Pita Bread

Another type of Middle Eastern bread, related to the flat breads, is pita (pocket, balady, burr) bread. A wheat flour is used, with an extraction rate of 75 to 82%, depending on the specific type of bread being made. The strength of this flour is greater than that of the flour (or whole wheat meal) used in flat breads. Usually the bread is made by a sourdough process, but with a rather large (20%) portion of sourdough, so that fermentation is more rapid than with the usual flat bread. (Pita doughs can be made adding yeast to each dough, as for regular bread production.) The absorption is somewhat greater than for regular bread dough. The dough is allowed to ferment for about 1 h after mixing, then it is divided into pieces weighing about 3 to 4 oz each. These receive a short intermediate proof, are flattened into circles about 1/2 in. thick and 6 to 9 in. in diameter, and allowed to proof for 30 to 45 min.

The proofed pieces are baked for a short time (1.5-2 min) in an extremely hot oven (700-900°F). The high oven heat causes formation of a top and bottom crust almost instantaneously after the piece is inserted. As the heat penetrates the dough the ethanol and water rapidly evaporate and the vapors, trapped by the crust, cause the bread to balloon. As the bread cools, after removal from the oven, the internal pressure dissipates and it collapses to the familiar round, flat shape, but with the internal "pocket" still present.

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