I have been planning to share another episode in my sourdough journey for a while. It was prompted by my newest market product which garnered orders for 160. Yes, you read right. One-hundred-and-sixty. Pita breads using wild yeast.
Oh, and that excludes the batch I make each week for the market…
I started working on this on Friday – in between my usual other “other” office tasks – and discovered that my WordPress site needed some updates (it still does which is why some images may not have pulled through). I’ve not been here much in the last few months. I also realised that I had far too many pita-related pictures….and went down the Canva rabbit hole making banners and collages. The plan then shifted to finishing writing this on Saturday. Now, I’m not so sure because, instead of sitting down to work after my post market brunch – around 1.30 pm, I got to it after 4. And I had an early evening appointment. And I was…tired…
n incident digression
Because I had to go and make a statement at the police station.
Because: when I got home at dusk on Friday evening, somebody – the police think (a) child(ren) – had got into the house. Nothing of significant value was stolen – there’s nothing left to steal (a story for another time) but the kitchen door has been so badly tampered with that I cannot unlock it. It may be irreparable. I will know on Monday.
The intruder was not to be thwarted, though.
So, how did they/he get in?
Thank you for asking. With today – Sunday’s – visit from the detectives, we discovered how they climbed on to the stoep roof and came in the fanlight and into the upstairs bathroom. Definitely children.
What did they/he get away with?
Again, thank you for asking, but I’m almost embarrassed to say, small change. Literally. It must have been (a) boy: he stole nothing that would have appealed to girls, and small enough to have pocketed, like costume jewellery and perfume. No wine went, either. Another clue that it was probably kids.
Even though they didn’t get away with much, and their mission couldn’t be considered really successful, I’m rattled, unnerved and sadly angry.
I don’t want to be that person who is suspicious of every
brown/black child who passes the house, or who stops to catch their breath on the corner, as they make their way up the hill – home or to the dam.
I am already the crazy lady who lives with cats and bats in The Sandbag House. I don’t want to have another – and negative – descriptor added.
That incident soured what the end of what had been relatively
sweet good day. After five or so months, I’m in a space where had thought I was beginning to “get it together”, but after Friday, I’m back in fall-apart-mode and tears are not far. Writing this, and about my new favourite sourdough product, is an attempt at getting myself back on track (again), and soldiering on.
Enough of the pity party.
Ever since I ate my first pita – some time in the early-1980s – I have been a fan. As I am of so much Mediterranean food. Until the pandemic, I had been totally intimidated at the thought of baking bread. Even though I secretly harboured a dream of making my own. And with natural yeast – sourdough. With nothing better to do during lockdown, and encouraged by my friend, I grew Ursula. She’s now three-and-a-bit years old. I bake three different types of sourdough bread. Every. Week.
When The Husband was still around, I did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. Succeeding with sourdough was a delight and once I’d mastered the buns, I had a go with naan and pita breads. I made the naan breads with discard; it took some planning and they were delicious. However, not often having discard, and the need to paint them with oil or butter, means I haven’t done them that often and not at all in the last few months. Also, the first pitas I made were using instant yeast. That taught me, among other things, that the dough is very forgiving. I have been wondering whether the dough would be as forgiving if I made them with natural yeast.
Anyway, I digress again. Fast forward to the last couple of months. My market pal, Trish, makes falafel and tzatiki. One day it occurred to me that it might make sense to add sourdough pita breads to my repertoire. To suit my own tastes, yes, and they’d “play” well with my neighbour’s wares. She loved the idea. Eventually, in mid-September “it” happened.
As with all things new, that day, I came home with most of the batch and happily shared my supper on Instagram. As I do. My friend, R, who caters big functions saw the post. A couple of days later, I saw her at the local:
Can I order 120 pitas for xyz date?
The following day, I checked in, concerned that it had been the whisky speaking.
Nope. Not the whisky.
So began a couple of weeks of perfecting pita breads, discovering the maximum quantity of dough my kitchen and equipment could cope with. And when I’d delivered the 120, she ordered another 40!
Let’s just say, I now have pita-making down pat!
Pita practise taught me –
- you make the dough in two stages, but if you get some things mixed up, it doesn’t really matter
- when you’ve made the dough, and before the long ferment, you have to stretch and turn it. Twice. At least twice, I only did it once. I prefer doing it twice, but there was no discernible difference between the batches.
- the recipe says a long ferment – like overnight in the fridge. I did. And I didn’t. It depended on other things affecting my programme but it didn’t affect the final result: the shortest ferment was about 4 hours.
- you don’t have to use all the dough at once: pull off and use what you need, and bake fresh pitas on demand. The dough keeps in the fridge for a couple of days. At least.
Six, err… five ingredient pita breads
Like all breads, water and flour are the key ingredients, then it’s a case of adding salt – of course – sugar and olive oil.
The sixth ingredient is mother – the sourdough starter – which is just flour and water. If you don’t have your own mother, make one. You won’t regret it.
In terms of quantities, you use equal quantities of mother and water, and just under double the quantity of flour.
- In a large bowl, combine the starter, water (226g of each), and 210g of the flour. Mix (I use a mixer) until it forms a thick batter. Cover and set aside for half an hour to an hour. When you lift the cover you’ll see that the batter has a few bubbles. That’s good.
- Add the olive oil, sugar and salt. Mix to combine. I add 30ml olive oil first, then some of the remaining 179g flour and 1½ tsp salt and then the rest of the flour and 3tsp sugar, mixing it to a soft dough.
- With the mixer running on low, mix until the dough begins to clean the bottom of the bowl and form a ball around the hook.
- Knead for 5 minutes until the dough forms into a smooth ball.
- Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover and set aside at room temperature for half an hour to an hour.
- After it’s rested, uncover and lift one side of the dough and fold it into the middle of the dough. Do this with the other three sides of the dough then turn it over to ensure even distribution of the yeast. Cover and leave for another half an hour to an hour.
- Repeat and then leave the covered bowl for another hour – the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still heavy, give it another hour or two at room temperature.
- Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the fridge overnight or for 2-3 days. When you’re ready to make your pitas, take the dough out of the fridge and let the dough to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 240 °C. If you have a baking steel put it into the oven to heat. If not, put a baking sheet in oven to preheat. (Dark baking sheets work best because they absorb heat better and the bread will bake faster and puff better).
- Divide a single batch of dough into 8 equal pieces (around 110g) and roll each into a ball and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- Use a rolling pin to roll two pitas to 1cm thick and roughly 15cm around. If the dough springs back too much, let your little rounds rest for 5 minutes and roll again.
- Put each round on your preheated baking stone or baking sheet and into the oven. Bake until they puff up and the bottom is nicely browned, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t turn the breads. Wrapped the baked pitas in a clean kitchen towel while you roll and bake the other pitas.
- Eat the pitas the day they are made when they are best. They also freeze very well.
- At step 8, you can either make your pita breads or cover the dough tightly and refrigerate. You can keep the dough for 2 – 3 days, taking off what you need, as and when. Remember to let the dough to reach room temperature before working it.
- The perfect baking time in my gas oven is 6 to 7 minutes.
A real Fiona’s Favourite
Of the sourdough products I make, my personal favourite is the pita breads.
Customers also like them and I am developing a couple of regulars. I also admit, that if I don’t have some to bring home because I’ve sold them all, I will make a batch for myself.
They freeze well and I love their versatility. One Sunday, without bread, I made myself a scrambled egg and tomato pita. Loaded with fresh parsley. I won’t wait until I have no bread before I make it again!
Finally, pitas freeze well, and reheat easily in a dry pan with a lid. So when it’s meals for one…as it is for me, now, they’re a no brainer.
If you want to make your own, you’ll find a printable recipe here.
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
- re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
- and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.
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- From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.
- lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.