Exotic breads

A reader has written to us recently promoting the benefits of making your own bread. Not only does it save them money but they are more in control of the ingredients, so they know exactly what they and their family are eating.

Oily raggers like being a little exotic so we thought we would delve back thousands of years into the way bread used to be made in the Middle East. Funnily enough we in Aoteafeastaroa have only discovered the delights and benefits of Pita bread in recent years. Here’s a recipe.

All you need is 1 package of yeast (7g), 1 cup of warm water, 3 cups of general purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar.

To activate the yeast, mix it into 1 cup of warm water, add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes until the water becomes frothy. Next combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, make a crater in the middle, and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly add more warm water as necessary and stir with your hands, then place the dough on a floured surface and knead for around 10 to 15 minutes (make this part of your oily rag exercise regime!) until the dough is no longer gooey and finger stuck sticky, but smooth and elastic. Coat a large bowl with a slurp of vegetable oil and place in the dough, turning it over so its entire surface is coated.

Cover the dough with plastic and allow it to sit in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size. Then sprinkle flour on a working surface and roll out the dough into a long sausage shape. Cut it into 8 or 10 pieces and flatten out each piece with a rolling pin into circles about 150mm in diameter and about 5mm thick.

Preheat the oven to 250C and bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn it over and bake for another 2 minutes, then you’re ready to go. Fill your pita breads with your favourite whatevers from your garden and fridge, to enjoy as a sandwich, or cover with sliced tomatoes, salami, cheese, and a sprinkle of herbs, to grill into a mini pizza!

While on the subject of breads, we thought we would go local and share a recipe for traditional Maori bread, called Rewena bread. The unique thing about this bread is the rising agent. Because nipping down to the corner dairy for a packet of yeast was a little difficult in pre-European times, Maori bread uses fermented potatoes instead.

To make the starter, you will need 1 medium sized potato (‘rewa’ in Maori), 1 cup of water, 1 cup of flour, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Dice the potato and place in a pot with one cup of water, and simmer until cooked. Mash the potato, leaving in the water then, when lukewarm, add the sugar and flour and mix to form a batter. Place the starter into a clean container, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm spot to ferment for 24 hours. It should start bubbling and it will expand in size to almost double, so make sure your container is big enough to cope.

The other ingredients required to make the bread are 5 cups of flour, ½ a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of baking soda. Mix all together in a large bowl. Make a crater in the centre, pour in the starter, then mix all of the ingredients together adding a little more water if required.

Plonk the dough onto a floured bench and knead for about 10 minutes. Split the dough in half, shape into loaves and place on a greased baking tray. Place the loaves into a cold oven and bake at 180C for an hour. That will allow the dough to rise a little more as the oven is heating up. Kapai!