I’ve been keeping a pet in the refrigerator these days..my sourdough starter. This starter was given to me by my mom, and it’s been alive and kicking for over 2 years now. The starter I made way back when, turned pink for Valentine’s Day, and hence that one was no more.
If there’s anything you can do to keep your baking self-sustaining, it is to grow make some sourdough starter. This method is great- I’ve used it twice with 100% success! I’m no sourdough starter expert; just a novice user who remembers to feed her starter once in a while.
I bought a grain mill last year and I love it! I buy wheat berries and mill turns them into flour for me. Anyway, as I started to bake with whole wheat flour, I realized that some whole wheat bread recipes, even good ones, got kind of crumbly, flaky, and fall apart-y if they weren’t eaten right away. It seemed like most recipes for 100% whole wheat flour require a decent amount of fat, sugar, or both, to help keep the bread soft. I googled and researched a bunch on the internet, read articles, and either from some articles or as a result of reading, got this theory..Whole wheat grains existed long ago, when there was no way to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm. Sourdough also existed way back when, before the invention of today’s baker’s yeast (which, by the way, only contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as opposed to sourdough, which contains many more organisms). Soo…maybe whole wheat grains and sourdough go together.
So began the experiments. After baking whole wheat bread with sourdough, I noticed that the bread stayed intact and held a great texture, even though I only used water, sourdough, flour, and salt. My theory is that it’s not only the freshly milled whole wheat, but also the long fermentation time, and in the little organisms in the sourdough starter. So, when I want to eat something biologically leavened, (in this case, leavening that is not baking powder or soda) and nutrient-dense, I bake whole wheat flour/water/sourdough/salt bread. When I want something biologically leavened that is more splurgey, like cinnamon rolls, I’ll use mostly white all purpose flour and commercial yeast. After all, I doubt most people eat those types of breads for nutrition 😉
I tried to think of all the recipes that I could convert to use sourdough instead, because there is always sourdough starter in my kitchen, but not always yeast. I stumbled across this great blog that I think everyone should read- called Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen! She grew up eating this bread (cooked on the stovetop), and she is into sourdough baking as well! :d
I’ve made this pita bread with 100% whole wheat flour (oven), as well as 100% spelt flour (stovetop), both with great success, so I encourage you to try both and see which you prefer. Me? Stovetop for convenience and lack of pre-heating the oven. But, it’s always nice to sit in front of the oven and watch the pitas grow and get pillowy.
If you’ve made pita bread with baker’s yeast, it’ll be easier to make this recipe. No matter, just make sure the dough is soft, but does not stick to your hands.
Sourdough Pita Bread
Ingredients taken from Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen
2 cups flour- all whole wheat, all spelt, or a combination with all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup sourdough starter, happy and fed
3/4 cup to 1 cup water
0) If you want to bake these in the oven, preheat the oven to 400F with your pizza stone in, if you have one.
1) Add all ingredients except the water, in a bowl. Then, add 3/4 cup of water , stirring to incorporate the water. Depending on the hydration level of your sourdough starter (which determines how thick or thin it is), you may need to add more or less water. The dough needs to be very soft and pliable, just like other pita bread recipes call for. Knead until the dough is smooth.
2) Let the dough rise in a oiled bowl, covered. You’ll know when the dough is done when it has approximately doubled in appearance- it should have little bubbles all throughout it and feel nice and soft. If you press a finger in the dough, the indentation should fill itself back in, lazily. If it bounces back immediately, it needs more time. If it stays sunken in, it’s over-proofed :O Both times I’ve made these, it’s taken 4 hours for the dough to rise what I thought was a sufficient amount.
3) Divide the dough into 8 pieces and round out each into a nice ball (can also tuck the ends underneath itself and roll the bottom to smooth it). Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or kitchen towel, and rest for 15 minutes.
4) On a floured surface, gently roll out each piece to the size of a circle, around 6 inches in diameter or so, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
5) Bake these for 3-5 minutes in the oven, or cook on the stovetop for a few minutes each side. Turns out that there are many a factor that go into getting that elusive air pocket, such as temperature and thickness of the dough, and maybe even if there is a microtear in the dough. Fear not, they will all be delicious.
6) Wrap the done pitas in a towel until you are ready to eat!
3/12/2019 Notes: While making a lot of “puffed” bread w/o leavening lately (tortillas, roti), I discovered that the more pristine the dough, the best chances of puffage. Meaning, if I rested the dough for a sufficient period of time after the first mixing/kneading, as well as rested after dividing into portions, they would puff better. Also, if I made each portion of dough into a nice round ball first, then it would seem to somehow even out or repair (???? not sure what’s going on) the dough from when it was portioned out.