Pitas are a bread I grew up eating and have missed greatly. The pitas in the United States are these sad, dry things that only resemble what I ate as a child in that they have a pocket. My goal with this recipe is to achieve a pita that is light, fluffy, soft, and having a pocket would be nice too.
I heard people do this in the oven, why a are you doing it on the stovetop?
I’ve also seen it done in the oven though I’ve never tried it myself. I like the control I get when I do it on the stovetop and if I get multiple pans going, it’s as fast, if not faster, than the oven method.
These pitas were the first official test but I’ve made them before. They are so simple and fool proof that I don’t know that they will need a retest. I couldn’t recommend this recipe more for real Israeli pitas. I do usually aim for fairly small pitas but you can definitely make them larger without much fuss.
To keep the dough from drying out I brought out all of my kitchen towels (6-8) and had cut out 20 roughly 6×6 inch sheets of parchment on which my rolled out pitas could rest.
Sugar, yeast and 1/2 cup lukewarm water were added to the standing mixer and allowed a few minutes for the yeast to activate. You can tell it’s ready for use when a thin layer of yeast foam forms on the surface.
Once the yeast was ready, the flour, salt, olive oil and 1 cup of water were added to the mixer. The dough hook was attached and the mixer started on low to get everything incorporated. As the mixer was running, another 1 1/2 cup of water was added. The mixture was pretty sticky at this point but let the mixer run another 5 minutes or so and it should stiffen a bit and become more easily handled. Keep the dough covered in the next few steps so it doesn’t dry out.
The dough was divided into 20 equal pieces. I had balls of dough at roughly 80g each. You don’t have to weigh them out if you’re not as obsessive as I am. You’re welcome to simply cut the dough to roughly the right size and take the risk of making uneven pitas, disappointing your parents and burning in the fires of bread hell. As you’re dividing the dough, keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Take each piece of dough and roll it out to roughly 1/4 inch thickness and as round as you can and place the rolled pita on a piece of parchment. I highly recommend not using too much flour so you don’t end up with a thick flour coating on your final product but using enough that the dough is thoroughly covered so it doesn’t stick. Delicate balances in standards are part of being human, you should be used to it by now or it’s time to come to terms with the hypocrisy. For bread God’s sake, keep the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
I heated up as many skillets as I could get to the same temperature (three). I don’t have actual temperature readings but on my electric stove top, exact medium is the setting that works best. You want to get your pitas to get a nice deep brown coloring after 3ish minutes.
When my skillets were heated enough and/or I got tired of waiting, the pitas were removed from the parchment and placed in the pan with the parchment side down. This is not arbitrary, the parchment side is wetter. I found that if the wetter side faced up, I had more large localized bubbles forming instead of the beginning of a nice pocket.
The pita was left alone until a large bubble began to form. Giving it enough time is the key to creating a good pocket. If you’re failing to create pockets, give you pitas more time on this first side. Once a decent sized bubble was forming, I flipped it and let it keep cooking until the pita puffs fully into a little bread pillow.
When my pitas ran into issues and they wouldn’t rise I would often try to flip the pita again. This fixed the issue about 50% of the time. Once in a while, the pita just refused. These unpuffed pitas became great snacks while cooking or for those visitor that come sniffing about to see if maybe there are any discards. With practice you can eliminate disgraceful flat pitas but then what will you feed your nosy visitors?
Lastly, you can tell your pita is done cooking when there are no shiny bits of dough anywhere. They will get all matte all around. Shiny=raw dough, matte=cooked.
These pitas come out the way I remember them from my childhood in Israel. They are fluffy, pillowy, light, and pocketed. I also love that this recipe does not require any rising time for the dough and instead takes advantage of the amount of time it takes to handle each piece of dough and the natural process of creating this bread.
This was my first attempt at this luxurious cake. I tried hard not to change the procedure described in the source recipe and it paid off. This sticky, gooey mound of sugar coated dough lumps it like heaven on earth. Give it a try too and you won’t regret it!
In a standing mixer I combined 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. I mixed these together with the paddle until blended.
In the meantime, I added the water and butter into a small microwave proof bowl and microwaved until the butter was fully melted. This took roughly a minute on high. Unfortunately, when I was done the water/fat mix was too hot to add to the yeast so I waited till it cooled. You want it between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine was at 126 degrees. I totally screwed up on this by the way, because my brain forgot what 4 vs 2 looks like and I used only 2 Tbsps of butter instead of the 4 suggested in the source recipe.
Once the water and butter were at a non-lethal temperature, I added it to the flour mixture along with the pumpkin puree, egg, and sugar and let it mix with the paddle for 3 minutes.
At this point I switched to the dough hook attachment and started adding flour bit by bit until the dough no longer stuck to the bowl at all. This was 2 1/2 cups for me on top of the first cup added in step 1.
The dough was then removed from the standing mixer bowl and gently turned into a ball and added to a large well oiled bowl to rise for 60-90 minutes. I think I was on the longer side for mine but honestly, I started cleaning things and just looked over form time to time to see if it had doubled in size yet. I should also note that my house, even in the middle of winter was a lovely 73 degrees Fahrenheit and dough does rise well on my counter. If you live like a student and your home is chilly, consider putting the dough into your oven with the heat turned off but the oven light turned on. One more aside before we move on, when I took the dough out of the mixer bowl it was still a pretty wet dough. It was borderline sticky. The oil from the bowl helped me and the dough remain separate entities.
The glaze was made by just adding the brown sugar to the melted butter and whisking until incorporated. It’s really that simple and it will look for a while like these two will never come together but just keep going. This is a pretty good general rule in baking. If someone tells you to do something and it looks wrong, try mixing way longer!
Finally I just added some chopped pecans, maybe even a lot of chopped pecans. This turned out to be very, very important because these beautiful pecans get a nice candy coating and became beautifully crunchy. Can’t go wrong with candied pecans guys.
Ok, so this is where it got long and a little tedious if you’re obsessive like me. I needed to take that lovely bread dough and divide it into 64 pieces. I like to weigh the whole dough and then divide it on a calculator and then weigh out each piece to the size I need. I did warn you about the tediousness. The shorter method is to just divide the dough in two, 6 times but then it won’t be perfect.
In a small bowl, I mixed the coating ingredients sans butter.
In another small bowl I melted the butter.
Finally, this is where it got exciting again. I sprayed my bundt pan down with some baking PAM because I’m lazy and unwary of scary chemicals. You can definitely choose to coat it in butter or do whatever you do to keep thing from sticking to the pan.
I took half of my glaze with those pecan gems and poured it into the pan in a nice little layer.
Next, I grabbed my precisely weighed dough morsels and dipped them into that butter before tossing in the sugar-spice mixture. Then each coated dough nugget was placed in the bundt pan in evenly around.
Once all of the dough has been used up and your pan is full of little dough balls, the rest of that glaze was poured on top. The dough was covered with plastic wrap with enough space for the expected rise but tight enough that the dough didn’t dry out.
At last, the raw cake was thrown into the fridge to rise slowly overnight.
After a long day the previous day, I loved how easy the next day was. The cake was removed from the fridge to let it come to room temperature. All in all it probably sat on my counter for 2-3 hours. Around 3 hours I realized it’s not going to rise anymore (might not be so great) and I chose to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The cake was baked for 35 minutes and then removed to cool
I know, I know I just gave you so many notes in the recipe but I have some more things to confess. After I baked this thing, I turned it out for photos and then resisted eating it somehow, put it back in the pan, covered it, and threw it in the fridge for another 24 hours. Yes, I am apparently capable of self control. Hear me out though, this was meant for a friendsgiving party so what could I do? Before eating I warmed it up in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes before turning it out on a plate and letting people at it. So what was the final result?Guys, this cake lived through the night ONLY because everyone was so crazy full from dinner, but it was picked at for many hours into the night with lots of love. It come out gooey, glossy, warm, tender, and those pecans…you heard about them already for good reason. Down side, the bread dried out a bit but I’m not sure if that’s because of the butter mixup or the reheating. I guess I’ll just have to try this recipe again. Woe is me!
You know this recipe is good just by how many words are in the title. Monkey bread is generally just chunks of bread stacked together in a pan and baked to create a pull-apart cake. To me, monkey bread is also gooey, delicate, and luxurious. You know it’s luxurious by how much butter coats this thing.
What do you mean by “how much butter coats this thing”?
I’m going to come clean, this monkey bread is very tasty but what makes it so good is that it has a full 2 sticks of butter and nearly 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Worth it!
How was the bread itself?
It was good but not great. Test 1 wasn’t as tender as I would have liked. This could be due to insufficient butter in the dough or maybe because I reheated it 24 hours after baking before I ever got to taste it. I will just have to try this one out again.
The flour and sugar were combined in the bowl of a standing mixer along with the salt and yeast, added on opposite sides of the bowl to avoid too much direct contact. I am not sure if this is really significant but some people say that salt can retard the yeast’s activity and so avoiding direct contact is good. I have never seen this to be a problem with dry yeast personally. The ingredients were then mixed together.
In a separate bowl, the milk and eggs were whisked until homogeneous.
The egg mixture was added to the flour mixture and combined using a dough hook on medium low speed. This dough was very sticky and so lent itself better to mixing with the dough hook than by hand. I allowed to mixer to run for 10 minutes until the dough looked smooth and elastic.
I added the butter to the dough with the mixer running and let the mixer knead the dough until smooth and shiny again.
The dough left to rise for an hour and a half until doubled in size.
The oven was heated to 350°F
Once risen, the dough was mixed again to release the air and divided into the mini bunt cake molds. My mold holds 12 individual bunts. These are quite small. Each can hold about 3 Tablespoons of batter. A 3 Tbsp scoop is very useful here and dividing the dough with a scoop means the cakes are more even and have fewer seams where the dough meets. If you make multiple additions into each cake well, you end up with seams where the dough doesn’t quite adhere to itself.
Once doled out, the dough was allow to rise again until molds were filled nearly to the top.
They were bake for 20 minutes.
For the Rum Syrup
While the babas were baking, all of the ingredients were added to a small pot and brought to a rolling boil.
The syrup was then cooled to room temperature. When it snows here, placing the syrup in the snow really speeds up this process. Think outside the box (house)!
When everything is cooled and ready to be assembled, I aided the syrup penetration by pricking the bottoms of the cakes with a fork and then letting the cakes absorb half of the syrup before flipping and repeating. I let my cakes then strain on a cooling rack for an hour before packaging them away until ready to serve.
You can top these cakes as you please when serving. Options include whipped cream and fruit or just fruit compote. There are nearly endless possibilities here but I opted for simple whipped cream and some canned and fresh peaches with a sprig of mint.
These babas were lovely. The yeast was able to shine through the syrup because it wasn’t overloaded with flavors and the rum was able to make itself noticed. All in all, no one can say “tastes like wet gingerbread” about these lovelies.
The flour and sugar were combined in a bowl along with the salt and yeast, added on opposite sides of the bowl to avoid too much direct contact. I am not sure if this is really significant but some people say that salt can retard the yeast’s activity and so avoiding direct contact is good. I have never seen this to be a problem with dry yeast personally. The ingredients were then mixed together.
In a separate bowl, the milk and eggs were whisked until homogeneous.
The egg mixture was added to the flour mixture and mixed with a rubber spatula. This dough will be very sticky and that’s expected. Mix as well as possible until the dough becomes elastic. There are proper ways to knead such a dough but I’m still figuring it out myself.
Add the butter to the dough and knead it until smooth and shiny. This dough will now be quite wet but also very rich and smooth.
The dough was allowed to rise. First batch I allowed an hour and a half. Second batch got 2 hours.
The oven was heated to 350°F.
Once risen, the dough was mixed again to release the air and divided into the mini bunt cake molds. My mold holds 12 individual bunts. These are quite small. Each can hold about 3 Tablespoons of batter.
Once divided, the dough was allow to rise again until molds were filled nearly to the top.
hey were bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden
For the Rum Syrup
All of the ingredients were added to a small pot and simmer until all of the alcohol flavor was released. Roughly 20-30 minutes.
The syrup was then cooled completely with the spices intact.
When everything is cooled and ready to be assembled, the syrup was strained and the cakes soaked in the cooled syrup until completely saturated. I let my cakes then strain on a cooling rack for an hour before packaging them away.
You can top these cakes as you please. Options include whipped cream and fruit or just fruit compote. There are nearly endless possibilities here but I opted for simle whipped cream and some canned and fresh peaches with a sprig of mint.
I believe this was described by my boyfriend as “wet gingerbread”. Not quite what I was going for but not all tests work out. Will have to try again.