I bought some halloumi cheese over the weekend, planning to grill it with some lemon and garlic and eat it with pita bread. But then I realized that we were all out of pita, so like any normal person would do, I decided to make some myself instead of going out to the store. Granted, the bread took close to 3 hours to make, while a grocery trip would have taken less than 30 minutes...but I spent most of the 3 hours watching TV, since most of the bread-making process is waiting for the dough to rise. And as a bonus, I got a little arm workout kneading the dough, which is better than the weight lifting that generally occurs only in my imagination.
I really enjoyed making this bread. The dough is smooth and easy to work with, and it's really fun watching the bread puff up in the oven. The pockets in pita are formed by the air that is trapped inside the bread - you don't actually have to form or cut the pockets. I thought that was super cool. Oh, and also, the pitas are delicious!
Whole wheat pita bread
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 8 pitas
2 1/2 tsp package active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F)
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets
Mix together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, and let stand until mixture foams, about 5 minutes (If mixture doesn't foam, start over with new yeast). Meanwhile, stir together bread flour and whole wheat flour in a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at warm room temperature until doubled in size and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture. Mix until a rough dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed just to keep dough from sticking. Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Prepare two baking sheets by lightly sprinkling with cornmeal. Punch down dough and cut into 8 evenly sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Flatten one ball, then roll out into a 7-inch round on a lightly floured counter using a floured rolling pin. Transfer shaped round to one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with other 7 dough pieces and place shaped rounds on baking sheets. Loosely cover rounds with clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. While pitas stand, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, remove other racks, and preheat oven to 500 deg F.
Transfer 4 pitas directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes - they should fill completely with air and puff like balloons. Turn pitas over with tongs and bake 1 minute longer. Transfer pitas on a cooling rack and bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. If serving immediately, let pitas sit for 2 minutes on the cooling rack and then stack them and wrap in a kitchen towel so that they stay warm. Pitas can also be cooled completely and then frozen, well wrapped in foil in a sealed plastic bag. To reheat pitas, thaw first, then bake wrapped in foil, 10 to 12 minutes in a 350 deg F oven.