The Baking Steel isn't just for pizza.
Food enthusiast Jeff Young recently posted a fantastic pita bread recipe on his blog, The Catholic Foodie. And guess what plays a starring role? You guessed it... the Baking Steel. Jeff kindly agreed to share his recipe, plus he answered a few questions for us. Take a look.
Us: Do you have a favorite dish that involves this pita bread? What's your favorite way to eat it?
Jeff: In addition to making pita bread from scratch, we also love to make hummus. My wife's family is Lebanese, so we cook lots of mediterranean food at our house. Hummus is really popular in the U.S. right now. There are so many different types and varieties of hummus available in stores across America... but we never buy any of those. It's so simple to make from scratch, and we can tailor it to our own tastes.
In essence, hummus is a bean dip made with garbanzo beans, which are also known as chick peas. You can make hummus with either canned garbanzo beans or dried beans. If you use dried chick peas, you will need to soak them overnight first, then boil them to soften them up for use in hummus. I have both recipes for hummus at CatholicFoodie.com... made with either canned beans or dried beans.
Tabbouleh (also spelled tabouli) is a parsley salad that also contains tomatoes, mint, bulgar wheat, lemon, salt, olive oil and (for us, at least) cayenne pepper. Many Lebanese will eat tabbouleh by spooning it into the fold of a leaf of Romaine lettuce. But I have known folks who like to eat it with pita too. Pita makes a great "scooper" when eating mediterranean food... whether vegetable or meat.
Many people are familiar with the Greek gyros sandwich that is wrapped in pita, but the Greek pita is very different than the "pita" in the arab world. The Lebanese or arabic "pita" bread is also known as "arabic bread" or "Syrian bread." Interestingly enough, the traditional Greek pita bread does not have a pocket.
Us: Have you made this pita recipe before by baking it on something other than the Baking Steel? If so, what was the difference?
Jeff: Yes, I have made this pita bread using a baking stone before, and I admit that there is simply no comparison between a baking stone and the Baking Steel. The difference in the pita is the same difference that I noticed when making pizza on a stone versus the Steel. Baking stones do not conduct heat like the Baking Steel does. The stones produce a "soggier" pita, just like they do a pizza. The Baking Steel, however, yields a pita that is crisp yet chewy, a perfect pocket that is perfectly browned. As a matter of fact, the Baking Steel yields a pita bread that rivals anything I have purchased in a store or at a restaurant. It's truly amazing!
Us: What else do you use your Baking Steel for?
Jeff: Well, I have to say that my first love is pizza. I just realized the other day that I have been making pizzas at home for over 30 years. Most of those years were filled with frustration because my pies never came out like the ones at the restaurants. I ended up resorting to "tricks" to get some of the results that you find in any pizza parlor. Finally, the Baking Steel made its appearance on the scene. Now, I don't envy a single pizza restaurant. I can do my own pizzas at home the way I want, and my pizzas come out (in my humble opinion) better than anything I could get in a local restaurant.
Us: What are your favorite things about the Baking Steel in general?
Jeff: The Baking Steel has revolutionized the way that I make pizzas. Now I do not have to resort to tricks to make pizza at home (like "pre-baking" or "par-baking" my crusts). The Baking Steel holds its heat. Once it is heated, I turn the oven settings to broil. and slide a pizza right onto the Steel. About 5 minutes later I have a beautiful and delicious pizza – perfectly cooked – that engenders jealousy in both friends and family. Of course, I don't keep the secret to myself. I tell them that they should get their own Baking Steel (and then invite me over!).
Besides the superior functionality of the Baking Steel, I really appreciate the fact that I cannot break it. I have gone through several baking stones in my time, but I will only ever need one Baking Steel... unless I manage to score a second oven. Then I'll need two. Boy, that would be GREAT!
(Pause the interview for a second... we actually just wrote up a little something about why baking stones crack and why a Steel won't. You should check that out if you've ever had a stone break on you.)
Us: Anything else about the Baking Steel or this pita bread recipe that you'd like to share?
Jeff: All I can say is that I am so happy that Andris Lagsdin took the leap of faith and brought the Baking Steel into reality. I have never seen anything like it when it comes to making pizza at home... or pita bread, for that matter. It really has revolutionized the way that I make pizza at home.
I'll give you a quick example. Just last week my wife and I had our pastor and a young couple over for dinner. I had planned ahead and I had a couple of doughs in the ready. I wanted to offer them two small pizzas as appetizers. It maybe took a total of 15 minutes for me to shape, top, and bake those pizzas right before their eyes. All the while, they are asking me questions about pizza-making at home and how I am able to produce a pizza that is so radically different than any homemade pizza they had ever had. "Simple," I told them. "I have a Baking Steel."
The same could be said about the Baking Steel when it comes to pita bread. The first time I made pita bread on the Baking Steel, my wife tasted it and said, "You know, no one in my family has ever made pita bread from scratch. This is awesome!" My wife comes from a big family. There are tons of cousins. And, as far as she knows, I'm the first to make my own pita bread. And, with the Baking Steel, I nailed it.
We really appreciate Jeff's willingness to share his Baking Steel experiences and recipes with us. You can read more of his thoughts about the Baking Steel in his blog post, Create The Crust You Crave: The Baking Steel Is The Answer For Home Pizza Baking.
Enjoy making this pita bread! Leave us a comment below and let us know how it turned out for you.
The Catholic Foodie's Pita Bread
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I prefer to use King Arthur Flour, but you can use whatever you like), you will also need extra flour for dusting, etc.
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 cup of water, plus a little more as needed
- In a stand mixer with a dough hook (or a food processor fitted with a dough blade) combine the flour, olive oil, yeast, salt, and sugar. Turn the mixer or processor on medium-low and slowly add 1 cup of water. You are really looking for the dough to form a ball that is slightly sticky. You might need to add a little more water to make this happen. Usually, I use about 1 cup plus 1 to ounces of water before the dough is the way I want it to be.
- Now it’s time to let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. You can leave the dough in the mixing bowl (or food processor bowl) or transfer it to a large glass mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean, heavy kitchen towel. Leave the bowl in a draft-free place for an hour or two.
- When the dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 400. Place the Baking Steel in the oven first to allow it to pre-heat too. Next, turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 6 even pieces. Gently shape each piece into a ball. Then, one at a time, roll out each ball into a round about 1/4 inch thick.
- Place each round on a lightly floured surface and lightly dust the tops of the rounds with flour, then cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rise an additional 20 minutes.
- When you are ready to start baking the pita, dampen your hands with a little water and pick up one of the rounds of dough, patting off the excess flour and slightly moistening the dough. Then place the round directly on the Baking Steel. Repeat the process as room in the oven allows, then close the oven door and bake for 4 minutes. At the 4 minute mark, flip the pita and bake for another 4 minutes. The pita should then be puffed up and nicely browned. Remove the pita from the oven with a pizza peel or a large spatula. If you are going to eat it right away, then you may want to brush it lightly with melted butter. but that depends on what you are going to serve it with. If you are serving it with a sauce or a dip, like Hummus, then you do not need to brush it with butter.
- Repeat the process with the remaining rounds.
This recipe makes 6 pita breads.
Note: Pita keeps really well. It can be frozen in packs wrapped in aluminum foil, then reheated in the oven when you are ready to eat.
This recipe was originally posted here.