Vefa’s Pita BreadNov 11th, 2009 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Appetizer, Bread, Corn Flour, Dips, Dough, Flour, Frying, Greek, How To, Meze
One of the most well-known foods in Greek cuisine is pita bread. It’s used to scoop-up dips that are usually included in the mix of mezedes (Greek appetizers).
We wrap souvlaki in them, we wrap gyro in them, we use pita bread to scoop Taramosalata, Melitzanosalata, Tzatziko, Red Pepper Dip, Parsley Salad, Htipiti, Fava, Hummus. Name the dip…pita bread is there (a search in my blog will offer recipes for all these dishes).
There are many pita breads that can be bought from your local grocer or Greek market but again, nothing beats homemade. I’ve tried many recipes for homemade pita bread and today’s recipe is the best one out there (in my opinion).
The kitchen is as much about experimentation as it is nurturing and pulling-off a dish. On the same day that I made the pita bread, I also tried my hand at homemade pork gyro.
In Greece, the “gyro” you might see in North America that more resembles meatloaf than gyro is nowhere to be found in Greece. If you were to visit Greece tomorrow, you would find pork and chicken gyro.
For my pork gyro, I used a combo of pork belly and pork butt (shoulder), marinated it over night and stacked the meat on an upright kitchen towel dispenser.
The idea came from a cooking segment on Antenna’s (Greek TV station) morning show. The meat was stacked, wrapped in foil and placed in a preheated oven for 90 minutes. After, the foil is removed and the meat is exposed to crisp-up and take on it’s brown colour.
The result? The flavour was fantastic…it had that Greek gyro taste but I found the meat a little too dry for my liking. I have to play around with the pork cuts (more fat needed) .
I can see folks having a “gyro party”. After each instance of shaving off the crisped pork meat, the gyro stack goes back into the oven for the next round of Gyros on a pita. I’m thinking the outdoor rotisserie will also make for wonderful gyro.
Why not try your hand at your own homemade gyro? Go out and find an upright kitchen towel dispenser (no plastic) and try your hand at it?
I’m witholding my recipe as this is a work in progress…when I get it right – you’ll get it!
In the meantime, I can and will share this pita bread recipe, courtesy of Vefa Alexiadou’s latest book, “Vefa’s Kitchen”. This huge collection of her best Greek dishes was just released eariler this year to the English speaking world.
Vefa is huge in Greece, continues to appear on television on her own show and I’m sure that every Greek homemaker has tried at least one of her dishes. Christmas is coming up, Vefa’s Kitchen would make for a wonderful gift.
Making pita bread is easy. You need a basic bread recipe, a heavy cast-iron skillet, offset spatula to flip the pita bread and a cotton kitchen towel to wrap them as they cool.
I am going to share Vefa’s recipe and method but I want to also tell you that rolling out some dough from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes master recipe also works splendidly here.
Buying pita bread from the market is a thing of the past for me. I’ve recently become a bread snob (spoiled by homemade bread) and now I will only eat homemade pita bread.
Vefa’s Pita Bread
Note: the amount of pita bread units depends on how big you roll them out to. I like big pita breads. I used a large cast iron skillet in this instance. You should be good for at least 8, depending on the size you like them to be.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cup warm (body temperature) water
coarse corn flour/cornmeal) for dusting – not corn starch (Corn starch is labeled/called corn flour in Greece but to the rest of the world, corn flour and cornmeal are one & the same)
vegetable oil for greasing the pan
- In a large bowl, add the water, olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar and let stand for five minutes or until you see that the yeast is active.
- Using your hands, gradually add the the flour into wet and knead with your hands until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm spot in your kitchen to rise and rest for about 30 minutes.
- Divide into six pieces and roll out into 8 to 10 -inch rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick. Dust both sides lightly with cornmeal and lightly poke the surface of your pita breads with the tines of a fork (careful not to poke right through).
- Place a heavy cast-iron skillet (non-stick pan is fine as well) and heat to medium-high. You may place your pita dough on corn-meal lined pizza peel to slide onto the hot skillet.
- Pour some vegetable oil in a small bowl and dunk some kitchen towel in it and grease your hot cast iron skillet.
- Place your pita dough on the hot skillet and and fry the bread for a couple of minutes a side or until they start to puff and bubble up. Flip and fry the other side.
- Place fried pita breads on to a large cotton kitchen towel and cover. Dab your kitchen towel into the bowl of vegetable oil and place another flattened pita dough on the skillet.
- Repeat frying each pita bread and stack them, tucked inside the kitchen towel. Serve warm or allow to cool inside the kitchen towel until cooled. Store in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week or freeze.
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