Friday, January 18, 2013

Chicken Tikka and Homemade Pitas

I did it again - I changed the meal plan. A quick glance in the freezer revealed there wasn't as much leftover pasta and sauce I thought there was - so the hubby got it in his lunch for today and I came up with a quick plan B: Chicken Tikka and Homemade Pita Bread.

Part of being a great cook is knowing what ingredients you have on hand to make a last minute meal. Meal planning is ideal, and that's the goal of this whole Year of Cooking - but sometimes life happens and the plan goes out the window. On these nights, bad day back-ups are a good idea, as is take out. But if you're not up for either, being familiar with your kitchen and pantry will make all the difference in the world.

So, here's the skinny on tonight's dinner.

I was going to use a pita recipe from a cookbook, til I read it through and realized it was terrible - water to flour ratios were all wrong, the pitas were fried instead of baked - yuck, yuck, yuck. (I mean, maybe yum on some level, but not what I was looking for). Unfortunately, I read the recipe after I'd started the yeast. So, I decided it was time to do my first experimental baking project. The result? 25% absolute success - 2 out of the 8 pitas turned out perfectly, and the others are good. My conclusion - I have a great recipe and just need to tweak a couple details (which I include in the recipe below).

Homemade Pitas
1 1/2 c warm water (approx 110F)
1 Tbs active dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs olive oil
3 cup flour (any combination of white and whole wheat - I did 2 white, 1 whole wheat. The more whole wheat you do, the heavier the pitas will be.)
1 Tbs salt

Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl. See my entry on Bagels if you have questions about how to active yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast activates.

Add the oil, flour, and salt - mix well. You'll probably want to use your hands, pita is a bread after all. Your result should be a soft, not-too-sticky dough. If your dough is too dry, add extra water (1tsp at a time). If your dough is too sticky, add flour - a little bit at a time. Once your dough has reached the described consistency, divide it into 8 equal pieces.

Set the pieces on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let sit for 1 hour in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 450F. If you have a baking stone, now is the time to use it. If you don't - it's worth investing in if you want to do much bread or pizza making. Just as with stainless steel pots and pans, buy your baking stone from a restaurant depot store near you - much cheaper. Place the baking stone in the oven near the center of the oven. If you aren't using a baking stone, just use a cookie sheet.

On a well-floured surface, roll out each pita to approx 7" diameter. Do not stack, as they will rise a little bit more while you roll out the rest.

Once your oven is warmed, place the pitas in the oven 2-3 at a time (more or less depending on the size of your baking stone) for approx 3 minutes. The pitas should each get massive air bubbles inside of them - like turn into one giant air bubble. If it's been longer than 4 minutes, your pita probably isn't going to puff - congratulations, you have a mini pizza crust ready for another time. As soon as your pita puffs all the way up, it'll sigh (literally looks like it's sighing) and then it's ready to come out of the oven.

Remove the pita, place on a plate, and cover with a cloth. Repeat with your remaining pitas. Clarification for the clueless cook - you can stack all the pitas on top of each other on the same plate.

Viola - your pitas are finished! Serve warm or let cool to use at a later time.

This is essentially the same recipe we did the other night when we made Chicken Tikka Masala - except I left out the lime (because I was out) and we aren't going to do the Masala part. So, follow the Chicken Tikka recipe only.

I'm using the left over chicken from the Roast Chicken on Sunday night, and mixed it up earlier this afternoon so the flavors could blend nicely.

I'll be serving it with lettuce and a yogurt sauce made from natural yogurt, chopped fresh tomatoes, and a pinch of cumin.

There you have it, there you! Quick fix dinner - and it should be delicious!

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