Make home-made whole-grain pita bread and the tasty humus to go with it
No time to cook breakfast? Pita bread and hummus might be the answer.
Pitta bread was probably be used in the Middle East thousands of years ago, since long before the Greek, Roman, Arab and Turkish civilizations. Until the late 20th century the form best known in the West was pizza. Pitta bread probably pre-dates the early Mesopotamian civilizations.
Why I Bake Pita Bread
My wife and I learned to eat flat breads and hummus during the many years we lived and worked in Egypt and the Middle East, but we had forgotten about both until early 2005.
Like most Chinese in Southeast Asia, my wife likes a savory breakfast. The problem is that the local breakfast staples rely on refined starches: white rice porridge and various kinds of noodles. After half an hour she is ready for another breakfast, which probably accounts for the scores of food stalls in every town. Fast food was definitely invented in Asia!
My wife wanted a more filling breakfast, something that would keep her going until noon. She told me she liked whole-grain rolls and the crusts of whole-wheat loaves, but she did not fancy the soft middle slices. Well, if you remove all the middle slices, what's left? Square pita bread.
Once a month on a Sunday, I bake 32 whole-grain squares of pita bread and freeze them. For breakfast, my wife pops a pita in the toaster together with a few dollops of hummus and a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil. Presto! Breakfast.
Health Benefits of Whole Grain Pita Bread
The extra fiber in this bread slows down the digestion releasing sugars into the bloodstream at a slower rate. Eating pita with hummus and olive oil does two things:
Spelt may be useful for people who have mild wheat intolerance, but not for those who suffer from more serious conditions like coeliac disease or wheat allergy.
- The olive oil and the protein in the chick peas / garbanzos slow down digestion even more.
- The amino acids in the chick peas and the bread complement each other to make a complete protein.
How I make Pita Bread
I don't like to spend unnecessary time working in the kitchen. So I use a bread machine setting it to make dough and set it to stop before baking. That saves at least one hour. Instead of baking in the machine, I bake the bread in the oven.
If you are not interested in the history of pita bread, skip to the recipe below. But be sure to check out my simple recipe for hummus that opens in a separate window.
Brief History of Pita Bread / Pitta Bread
"The Israeli and western name for the Arab bread called khubz adi (ordinary bread) or names meaning Arab, Egyptian, Syrian bread or kumaj...baked in a brick bread oven. It is slightly leavened wheat bread, flat, either round or oval, and variable in size.... In the early centuries of our era, the traditional Greek word for a thin flat bread or cake, plakous, had become the name of a thicker cake. The new word that came into use for flat bread was pitta.... The word spread to Southern Italy as the name of a thin bread. In Northern Italian dialects pitta became pizza.... Early Arab cookery texts do not refer to khubz.... However, it is safe to assume that its history extends far into antiquity, since flatbreads in general, whether leavened or not, are among the most ancient breads, needing no oven or even utensil for their baking."
Source: Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, Oxford University Press.
See also: http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodbreads.html.
Recipe for Pita Bread (Pitta Bread)
|US/UK||Ingredients for 2 pounds (900 g) of pita||Metric|
|3 1/2 cups||whole wheat flour||780 g|
|1/2 cup||buckwheat flour||120 ml|
|1 ounce wgt||yeast||30 g|
|2 tbsp||sugar||30 ml|
|11.5 ounces vol.||water||315 ml|
|1/4 cup||sunflower seeds||60 ml|
|1/4 cup||sesame seeds||60 ml|
|I substitute 50% "spelt" flour for 50% of wheat flour|
|Refined olive oil, not "extra virgin oil", is used for cooking.|
|The water volume is more critical than the flour volume.|
|Adjust the water volume carefully.|
|Don't add salt if you want this bread to rise at least a little.|
|You can either buy buckwheat flour or grind your own buckwheat seeds.
- Set your bread machine for "dough" and place the pan with ingredients inside.
- Check after 10 minutes to see if more water is needed.
- Do something else for an hour, like making the hummus.
- Dust the worktop with flour and roll the dough into a long sausage 16 inches (40 cm) long.
- Flatten the ends of the sausage and cut into 16 sections.
- Using your hands, roll each section into a little ball.
- Roll out each section to the size and square shape of a sandwich.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave for 20 minutes to let it rise.
- After the dough is ready set the oven at 450°F/230°C/Gas 8.
- If your oven is the fan type, set it to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.
- Dust baking sheets with flour and arrange the sections on the baking sheets.
- Bake in batches for 4 to 6 minutes. The timing is fairly critical.
- Slight browning is OK, but pita is not supposed to have a crust.
- Let cool and then freeze. Keeps for weeks.
- To use, toast or thaw in a microwave. Eat with humus.
- With a little luck and skill you will have pita that can be opened to form a pocket for salad.
More about spelt flour
Spelt and history
Buckwheat is not wheat, but a seed with a nutty flavor, used in America for pancakes. The plant is native to north China, but the name "buckwheat" is a corruption of the Dutch "beech-wheat"—the seeds are shaped like the nuts of the beech tree. Buckwheat is high in rutin, related to biotin or vitamin B7, helpful in lowering cholesterol.
Recipe for hummus to spread on your pita bread.
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