Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bread Baker's Apprentice 17/43: lavash crackers and pita bread

The last time I baked from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Conan O'Brien was still on NBC. They were lighting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Winter was on its way, and I was, how do you say, with child even though I didn't know it yet. For someone who claimed that she was going to make all her own bread from now on, it has been a long, lonely hiatus indeed.

But I always knew I'd return. I'd watch the blogs of my fellow Bread Baker's Apprentice challengers as they baked loaf after loaf, speeding through the book with yeasty abandon while I was stuck in the never-never land between kaiser rolls and lavash crackers. I wondered if I'd been left behind, lapped many times over by more enterprising bakers who were already deep into the Ps. But I took solace in the fact that we were all permitted to go our own pace (even our dear leader was slowing up a tad). I knew it wasn't a race. I knew someday soon the bread-baking urge would strike again.

Part of my lag had to do with the fact that I was stuck on lavash crackers -- a recipe I had attempted before, for the Daring Bakers back in September 2008. I liked the crackers when I made them back then, but I wasn't totally enthusiastic to make them again. So I kept putting it off. And putting it off some more. Until one day a few weeks ago when -- staring at the lavash cracker recipe, willing my hands to begin working with flour -- I noticed a note in the margin. It said that the lavash cracker dough can also be used to make pita bread.

And thus was revealed the answer for which I had been waiting all these months: I could make the lavash crackers without really making the lavash crackers, while at the same time attempting homemade pita -- something I'd been hankering to do for a long, long time. I was a baker with a plan, a woman on a mission. No longer stalled on lavash, I was ready to take up the glorious mantle of the Bread Baker's Apprentice once again. I hoped my fellow bakers hadn't given up on me.

I made the pitas this past weekend and they were so amazing (and easy) that I had to make another batch, right away. I had forgotten how simple it is to make one's own bread, and how truly delicious the result. These pitas are especially easy: one quick 90-minute rise, a flattening trip under the rolling pin and just a few minutes on a 500-degree baking stone and -- hey! -- just like that, homemade pita. People will marvel at you when you present a big tray of hummus, veggies and pita and then explain that you made the bread yourself. Then they will marvel some more when they actually taste the soft pita, which is so much tastier than the store-bought stuff. (It is up to you whether you wish to divulge how easy it is to make your own.)

So here I go again. Just yesterday I vowed that I will always make my own pita from scratch, never again to reach for the grocery variety. I am again full of vigor and enthusiasm for bread baking. It's nice to be back.


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share Reinhart's recipes. That said, if you are the least bit enterprising, you can find the lavash cracker recipe elsewhere on this blog (and linked to from elsewhere in this post). Even so, I know you all have the book anyway, so turn to page 178 and begin making pita, or crackers, or both.

The pita instructions can be found in the margins of page 178. A few pita-notes:
First, the lavash cracker recipe as written makes only four 3-oz. pitas (or two larger 6-oz. pitas). That is woefully inadequate. I choose to double the lavash cracker dough and make eight 3-oz. pitas, which are a good size for sandwiches and for cutting into hummus-dipping wedges. Second, the process: preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, with a stone inside if you have one. Take the finished lavash cracker dough (after it's risen for 90 minutes and doubled in bulk) and then divide it into 8 equal portions. Roll out each portion until it's a circle a little less than a quarter-inch thick. Bake the rounds directly on the 500-degree stone. Third, I had great success baking the pitas on a stone, though the recipe states they can be baked on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Finally, the pitas only need a few minutes in the oven to begin to puff. Take them out right when they puff, and before they begin to take on color. If you let them brown in the oven, they will be much too crispy and crackery for traditional pita purposes (but the dog and probably your husband will still like them).

PS. I'm submitting these pitas to Yeastspotting because I am thrilled by them and choose to act like I am the first person in the world who has ever baked pitas at home.

And for one last piece o' business, check out these other Bread Baker's apprentices and their lavash successes:


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: Tim Tam cheesecake
Two years ago: truck-stop cinnamon rolls


Anonymous said...

"I was a baker with a plan, a woman on a mission." Epic!!! :)

Mimi said...

It's so funny. I've never made the lavash because I got side tracked by his pitas too!

Joanne said...

I want to dip those pitas in a huge batch of hummus. Yum!