Thursday, January 8, 2015

From the Galley: Stove Top Pita Pockets or Flatbread

We love making (and eating) fresh bread, but it's not always feasible to bake on board, especially when underway. Last summer we experimented with making flat bread under sail and while at anchor, and were really pleased with the results.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate your dough for up to a week. We make these on the stove top, but you could also bake and or cook these on the grill, if you prefer.

Homemade Pita/Flat Bread

1 cup warm water (roughly body temperature or slightly warmer)
2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups flour (we use unbleached) plus more for kneading
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive oil

Mix the warm water, sugar and yeast together and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to "proof" the yeast (it should be well dissolved with bubbly foam on top).

Meanwhile, combine flour, salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the water/yeast mixture to the bowl and stir until a shaggy dough is formed. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the sides of the bowl. (Tip: I lightly spray my hand with olive oil before kneading to keep the dough from sticking and to help minimize the amount of flour used). Continue kneading until the dough is elastic (5-10 minutes).

Wash the bowl you used to mix the dough and coat the sides with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it's doubled in size (1-2 hours depending on the ambient temperature).

Gently deflate the dough and turn it on a lightly floured surface. Separate the dough into eight equal pieces. If you're making the dough ahead, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you are ready to make them. If you want to make a few now, return them to the bowl, cover with plastic and let them rest for another half hour or so. (Tip: you could make them right away, but they don't usually puff up as well into pita pockets. If your pitas don't puff, use them for flat bread pizzas).

Pita dough pieces, wrapped in plastic wrap and ready to cook or store in the refrigerator

When you're ready to make the dough, lightly flour your working surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll one of your dough pieces into a circle (doesn't have to be perfect) about 1/4 inch thick. It will typically be about 6 inches in diameter. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure it doesn't stick to your surface. Continue with as many pitas as you're making that day.

Roll until your dough is roughly 6 inches in diameter and/or 1/4 inch thick

Meanwhile, heat up your skillet. We use a flat, cast iron tortilla skillet. (Even on a boat, cast iron is excellent to cook with, as long as you take care of it, season your skillets and cover them when not in use). If your skillet isn't hot enough, the pita will not puff. Once you're pan is very hot (water droplets should sizzle immediately on contact), lay one rolled out pita on the skillet and cook until small bubbles start to form, about 30 seconds.

Ready for it's first flip
Turn your pita over and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until air pockets begin to form. Rotate while cooking so you don't burn your pita in any one spot. Flip your pita once again and cook for another minute. The pita should start to puff up during the second and third flips. Gently pressing the surface of the pita with a spatula will help increase the size of the air pockets.

Air pockets forming

Pita pocket ready to eat

Remove the pita from heat and continue cooking the remaining pitas, if any. They are much better served fresh, but you can store them for a few days if desired.

Puffed pitas can be cut in half and filled with your favorite sandwich filling (crab salad, tuna salad, etc.)

Don't worry if you're pitas don't puff. This usually happens if you're skillet isn't hot enough, or if you use the dough immediately after the first rise. They still make wonderful flat bread pizzas, or can be baked to make pita chips, or torn into pieces for dipping.

Pita pockets ready to serve. Could be stuffed for sandwiches, but these are ear-marked for flat bread pizzas tonight!


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