Pita bread with local veggies

yeasterday

I’m sorry; that title’s a terrible pun. And not even that appropriate, since these occurrences took place not yesterday but, rather, a week ago.

I had never tried my hand and bread making before. The idea of working with yeast, waiting for the bread to rise, etc., always seemed too complicated. I avoided it for years.

But my interest (bordering on obsession) with making things myself prompted a steadily growing curiosity in bread, and when I finally did decide to give it a whirl, I jumped in headfirst, with three projects in two days: pizza dough, pita bread, and bagels.

I would not describe the results as 100% success on the first try, but I definitely would say that it was encouraging. The pizza dough was phenomenal. The bagels were rather good. The pita bread was… edible.

All the recipes were from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, which I would unhesitatingly recommend to anyone interested in break-making, or baking in general. It has lots of great overall tips and guidance as well as very solid recipes, and I consider that and The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook to be the two most indispensable cookbooks on my shelf.

Yeast turns out to be kind of awesome. I didn’t have instant yeast, so I had to activate my yeast first by mixing with water and a little flour. I actually really enjoyed watching the bubbles form, seeing the evidence of the yeast at work.

The pita bread was a bit of a disaster. I have not reached a level of complete understanding with the oven in my new home, and I’ve been burning things a lot more than usual lately as a result. Only a few of the pitas puffed, and nearly all of them were burnt, tough, and chewy. Of course, I wasn’t about to admit defeat and go out to the store to just buy pita bread like a normal person, so I insisted on eating my own tough wares all week for lunch.

Burnt pita bread is not pretty, though, so here is a picture of the only one to actually puff up correctly:

Perfectly puffed pita bread

The bagels… although they turned out to be perfectly edible and even enjoyable, something was clearly off from the beginning. According to the recipe, the dough should have been very dough and dense, and should not have spread much. Mine was very moist and spread easily. The dough should have puffed slightly, but not become too voluminous during the hour and a half rise. Mine was absolutely out of control:

Bagel dough before rising Bagel dough after about half an hour Bagel dough after full rise

Judging from the tips in the Baker’s Companion, I think I should have added more flour to compensate for the intense natural humidity of a Georgia summer (and an extra wet one this year, at that). Oh well, lesson learned for next time.

Bagels

That said, the bagels were still quite good toasted and topped with honey apricot Riesling cream cheese from Atlanta Fresh, and I mourned thoroughly when I had to throw the last one out due to mold. Freezing half next time.

I have’t got much to say about the pizza dough, because it was just great. Absolutely delicious. Topped with fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella, all straight from the farmer’s market, it was simply perfection. My boyfriend and I continued to rave about the pizza hours after we’d eaten it. I wish I could offer you a taste, but here’s a picture, at the very least:

IMG_0890

Well, that’s enough of my rambles! I really enjoyed working with bread dough, and look forward to getting more experience with it. Sure, there were some things that didn’t turn out perfectly, but you should expect to have a few mistakes when you’re learning a new skill — it’s just part of the process. Until next time, good luck with your own baking adventures!

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