Short and Tweet Challenge 18: Perfect Pita Bread, Simple Bagels and Double-Corn Muffins

This week’s #shortandtweet challenge from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet was for Perfect plain pita pg 76 or the Garlic, thyme and lemon version pg 77; Simple bagels pg 61; or Double-corn bacon muffins pg 533. The opening photograph is from Carla (see below) because, as ever, I’m in awe of her tidiness and am smitten by her kitchen.

I’m not a bagel enthusiast, mostly because I find the supermarket versions to be clammy and dense. For no particularly good reason, such bagels remind me of acres of sun-starved goosepimpled flesh in a park on the first sunny day, slathered with sun-screen or drenched in a tanning oil to accelerate the burn. I was therefore delighted when Dan Lepard gave headnotes on how to tweak his bagel recipe to adjust the chewiness and crumb. @lapindor of Lapin d’Or and More rose to the challenge of: Simple bagels. This is a good, illustrated account of shaping and poaching the dough. I like the summary and concur with the crumb sentiment: “I am no bagel expert so am not sure if I should have retained a bigger hole in the centre and if they should really be a bit flatter in shape…[Inside, you can see that] I have a few big air holes and I suspect a more open crumb than a traditional bagel. No complaints though as they were delicious and I was actually quite proud of them”.

Although she was stricken by a nasty bug, @underthebluegum of Under the Blue Gum Tree baked her way through the bagel recipe twice: Short and Tweet: Bagels. Go along for the useful notes and the briefly alarming digression into “poaching beagles”.

Although Bialys aren’t strictly related to bagels, the chew and the crumb are likewise important so I’d point people towards @Zeb_Bakes of Zeb Bakes's post: Bialys for Mellow Bakers. There are some good hints and tips here for additional toppings and serving ideas that might be adapted to this bagel recipe. It is also via the ever-helpful @Zeb_Bakes that I found these How to shape & bake your bagels videos.

Most of us opted for the pita bread challenge, egged on perhaps by the enthusiasm of those of us who’ve made them before (“almost qualified for the title of ‘the easiest bread in the world’”) and been taken aback by the difference between these and what is typically available in supermarkets. There’s also a whiff of kitchen excitement with pita bread. The baker arms-lengths a thin piece of dough into a searingly hot oven, and within a couple of minutes the heat turns the water content to steam, puffing up the dough to the point where nervous watchers suspect that the tension will be too much and it will burst and deflate, only somewhat less spectacularly than a over-stretched balloon. When the bread cools it relaxes and deflates but the pocket remains, waiting to be opened and stuffed.

@Misky of Misk Cooks offers a picture of Elmo Gnome alongside a description and shots of her ideas of how to stuff them: Dan Lepard’s Perfect Plain Pita Bread. There are clever suggestions for how to roll the dough out to the correct depth, how to move the bread with tongs and plenty of enthusiastic appreciation. “So, will I make them again? Yes. In every language recognised by the human ear, I say “Yes!”

Will I ever buy store-made pitas again? Not by the hairs on your chiny-chin-chin.”

There’s interesting discussion in @Misky's comments. I'm one of those who confesses to finding Short & Sweet to be both a remarkable baking resource and a fountain of benign domestic tyranny as the vast difference between home-made versions of items such as pita bread and that which is commonly available means that it’s unlikely one would voluntarily purchase them again.

@BakeCakeCrumbs of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking sent along a well-illustrated account of mixing dough and baking: Perfect Plain Pittas. “Tender and chewy, these are a million miles from the long-life excuse for pitta bread that you find in the supermarkets…[It’s] quite fun to keep seeing them pop out all puffed up! My one regret is that my oven has a solid door so I can’t see the magic happening!”

@Mitchdafish of Mitchadafish blog joined the WI not long ago and used their recently launched flour to bake her delightful breads: Pita.

@tomasi_carla tweeted a very helpful series of photographs and comments about making these pita, griddling them (rather than baking them in an oven) and serving suggestions: Dan Lepard’s Perfect Pita. There are helpful notes about cooking them from frozen. Update: Carla cooks the pita on both sides when she griddles them.

@BakerHay tweeted some pictures and comments about her experience in baking both the plain and garlic, thyme & lemon pita: @BakerHay bakes Dan Lepard’s Perfect Pita Bread.

@Choclette8 of Chocolate Log Blog tweeted her semi-wholemeal pita, baked at 225C. These pita have more colour than those made wholly with white flour and the pattern reminds me of reticulated seed pods.

My Best Beloved baked both the plain pita and, in the sweet flush of success, the double-corn bacon muffins. The pita were a light-crumbed triumph. In a (perhaps) poignant commentary on our lives there was lots of excitement derived from staring through the glass door of the oven to see the pita swell and then suddenly expand (see first photograph).

The Double-corn bacon muffins tasted fine but were a tad claggy in the centre (the empty case shows how damp the muffin mix was even after standing when first removed from the oven). This is possibly because Best Beloved’s reservoirs of patience had been sapped by the keen attention to detail paid to executing the pita bread recipe well so parts of this recipe went awry. Not least, grated aubergine had to substitute for the courgette and a misunderstanding meant that far too much of the aubergine was added. I suspect that the surfeit of aubergine accounted for the muffins being cooked and golden on the outside at the end of the baking time but claggy within: we returned the muffins to the oven for an additional 7 minutes which improved the texture (albeit the centre was heavier & damper than I like) but over-baked the top and darkened the colour.

This week’s challenge recipes are: Mini coffee Paris-Brest pg 418; Rhubarb and custard buns, pg 422; a third option is to use the sweet choux paste as a pie crust, as Dan outlines, pg 525. If you have any sweet choux paste left over, then if you adapt Dan’s recommendation for Soup choux, pg 524, and pipe/bake tiny blobs of it, you might sprinkle them on top of a stewed fruit dish (with or without tossing them in a dipping sugar of, eg, cinnamon and icing sugar). It looks very special and far more complicated than it is: it also offers a good texture contrast. (There are additional notes in the Schedule for the #shortandtweet March 2012 challenge).

If you blog about your experience with one of the above recipes, please post links in the comments or tweet pictures or links to @foodcraftspace or @evidencematters using the hashtag #shortandtweet - Thank you. It’s the same procedure if you don’t blog but just post a photograph of your work. Please send the links by 8pm 11 March or as soon thereafter as practical.

Schedule for the #shortandtweet March 2012 challenge.

It’s apparent that #shortandtweet search doesn’t always show everyone’s tweets so I apologise if I missed any notifications - please let me know and I’ll update this compilation.

Thank you for sharing your pitas, bagels and muffins. I look forward to our many explorations of choux pastry.