When many think of Greek Food, they think of pita bread. In truth, the Ancient Greeks enjoyed all sorts of breads, both flat and formed, but I thought it would be fun to ancient style pitas.
Just like in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the most common grain grown in Greece was barley. This recipe is almost all barley flour, with a little all purpose thrown in to cheat and make them more appetizing to the modern palate.
You can go all barley to be authentic, but the results aren’t quite as delicious. Remember I’m a chef first and an amateur anthropologist second. I want to make something that I actually want to eat. Even with the cheater’s flour, these pitas are denser and less puffy than their modern counter parts, but when eaten fresh, are still a delicious addition to your deipnon. (that’s Greek for dinner)
ANCIENT GREEK BARLEY PITAS
400g Barley Flour
100g All Purpose or whole wheat flour
375ml Water, slightly warm
1 teaspoon Dry Yeast
1 tablespoon Salt
Start by mixing your flours. Next form a well in the middle and pour in the water, sprinkling the yeast on top to activate. If you’re a well to do Ancient Greek, feel free to add a tablespoon of honey or yogurt here.
Let the yeast sit 5 minutes, then add your salt, then stir it all together with a wooden spoon to make a rough dough. T
his dough requires a little kneading. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and push and fold with your hands for 8-10 minutes, until its smooth and a little springy to the touch (though it won’t spring or stretch like a 100% AP Flour dough)
Sprinkle a little flour back into the bowl, then add the dough, covering with plastic and proofing at room temperature for 6-8 hours. The dough will grow a little, but don’t expect much.
When you are ready to make the pitas, fire up a Homemade Tandoori Oven or simply get a charcoal grill lit and ready. The Greeks love to bake and roast both breads and all kinds of other food over an open fire.
While the grill heats up, it’s time to roll out the pitas. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. You can’t stretch these with your hands like Modern Ash Bread. Barley flour is too delicate. You have to use a rolling pin. Sprinkle a little flour down, then roll one pita piece into a ball, using your hand to press it down into a flat disk. Sprinkle a little more flour as needed, and roll out into flat circle, barely 1/4 inch thick. Set aside and roll out the rest.
The pitas cook in only a minute or two. Make sure your surface or grate is VERY hot, then go ahead and toss the pitas on without oil. Now don’t touch them! Let it sit for 40 seconds to a miunte, until lots of puffing and bubbles have appeared. Using a spatula, flip over and finish on the other side for an approximately equal amount of time.
And there you have it. Don’t forget to take your chef’s right to eat one blazing hot right off the grill. Then Pile the pitas on top of each other to keep warm and soft and serve as immediately as possible with meat, fish, salad, sauce, or just about anything really!