daring cook challenge, mezze

Daring Cooks Challenge–Pita Bread and Hummus

I first learned to make Hummus at an Internet Cafe that I worked at back in 1996. I had no idea what Tahini was or what a chickpea tasted like, but I needed a job and I think the owner took pity on me. So, over the past 14 years I can say that I’ve found my preferred recipe through experimenting with add-ins and herbs. It’s no surprise really, when I saw the challenge for this month’s Daring Kitchen’s Challenge was Hummus, that I thought, “Well, that’s not really daring at all, now is it?” It was, however the pita bread that caught my interest and made me slightly panicked.

Like many of us who live in multi-unit aptartment complexes I have very little counter top to speak of. In fact, it’s been a bit of a problem that seems to have followed me from apartment to apartment all of my adult life. Currently my counter space consists of an area just slightly larger than a cafeteria lunch tray. It’s not pretty, nor conducive to making bread and is the sole reason I’ve used a bread maker for the past few years. But, I had no choice–I couldn’t flake on another challenge again–so I made peace with my small counters and trudged into it.

Pita Bread
Dry Yeast 2 teaspoons–Not quick yeast
Water 2.5 cups–Lukewarm
All Purpose Flour 5-6 cups
Salt 1 Tablespoon
Olive Oil 2 Tablespoon
Directions:
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.


Overall, the recipe wasn’t complex though I can definitely say that the pita’s struggled to puff up. These were the best:

The Hummus…well, it was hummus. The only fancy part was using the “Garlic Confit” recipe from ‘How to Roast a Lamb‘ from author/chef Michael Psilakis.

Hummus:
Chickpeas 1.5 cups Can use dry chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight (or feel free to use well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking
Lemon juice 2-2.5 whole lemons
Garlic cloves 2 – 3 cloves Peeled & crushed
Salt
Tahini (sesame) paste 4 Tablespoon
Flavorings ½ cup or to taste


It wasn’t until the “Optional” part of the challenge came up that it got interesting to me. To completely counter the simplicity of the recipes I decided to face a nemesis of mine–Phyllo Dough. I’d like to say that I have a recipe to give for the Spanakopita that I made from it, but it was more of a mashed up hybrid bastard of many that I came across that ended up giving me this awesomeness:


Spanakopita, Pita, Hummus, Dolmas, Feta Stuffed Greek Peppers and Castraveltrano Olives

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