The search for the Greek pita

For a few weeks we have planned to have a Greek meze for a dinner, and managed to not get around to it until yesterday – but it was definitely worth the wait. I visited Greece a lot with my family when I was younger, and flavours like tzatziki, lamb, dried mint, oregano and fresh cucumber and tomato salads always make me a little nostalgic. And what would a Greek meze be without pita bread?

meze
Lamb keftedes, pita, Greek salad, tzatziki, melitzanosalata and plenty of wine

Used to scoop up tzatziki, melitzanosalata, and taramasalata, or wrapped around succulent, spiced lamb in a gyros, Greek pita bread is a pretty big leap away from the flat, dry and tasteless ovals that now dominate supermarkets and “health food” cafés. I have tried a number of recipes for pita bread with mixed success- often the recipe has been oversimplified and misses key factors like the use of oil or the high temperatures needed to bake. Finally, however, I believe that I have got as close to those traditional pitas as I can get. Measurements are in grams and teaspoons as it is quite difficult to measure out 3.5g of salt without electronic scales.

Pita breads makes 4

  • 225g strong white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 15g extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g water at room temperature
  • additional extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine the dough ingredients in a bowl. Mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  2. Tip the dough out onto an oiled work surface and knead for 12-15 minutes. The dough will be very sticky at first, but persevere and it will become smooth, slightly tacky, and very elastic.
  3. Rest the dough in a well oiled bowl for about 90 minutes, until doubled.

    Dough rising in an oiled bowl
    Dough rising in an oiled bowl
  4. Tip the dough out onto an oiled surface, divide into four, and shape into rounds. Flatten the balls into discs, and place on an oiled plate or tray. Cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed. They will keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.
    Shaped into dough balls, before flattening.
    Shaped into dough balls, before flattening.

    Rolling out before baking. The rest can be kept in the fridge until needed.
    Rolling out before baking. The rest can be kept in the fridge until needed.
  5. Preheat the oven to max. If you have one, place a baking stone or pizza stone on the middle shelf, if you do not, place an upturned baking tray on the shelf.

    pita_in_oven
    Pita bread rising in the oven. Ideally, it will inflate like a balloon.
  6. One at a time, take a disc from the fridge and roll it out to about 1/2cm thick on an oiled work surface. Each disc will be about 7-8 inch in diameter. Open the oven door, lift the disc from the bench, and toss it straight onto the stone or baking tray. Reduce the oven heat to 240°C and bake until it has puffed up and started to brown slightly – about 4-5 minutes in my oven. If necessary, flip over and bake for a minute. Remove the oven and cover with a tea towel. Repeat with the remaining pita breads.
pita
The finished pita breads

Obviously a pita bread is only as good as what you put in it, and these would not have been anywhere near as delicious were it not for the other parts of the meze. The recipe for the keftedes (meatballs) came from Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries. They include apple and dried mint, and were extremely moist and delicately flavoured. The tzatziki is my own recipe, based on the memories of a thousand other bowls of the yoghurt dip. The most important thin I have found making it in Australia is to make your own yoghurt or strain a natural yoghurt like Chobani to get the consistency right. The melitzanosalata (eggplant dip) recipe came from an unassuming book of Greek recipes and hinges on the smoky, baked eggplant.

farm_lamb
Lamb from the farm, ready to mince
keftedes_mix
The mixture for the keftedes
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