Cinnamon Swirl Sourdough

There is almost nothing better than the smell of cinnamon and sugar and yeasty goodness spilling from the kitchen. It is comforting and warming, so delicious, making my mouth water every time. I recently came across this recipe for cinnamon swirl bread that uses some sourdough starter as well. Since I'm always looking for new things to do with my starter, and cinnamon bread is one of my favorite things of all time, giving this recipe a try was a no brainer. I was not disappointed. The crumb is tender and soft, buttery with a hint of sweet. A fragrant cinnamon sugar filling is rolled up inside this delicious package. A recipe to come back to for sure. 

I unfortunately didn't end up getting a picture of the sliced up bread. I cut it up and froze it fairly late at night and it was far to dark to get anything close to a good picture. You'll just have to take my word for it that it produces beautiful slices of bread.

Since the original recipe called for a 9 x 5 inch bread pan, but I only have 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pans, I decided to pinch off a piece of the dough and make a mini loaf with it, just for fun. It turned out pretty cute! A delicious loaf that I highly recommend.

Cinnamon Swirl Sourdough
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients
Dough

  • 1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
  • 2 1/3 cups (10 3/4 ounce) cups all-purpose flour (I used about 3 ounces of whole wheat flour and the rest all purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Filling

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Directions
To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased container, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it's just about doubled in bulk.

While the dough is rising, make the filling by stirring together the sugar, cinnamon, flour and butter.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Roll and pat the dough into a rough rectangle approximately 6" x 20". Sprinkle the dough evenly with the filling and raisins, if using.

Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the ends to seal, and pinch the long seam closed.

Transfer the log, seam-side down, to a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan. Cover and allow the bread to rise until it's crested about 1" over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after the first 15 to 20 minutes. The bread's crust will be golden brown, and the interior of the finished loaf should measure 190°F on a digital thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven, and gently loosen the edges. Turn it out of the pan, and brush the top surface with butter, if desired; this will give it a soft, satiny crust. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

Soft Sandwich Sourdough

I decided to try out a new sourdough sandwich loaf recently, just for something new. I don't like getting stuck in a rut, so I did some browsing of recipes I had pinned as well as exploring the internet for anything new that I might want to try. I finally settled on this soft sandwich sourdough. It has enough butter and sugar to make it a little special without being overly rich and heavy, a good compromise. This was the first time I've made a truly sourdough bread, one without any added commercial yeast. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, I was hoping my starter was healthy and vigorous enough to provide the rise needed to make a nice and light loaf. No need to worry! There recipe turned out two beautiful loaves, absolutely perfect for whatever sandwich you are craving. Not overly sour tasting, but soft and full of flavor. A definite keeper! 

Without the addition of any commercial yeast, this recipe definitely took longer to rise than most "normal" bread recipes. But that is okay with me. It just needed a little more time and it rose beautifully. The final loaves are extra tall, but they were just the right size for me to make a very nice sandwich on. 

One other unique part of this recipe is that it calls for you to bake it about halfway until the crust is completely set, and then you remove the loaves from the bread pans and continue the baking process directly on a baking stone to finish. I've never done this before but it seemed to work quite well, helping the crust brown evenly all over.

Soft Sandwich Sourdough
Adapted From Wild Yeast
Ingredients

  • 622 g flour (I used about 1/2 all purpose, 1/2 whole wheat)
  • 200 g water
  • 16.2 g salt
  • 65 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 31 g honey
  • 120 g milk, scalded and cooled
  • 411 g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter

Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the ingredients except about 10% of the water. Mix in low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, adjusting the water as needed to achieve a medium dough consistency (you may need additional water). Continue mixing to in medium speed to a medium-high level of gluten development.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 3 hours, with folds* after the first 1 and 2 hours.

Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Divide it in half. Preshape each piece into a cylinder and let rest, covered, for about 25 minutes. Generously butter two 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pans. Shape the dough tightly into blunt batards and place them, seam-side-down, into the prepared pans. Proof, covered, for 3 hours, or until the top of the dough has risen to about 1.5 inches above the edge of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 425F. You will also need steam* during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.

Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400F. Bake for 15 minutes with steam, and another 10 minutes without steam. Then remove the loaves from the pans, place them directly on the stone, and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

*For more information about folding and steaming check out the original recipe on Wild Yeast

Nutrition: Approximate calorie count, 1/12 of a loaf is 143 calories

Easy Sourdough Rolls

I've had my sourdough starter going for quite some time now. I really enjoy working with sourdough, and I love the sour flavor it gives to the breads I make with it. The whole idea of sourdough intrigues me. Being able to cultivate wild yeast in my fridge and then bake bread with it is so amazing! Since sourdough does take little a bit of care I'm always on the lookout for a new recipe to use some of my starter. When I saw these easy rolls I knew they would be the perfect way to use some starter and have a stash of rolls/buns on hand in the freezer to pull out when in a pinch for an easy lunch or dinner. 

This recipe is really a winner. Simple, basic, easy and fairly quick to throw together. They turned out light and fluffy and a perfect roll to top with some cold cuts, a large scoop of chicken salad, or your own personal favorite topping. Also great for a bread basket on the side, all you need is a little butter, with some honey or jam if you like a little extra sweetness. A great all purpose recipe to tweak for many different occasions. 

I decided to make small cuts in the top of my rolls, just for fun. Not necessary but I think they turned out kind of cute. They sort of look like little mouths to me. But if you prefer a smooth topped roll just skip the cutting step. They will still turn out just as delicious!

Easy Sourdough Rolls

Adapted from 

Kitchen Grrrls

Ingredients

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook  mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the olive oil, starter and water and knead it all together on medium-medium high speed until smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes, adding extra flour or water if needed to produce the correct consistency. Place the dough in a clean large bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking oil, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let the dough double in size.

Divide the dough into rolls, each approximately the size of a tennis ball (I made mine around 70 grams each which yielded 20 rolls). Lightly oil a pan. Set the rolls into the pan and let them rise until doubled. Once the rolls have doubled place them in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes at 375F until lightly browned. 

Yields: I made 20 nice sized rolls (about 72 grams of dough each)

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

I've had my sourdough starter for a while now and love how versatile and easy it is to use. I only need to make sure that at least every few I use it in a recipe, or if for whatever reason that just doesn't happen, I only need to feed it to make sure it continues to do well. Since I love making bread and trying out new recipes it usually isn't much of a problem to find something to do with it. 

I discovered this sandwich loaf a little while back when I was looking for a quick and easy way to use my sourdough starter. Since I was in the mood for a few sandwiches I searched around for a simple sourdough sandwich loaf. This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour, fit the bill perfectly. A nice, pretty basic yeasted bread recipe with the addition of sourdough starter as well as a combination of seeds and grains for some chew and nuttiness. I changed up the recipe just a little bit to suit my needs without any real problem, and ended up with a perfectly delicious sourdough sandwich loaf, just what I needed for a few really fantastic sandwiches. 

If I'm going to make bread I like to make sure I make it worth my while so I decided to double the original recipe and make two loaves instead of just one and I was able to do this without any real problem. I've also increased the amount of whole wheat flour in my recipe to make the bread even more nutritious. Throwing in a few handfuls of whatever grains/seeds/nuts I have on hand gives the final product a nice heartiness that I really enjoy, especially in whole wheat bread. I think you could just skip this part all together if you wanted to, but it really does add a nice touch to your bread. In other words, this is a very forgiving bread that I've made several times now and really enjoyed. Play around with it to make it work for you, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

Adapted from 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • ~2 cups (11 oz) fed sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups (11-12 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon (3/4 oz) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (5 oz) All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 cups (15 oz) Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2/3 cup your favorite blend of seeds and/or grains (such as coarse cornmeal, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and whole oats)    
  • 2 1/2 -3 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead to form a smooth dough, about 5-7 minutes. Cover the dough, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it'll become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

Lightly grease two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" bread pan. Gently deflate the risen dough, shape into two logs and place in the pans. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise until it crests at least 1" over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The bread doesn't have much oven-spring (i.e., it won't rise much once it's in the oven), so be sure to let it rise fully before baking. A loaf risen 1" over the rim of the pan will be denser and more close-grained; letting it rise higher will give you a "spongier," lighter bread. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes if it's as brown as you like it. When it's done, the bread will be golden brown, and will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack, to cool completely.

Yields: 2 loaves, about 15 slices per loaf

Christmas Morning Breakfast Wreath

Today I'm excited to share one of the most beautiful and delicious recipes I've ever made. Last week I went to one of my favorite bakeries because I had to get a loaf of their stollen before Christmas was over. I'd never actually tried stollen, but I knew I would love this dense, heavy fruitcake filled with boozy dried fruit and almond paste, covered in butter and sugar. I was right, it is one of the most delicious breads I have ever eaten. Inspired by this bread, I decided to make something along the same lines for my Christmas morning breakfast. This recipe that I found from The Kitchn was the reminiscent of a traditional stollen, but with a twist, perfect for a festive breakfast to celebrate Christmas morning.

The ingredient list may look long for this recipe, but it really isn't any more difficult than most yeasted breads. The whole concept is similar to making cinnamon rolls, but with a filling of dried fruit and almonds instead of cinnamon sugar. 

I actually halved the original recipe since there was only two of us to eat this cake and we certainly didn't need the whole recipe. There were no problems halving the recipe, the only thing that changed was that the wreath wasn't as big as the original, there wasn't much of a hole in the middle, but this this didn't affect the finished product in any way other than looks. 

The recipe called for the wreath to be baked for 25 minutes, but when I checked mine at this point it wasn't anywhere near being done. I ended up baking it for about 50 minutes total. I don't know where this discrepancy came from, but I thought my wreath was baked perfectly at 50 minutes, I don't know why it took double the time called for in the original recipe. The only thing I can think of is that since I halved the recipe and my wreath was much more compact, it took longer for it to cook through, but who knows. Regardless, this recipe turned out so absolutely delicious, the perfect way to start off my Christmas morning!

Christmas Morning Breakfast Wreath
Adapted from The Kitchn
Ingredients
For the bread:

  • 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons warm water 
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 

For the fruit-almond filling:

  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, cherries, and/or raisins soaked in 1/2 cup brandy or other liqueur
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 oz almond paste, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the sugar glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder

Directions
Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom powder, yeast, lemon and orange peel. Add the butter, water, milk and egg and mix until starting to form a shaggy mass. Then turn on the mixer and knead until it forms a smooth and supple dough (add more water if it is too dry and more flour if it is too wet as needed).

Place dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl large enough to accommodate dough when doubled in size. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare the cranberry-almond filling: Drain the dried fruit from the liqueur and reserve the liqueur for another use. In a small bowl, combine the drained fruit with remaining filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

Shape the dough: When dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured board, kneading just enough to release any air bubbles. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Crumble the filling over the dough to within 1 inch of the edges. Starting along a long side, tightly roll up the dough, pinching edge against loaf to seal. With a sharp knife, cut roll in half lengthwise. Carefully turn the halves so the cut sides are facing up, and then loosely twist the halves around each other, keeping cut sides up. (Check out the photos from The Kitchn if you're having a difficult time visualizing this.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment or non-stick baking mat. Carefully transfer the rope to the baking sheet and shape into a wreath, pinching the ends together to seal. Let it rise, uncovered, in a warm place until puffy, about 45 minutes. (Alternatively, place wreath immediately into the fridge and let it rise overnight. In the morning, remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, 1/2-1 hour before proceeding with baking.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the wreath until lightly browned, 45-50 minutes. While the wreath is baking, stir together the ingredients for the glaze and set aside.

When wreath is done, transfer to a cooling rack by picking up the sides of the parchment and then sliding the parchment out from underneath. Cool for a few minutes then drizzle the glaze over the warm wreath. Serve with extra butter if you're feeling decadent.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are my idea of the perfect breakfast. I don't know how I've been blogging for this long without posting a cinnamon roll recipe, but I'm going to change that today. I absolutely love cinnamon rolls; tender sweet dough swirled with spicy cinnamon and rich brown sugar. Top with  a simple powdered sugar glaze, a rich and buttery cream cheese frosting, or even a gooey combination of butter and brown sugar, they are all so good. 

This time of year I'm always drawn to pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I love the beautiful golden color that pumpkin gives to the dough, along with lots of moisture to keep the dough tender and not at all dry. Adding some of the spices directly to the dough really amps up the flavor and makes the finished product just that much more delicious. These rolls are simple, tender and delicious, not to mention beautiful. A perfect early winter breakfast for a lazy weekend morning or a wonderful addition to any Christmas brunch spread. 

These cinnamon rolls came together beautifully, and baked up without any problems. A few minutes after they came out of the oven I glazed them with a little bit extra maple syrup before letting them cool completely. I frosted them with a simple melted butter, maple syrup and powdered sugar frosting that I just threw together without measuring anything, but any frosting at all will do. I think a cinnamon cream cheese frosting would be wonderful. Whatever you decide on for the frosting will be great, you really can't go wrong, just be sure to make these rolls!!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from 

Sally's Baking Addiction

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1/3 cup milk 
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup bread flour 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) 100% pure pumpkin 

Filling 

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 1-2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • 1-2 tablespoon flour

Directions

Scald the milk in the microwave by heating until almost boiling, then set aside and let cool until warm, but no longer hot. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook  attachment mix together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the egg, pumpkin and cooled milk. Knead on medium high speed until a smooth, supple dough forms, adding water a tablespoon at a time as needed, about 6-8 minutes. 

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 

Make the filling: melt butter in the microwave. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Set aside. 

Transfer dough to a counter lightly dusted with flour. Roll dough out into a large rectangle (about 16x10 inches). Sprinkle filling evenly over the dough and then roll it up jelly roll style (if you want a little more filling, either double the recipe or sprinkle the dough with a little more cinnamon and brown sugar). Cut the log into 10-12 even slices and place cut side down into a greased baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Alternatively, immediately placed in the fridge and let rise overnight. In the morning remove from the fridge and let warm to room temperature, 30-45 minutes before proceeding. 

Bake the rolls in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool until slightly 

Oat Bread with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. I just love the whole process, kneading together a handful of individual ingredients and turning them into this live creature that rises and grows before your eyes. Tame it through shaping into loaves, and then into the oven for its final transformation where it becomes your desired creation. It is one of the most satisfying tasks in the kitchen.  Pulling out those final loaves, and seeing what you've been able to do with a few simple ingredients, some time and heat is simply amazing. 

These loaves are my most recent creation. I found the recipe online and for whatever reason it sounded so perfectly delicious that I had to give it a try. This whole wheat and oat sandwich loaf, slightly sweetened with honey and filled with roasted nuts and dried fruit called my name, I simply had to try it. It turned out a couple very large and beautiful loaves that have been perfect for a variety of sandwiches, a hearty snack and a healthy breakfast. 

One of my favorite quick and easy lunches in the past week has been a gourmet peanut butter sandwich with mashed banana and sliced strawberries. Add a drizzle of honey for a little extra sweetness and lunch is served, simple and delicious. It almost feels like eating dessert for lunch. I've also made a variety of other different sandwiches including an heirloom tomato BLT and a grilled vegetable and hummus sandwich with feta. So whatever type of sandwich is calling your name, this bread will get the job done. 

Oat Bread with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Adapted from 

A Shaggy Dough Story

Ingredients

  • 200g Dried Fruit (I used a mix of prunes and frozen cranberries instead of dried, just because I had them, and it turned out fine)
  • 161g Whole Wheat Flour
  • 130g Rolled Oats
  • 403g Water (I used the reserved water from soaking the fruit and made up the difference with fresh water)
  • 484g Bread Flour
  • 136g Milk
  • 48g Honey
  • 48g Vegetable Oil 
  • 19g Salt
  • 4g Instant Yeast 
  • 130g Toasted Almonds (or whatever you have, walnuts, pecans, etc)
  • Additional Rolled Oats for coating loaves

Directions

Put dried fruit in a heat-proof bowl, add enough boiling water to cover and let sit for about an hour. Drain, reserving water, and let cool.

Put whole wheat flour and rolled oats in the bowl of a mixer, add the reserved soaking liquid (adding fresh water to make up the difference) and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Add bread flour, milk, honey, oil, salt and yeast to the oat mixture. Using the dough hook of your mixer, blend on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium for about 7 minutes. Add the soaked, drained fruit and the pecans and mix on low speed until combined (it took a little bit of time to make sure they were fully incorporated).

Place the dough in a large bowl or container with oil that's been lightly coated with oil. Cover and let rest. After one hour, uncover the dough and fold, then cover and let rest for another hour.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two rounds. Cover with plastic and let rest for 15 minutes. Lightly butter or oil two 9-inch loaf pans. Uncover and lightly flour your work surface, if needed. Degas each dough round and shape into a loaf. Place loaves seam side down in the prepared pans. Lightly mist each loaf with water and them cover with oats, if desired. Cover with plastic and proof for about 90 minutes.

Place a steam pan in the bottom of your oven and preheat to 450°. At baking time, uncover the loaf pans, place in the oven and immediately add about 1 cup of ice to the pan to create steam. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400° and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden brown (cover them with foil if they start browning too soon). Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Pita Bread

I found this recipe for pita bread back at Easter when my sister and I made an Israeli inspired meal to celebrate the holiday. There was no way I was going to make all of those Middle Eastern dishes and not serve fresh pita, it was just too perfect. I had made pita once before and I didn't love how it turned out, but it had been a long time. It was time to give it another try, and boy am I glad that I did. This time around the pita turned out perfectly! It was soft, delicious and just wonderful. 

There are so many options for what to do with pita. At Easter I just cut it up into wedges and served it along with homemade hummus. It was also perfect for soaking up all of the extra juices from the chicken I served. It also makes for a fantastic wrap, the perfect vehicle to stuff with your favorite ingredients. If you have some leftover, brush with some oil and salt and pop it in the oven for a little while until it dries out and you've got homemade pita chips. So many options, give it a try and find your favorite!

This recipe is pretty simple. I really like how the dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, so you can have fresh pita all week! It's so much fun to watch the pita poof up in the oven, almost like magic. It makes me happy every time. Beware, once you make homemade pita, you will be ruined for life. You'll never want to buy that hard, stale, flavorless pita from the grocery store ever again. 

Pita Bread
From The Food Network
Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water 
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bread bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add whole wheat flour, one cup at a time, then 1 cup white flour. Stir 100 times (one minute) in the same direction to activate the gluten in the flour. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes or as long as 2 hours.

Sprinkle salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add white flour, one cup at a time. When the dough is too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a lightly floured bread board and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to a lightly oiled bread bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least double in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Gently punch down. Dough can be made ahead to this point and then stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 5 days or less.

If at this time you want to save the dough in the refrigerator for baking later, simply wrap it in a plastic bag that is at least three times the size of the dough, pull the bag together, and secure it just at the opening of the bag. This will give the dough a chance to expand when it is in the refrigerator (which it will do). From day to day, simply cut off the amount of dough you need and keep the rest in the refrigerator, for up to one week. The dough will smell slightly fermented after a few days, but this simply improves the taste of the bread. Dough should be brought to room temperature before baking.

This amount of dough will make approximately 16 pitas if rolled out into circles approximately 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4-inch thick. You can also of course make smaller breads. Size and shape all depend on you, but for breads of this dimension the following baking tips apply:

Place large baking stone or two baking sheets, on a rack in the bottom third of your oven, leaving a one inch gap all around to allow air to circulate. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide dough in half, then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide dough into eight equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter. You may wish to roll out all eight before starting to bake. Cover rolled out breads, but do not stack.

Bake 2 at a time (or more if your oven is larger) directly on baking stone or baking sheets. Bake each bread for 3 or 4 minutes, until the bread has gone into a full "balloon" or until it is starting to turn lightly golden, whichever happens first. If there are seams or dry bits of dough - or for a variety of other reasons - your bread may not go into a full "balloon". Don't worry, it will still taste great. The more you bake pitas the more you will become familiar with all the little tricks and pitfalls, and your breads will more consistently "balloon." But even then, if you're like us, it won't always "balloon" fully and you won't mind because the taste will still be wonderful. When baked, remove, place on a rack for about five minutes to let cool slightly, then wrap breads in a large kitchen towel (this will keep the breads soft). When first half of the dough has been rolled out and baked, repeat for rest of dough, or store in refrigerator for later use, as described above. You can also divide the dough into more, smaller pieces if you wish, to give you smaller breads.