/4″ thick.

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Cover the discs with the towel and proof until slightly risen, about 20 minutes. While the dough is proofing lightly dust two baking sheets with flour and preheat them in the oven for 5 minutes. Place the dough ovals on the hot baking sheets and return immediately to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes until puffy.

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Wrap the pitas in a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and to prevent drying out.

Sample.

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Not perfect, but pretty close.

We we ate them for dinner with the lamb meatballs, yogurt cucumber sauce, chopped tomatoes with mint and lemon, feta cheese and homemade pickled beets and pepperoncini.

Leftover pitas can be cut into wedges, sprinkled with a little olive oil and the seasoning of your choice and dried in the oven. Great with some hummus or a soft cheese.

 

Kaalipiirakka (Cabbage Pasty)

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If you’re Spanish you might have empanadas, if you’re Polish pierogis, Italian raviolis, and if you’re Finnish kaalipiirakka (cabbage pasty). I was reading a Finnish cookbook today and came across this recipe. I didn’t grow up eating these but I might have. These would be served as an accompaniment to soup or as a bread side with a meal. I think they would be great with tomato soup!  Bread is a mainstay of the Finnish diet…and true to his heritage my grandfather could not eat a meal without bread. I remember both of my grandparents eating bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with salt.

These little cabbage pasties are fairly easy to make. The slightly sweet pastry dough and the savory cabbage are a nice combination. They might be tasty with a dip of some kind…I’ll have to work on that. Suggestions??

Yeast Pastry ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

1 tsp salt

1 egg, well beaten

1/2 cup sugar

4-4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter

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Dissolve the yeast in the water. Beat the egg well with a whisk.

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Combine the milk, salt, egg, and sugar in a large bowl.

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Add the yeast and 2 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and elastic.

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Stir in the butter until blended. Add the remaining flour and mix until you have a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. About 5 minutes.

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Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a draft free place until doubled in size. Punch down and let rise again for about 30 minutes. While dough is rising make your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

4 T butter

2 cups sauerkraut drained

2 medium onions sliced thin

2 T brown sugar

1 tsp caraway seeds

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In a heavy skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is tender and beginning to caramelize.

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Add the sauerkraut, sugar, and caraway seed. Stir until well blended and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Our filling is ready.

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Preheat your oven to 375.

Now you’re ready to roll your dough and fill your kaalipiirakka. Divide the dough into thirds and roll the dough about 1/3 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Use a glass or cookie/biscuit cutter on the dough. I used a scalloped cutter but round would work just fine.

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Brush each circle with half and half to moisten the edges for sealing. Put a tsp of filling in the center of a disc, put a second disc on top and crimp the edges with a fork.

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(The amount of filling in each will actually depend on the size of your discs). Brush each filled and crimped kaalipiirakka with half n half and cut a little steam vent in the center. Put on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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Bake for 15 or 20 minutes until golden brown.

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You’ll have extra filling. Just get out a fork and finish it off. Tastes great!!

Baguette

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Today was a perfect bread baking day. We had the first snow flurries of the season. And it isn’t even November. As soon as the bread came out of the oven we had to slice into it, smear on a little butter and munch away. I got the heel of the bread, my favorite. Known in Finnish as the “kantapää.”  My grandfather had to have bread with every meal and in between meals. I remember my grandparents slathering very generous amounts of butter on their bread and then sprinkling it with salt. That was probably in the days before salted butter but even so. Must be where I acquired my love of salt. The baguette is French, not the bread of my childhood, but very simple and very good. There are only four ingredients.   The most time consuming thing is letting the dough rise multiple times. Here we go.

2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 2/3 cups water (Divided)

3 1/2 cups  unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

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Sprinkle yeast into 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and stir to dissolve. Whisk together the flour and salt in a larger bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast.  Use a wooden spoon and draw enough flour into the yeast/water to form a paste. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it froth for 20 minutes.

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I have favorite cotton “bread” towels that I always use.

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After the twenty minutes have passed mix in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon and add the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time, just until you have a nice soft, sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Try to avoid adding extra flour as you knead.

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Put your nicely kneaded ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with your bread towel and let it rise in a warm place free of drafts for about 1 1/2 hours.

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Punch down, re-cover and let rise 45 more minutes.

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Punch down, re-cover and let it rise about 45 more minutes until double in size. That’ll be the third rising.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape. Each should be about 12 inches long. Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet, re-cover and let them rise until doubled in size, about 50 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475.

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Cut several diagonal slashes in each loaf.

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Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

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Slice and enjoy.

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You can have your bread and eat it too.

A few posts back I roasted tomatoes and used them to make pasta sauce. Those same tomatoes with a little olive oil would be delicious on this bread. Or just dip a slice into some olive oil seasoned with fresh ground pepper and a little grated Parmesan.  That will be especially good if you’re lucky enough to get the “kantapää.”