Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Bread
A friend recently gave me a recipe for Whole Wheat Pita Bread which prompted me to think of my favorite food memory of my trip to Israel in 1994. That wonderful memory was of eating hot pita bread right out of the oven at lunch in a restaurant by the Sea of Galilee. The hot pita bread was sent down a chute from the kitchen to a large container in the dining area and several of us would sneak over to the bin holding the hot pitas and grab a few when the waiter wasn’t looking! That hot pita bread was so delicious!
Sea of Galilee near Tiberias, Israel
Pita bread is a slightly leavened flatbread, sometimes called “pocket bread”, that originated in the area of Mesopotamia around 2500 B.C. It is used in many Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines. Pita bread is baked at high temperatures, 450°- 500°F., causing the flat rounds to noticeably puff up. When removed from the oven, the layers of baked dough remain separated inside the deflated pita, which allows the bread to be opened to form a pocket. The pocket is useful for times when pita is used as a sandwich bread as the sandwich filling can be spooned into the pocket.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread may also be used to scoop up dips such as Hummus or to wrap kebabs, gyros or falafel. It can also be cut and baked into crispy pita chips. Greek Classic Chicken Souvlaki and Chicken Pita Pockets with Lentils & Tahini Sauce are two recent posts that you may want to see that feature pita bread.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread is not difficult to make but it does require enough time to allow for two risings of the dough. First the ingredients are all added to a mixer bowl and combined to make a soft dough. Then the dough needs to be kneaded (pun intended) for 6-8 minutes. If you prefer to make it by hand, combine all the ingredients together and knead by hand until the dough is no longer sticky but soft.
Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a lightly oiled bowl, flipping the dough over so the surface is completely coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise for about 1 hour. (I have a “proof” setting on my oven so I placed the dough in the oven to rise.)
After the dough has risen, punch the dough down and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and on a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a 6″ – 7″ circle. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the circles of dough sit on the countertop for the second rise, about 25-35 minutes, until slightly puffy.
After the rounds have risen, place them on a wire rack and bake in the middle rack of a 500°F. oven. Bake 5-6 minutes or until puffy and brown. Remove the rack and wrap the pita bread in a damp towel and keep it covered. Let cool completely, then store in a zippered plastic storage bag in the refrigerator or freezer.
The Recipe for Whole Wheat Pita Bread
- 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- In a mixer bowl, combine warm water, oil, salt and sugar. Add 1 cup of flour along with yeast and stir to mix. Add remaining flour and knead for 6-8 minutes.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn over to oil entire surface of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down and cut into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and on a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a 6" or 7" circle.
- As you roll each piece of dough into circles, cover them loosely with a kitchen towel. Repeat making circles and cover all with the towel and let them sit on the countertop for the second rise, about 25-35 minutes, until slightly puffy.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. On a cooling rack or a wire rack, place 2 circles side-by-side and bake in the middle of the oven for 5-6 minutes until puffy and brown.
- Remove the rack and wrap the pita bread immediately in a damp towel and keep it covered.
- Repeat the baking and wrapping of the pita bread. Let it cool completely before serving.
- Pita bread can be stored in zippered bag in fridge or freezer.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It’s often served with pita bread or toasted pita chips but can also be used as a dip with raw vegetables. Some recipes for Hummus contain tahini, which is sesame seed paste and others contain toasted sesame seeds.
- 2 15.5-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup water
- 2/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Add chick peas and water to bowl of a food processor and puree.
- Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt and process until smooth.
- Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil and process.
- Serve in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil on top and garnished with flat leaf parsley.
- You may wish to reserve a few chick peas to use as a garnish with the parsley on top of the finished hummus.
Isn’t it interesting how food creates memories? Just as an old song can transport you to a different time and place, food memories can also take you back to Grandma’s house or a favorite restaurant or a trip to a foreign country.
How about cooking up some memories soon with your loved ones?
Remember to savor the flavor!
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Photo Credit of Sea of Galilee at Tiberias – Pixabay