In the backyard of the house I’m currently staying in, there are numerous culinary herbs being grown including mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley and even a bit of cilantro. The fresh herbs are so fragrant that even the chipmunks dawdle as they scurry by…
I ended up incorporating various herbs into this pita bread recipe, to create a type of ‘tapas’ dish. Mini pita’s infused with thyme and rosemary are toasted with slightly tart sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil, and then topped with feta cheese. It was an experiment that my taste-testers inhaled (thanks guys!).
The recipe has two main steps – the pita bread and then the various toppings. The pita bread recipe is adopted from Jeffrey Alford’s and Naomi Duguid’s recipe in the Baking with Julia cookbook.
Ingredients for Pita Bread
- 2.5 cups tepid water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- pinch of sugar
- 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2.5 to 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
- Infused herbs & oil: 1/3 cup olive oil, 5-10 sprigs thyme, 2-3 sprigs rosemary, pinch of salt, pinch of freshly grated black pepper
In a small plastic or glass bowl (do not use metal), mix the 2.5 cups of tepid water with the active dry yeast. Add a pinch of sugar and mix until evenly incorporated. Then take a larger non-metallic bowl, add the 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour and pour in the yeast/water mixture. Stir 100 times. Then cover and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the ‘sponge’ to form.
After 30 minutes, add the salt, olive oil and stir. Then add the 2.5 cups all-purpose flour to the sponge. Knead it into an elastic smooth dough for 8-10 minutes, on a flat surface. Add small amounts of additional all-purpose flour as needed to form a smooth elastic dough. Then lightly grease the bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2-3 hours. The dough will double in size.
Punch down the dough. The dough can be utilized right away or be stored in a lightly greased plastic resealable bag in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before using it. The longer the dough sits in the refrigerator, the better the taste of the bread.
For the ‘Infused herbs & oil’: Remove the thyme and rosemary leaves from their stems. Heat the oil on low heat for a few minutes until it is warm, then add the herbs, pepper and salt. Remove from heat. Set aside.
To make the pita rounds, heat a skillet on the stove at med-high heat. Pinch off a golf-ball sized piece of dough. Flatten it to a patty with your hand and with a brush apply a small amount of the ‘Infused herbs & oil’ (be sure to grab a few thyme and rosemary leaves from it), then pinch the ends of the patty together to capture the herbs and oil within the dough. Roll it out to a 1/4″ thickness on a flat surface, utilizing dry flour to prevent the dough from sticking. When the skillet is radiating heat, place the rolled out pita onto it (shake off the extra dry flour used to roll the dough out). Wait 4-7 minutes to allow the bottom surface to cook and then flip it over. Repeat on the second side for 3-5 minutes until the pita looks cooked through on both sides. Then remove it from the heat. Set aside.
The pita can also be made in the same manner on a grill. This dough makes 15-20 pita breads. The pita bread is best eaten right away but can be wrapped airtight and frozen for a month (thaw and reheat on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F.)
- sun-dried tomatoes (enough for 4-5 segments/pieces on each pita)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- telicherry black pepper, freshly ground
- pinch of salt
- feta cheese (enough for 3-4 pieces per pita)
- 1 lime
Set an oven to broil (500 degrees F). Brush olive oil across the top of the pita bread. Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes and basil, pepper and lightly salt. Then place in oven for 1-3 minutes (or until the sun-dried tomatoes sizzle). Remove from oven, top with feta cheese and squeeze a bit of lime across the bread. Ready to serve!