Guess who has an oven again? Yeah for me!!! Which means I’m back in business with The Daring Kitchen. The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
The challenge was to do a mezze platter (pronounced meh-ZAY or mez, depending on whom you ask) which is actually one of my favorite kind of meals: a bunch of tasty little things to snack on and call dinner. But my days all seem to be running about two hours behind, so I was just able to pull off the required elements of pita bread and hummus. (I might still do the falafels since I already have all the stuff…we’ll see.) Of course, I could almost live on pita and hummus as long as a couple of olives are involved…so I was OK with it.
I’ve made flatbread before, but it was on the grill. This pita bakes in a very hot oven so it will balloon up and create that pocket. An event which my son found very exciting.
Pita bread is shockingly simple when you look at the ingredients: water, yeast, flour, salt, olive oil. That’s it. What I think I learned is the secret lies in how thinly the dough is rolled and how hot the oven is. You activate the yeast in warm water and add about half the flour. The sponge sits for more than 10 minutes (up to two hours) before you add salt, olive oil and the rest of the flour and let it rise.
You can see how wet the sponge is with only half the flour in. Once the rest of the flour is in you create a standard dough ball and allow it to rest and rise.
After it doubles in size, you punch it down and divide it up into balls that get rolled out into circles (or as close to circles as you can get them!) The dough is pretty elastic, so it retracts back quite easily…takes a little work to get those circles ready to go in the oven.
The recipe said to bake in a 450 degree oven – which was not hot enough. I had to crank it up to 500 and preheat the baking pan to help maximize the heat. They only stay in there for a minute or two if it is hot enough.
You can see how the high heat helps create all those great puffs and bubbles. This bread has great texture and is nice and soft on the inside…begging to have all kinds of yummy things stuffed into the pocket. Like hummus.
This hummus is a really classic, basic hummus – no frills. And it’s delicious. I thought it was a little too lemony at first, so I might cut back on the lemon juice a bit. Otherwise, it is just chickpeas, garlic, tahini (sesame paste) and salt…and any other flavors you want to add like roasted peppers or tapenade or extra roasted garlic. And, in case you have trouble finding tahini in your grocery store, it should be with the peanut butter and almond butter since it is sesame butter/paste.
For both of these recipes and a ton of great mezze platters (warning: do not click if you are hungry!) check out The Daring Kitchen site. And who knows, maybe there will be falafel here in the near future. You never can tell.