Hummus and Wholemeal Pita Bread
I don’t remember what I ate on my first visit at a Middle Eastern restaurant or who I was with. All I ever seem to recall and crave almost frequently is the humble hummus. One cannot have a Middle Eastern meal and not have hummus as part of the feast. In fact, our cravings for this chickpeas ‘mash’ are so strong that we lumber into Arab Street quite often.
After the Chinese New Year celebrations, my Hummus Attacks appeared much more often and flipping through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem did not help curb it. In fact, it only made matters worse. As sheep bleat, likewise I groan the word ‘hummus’ like a possessed zombie. By doing so, I have finally succeeded in pushing N’s tolerance levels and thus, there was really no choice but to start cracking at making our own survival bags of precious hummus.
One of the motivations in setting up Thom & Aimee was so that N could venture into the world of bread making. If pastries were her spouse, bread was probably her mistress. There is something therapeutic to smell the perfumes of dough in the oven, it is almost intoxicating. But bread is a temperament lady and requires plenty of affection and attention. Like old wives’ tales about making homemade wines, bread seem to have a hint of pettiness. Treat them with respect and they will do their jobs.
We paired our lovely hummus with some homemade wholemeal pita bread, served alongside cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Craving satisfied and misson accomplished.
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
250g dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 litres water
270g light tahini paste
4 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
100ml ice-cold water
salt, to taste
Prepare to soak the chickpeas the night before. Place dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water, at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
Drain the chickpeas the next day. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off the foam and skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will have to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly around 600g now. Peel the skins off the chickpeas. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straight away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
Whole Wheat Pita
By Ciril Hitz
Makes 12 pitas
180g bread flour
107g spring water, 21C
1.3g (1/2 tsp) instant yeast
For Final Dough
657g whole wheat flour
462g spring water, 35C *
2.5g (3/4 tsp) instant yeast
3 tsp (16g) sea salt
All of Biga
*If the biga has not been refrigerated, use 24C water instead.
To make biga, place bread flour, water and instant yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with a dough hook attachment for about 3 minutes. The biga will feel tight and rubbery after it has been mixed; do not add any additional water. Place the biga in a proofing container coated with non-stick cooking spray, cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow to sit out at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours – it should double in size.
The biga is now ready to use but its flavour will improve if refrigerated overnight and used the next day. To hold the biga overnight, gently degas biga by pressing down on it with your hands, cover it and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
To make the final dough, place the whole wheat flour, water, honey, instant yeast, salt and biga into a stand mixer bowl. Using a dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients on low speed for 4 minutes. Increase mixing speed to medium and mix for an additional 2 minutes.
Place the dough in a proofing container coated with non-stick cooking spray and check the temperature with a digital thermometer probe; the ideal temperature is 24C to 26C. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and allow to rest for 45 minutes.
3. Stretch and Folds / Degassing
After the dough has rested for 45 minutes, give the dough one stretch and fold.
To perform a proper stretch and fold, place the dough on the table in front of you. Take the right end of the dough, gently stretch it out and then fold it back one-third over itself. Do the same thing with the left side. Now take the edge closest to you and repeat the process, pulling the dough gently toward you and then folding it away from you and back onto itself. Continue this motion a little further, lifting up the corners of the fold and bringing the folded edge to meet the back edge. Pick up the dough and gently place, seam side down, into the proofing container.
Let dough rest again for 45 minutes.
Divide dough into 12 pieces (130g each). Preheat oven to 250C with baking stone in place.
5. Final Proof
After shaping into round rolls, place the dough rolls onto a floured proofing board or table; cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball on a floured surface to a 15cm diameter circle.
Cover with plastic wrap and let ret for another 5 minutes.
Roll out the circle of dough again, increasing the size to about 20 to 25 cm in diameter (3mm thick).
Turn up heat to 260C. Place disks of dough directly on the baking stone in the oven. Bake for 2 to 4 minutes. The dough should puff completely like a pillow during the baking process.
7. Cooling / Storage
Remove the pitas from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 1 minute.
Gently compress downward on the pitas just enough to remove any excess air, but do not flatten them too aggressively or the pocket created may start to stick together.
To store, stack the pitas on top of each other wile still warm. Once cool, store in a plastic bag for 1 to 2 days.
Baking bread is all about accurate measurements; I would recommend a weighing machine to weigh the ingredients.
The main ingredients (Water, Yeast, Salt and Flour) of bread are so simple yet each ingredient affects how the dough will turn out.
Water – using water that contains too much chlorine will slow down the fermentation process. On the other hand, using distilled water is not recommended as it has been stripped of minerals. Best to use spring water.
Instant Yeast – Once opened, it should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Salt – Make sure salt and yeast do not come in contact with each other as salt will render the yeast ineffective.
Flour – Flour should be stored in an airtight container and away from heat, to prevent the flour from becoming rancid.
Baking stone – Baking on the hot surface of a baking stone encourages lift in the bread known as oven spring. The same effect cannot take place if the bread is baked on a sheet pan, even if the sheet pan is preheated along with the oven. The baking stone is thicker and retains more heat, allowing for a constant release of this energy during the bake. Do not however, place a cool baking stone into a hot oven as it will break. Place the baking stone in the oven and preheat it together. In the same way, do not take a heated baking stone out into the cool. Allow the baking stone to cool in the oven gradually.