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Carrot Soup & Pita Bread

IMG_5266I was pretty much skeptical of this carrot soup recipe.  And, I pretty much remain skeptical, if I’m being honest.  But it’s worth talking about, it’s probably worth another shot at a variation of some sort (though I’m not yet sure what), and it definitely deserves the credit for inspiring me to attempt pita bread in my own kitchen.

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IMG_5230Let us pause here.  We need to collect the rest of the readers (my entire family on my mother’s side) who are all still in a fit of hysterical laughter.  You see, my mom and her siblings grew up in their father’s Lebanese bakery.  They all know that cooking good pita bread at home is a joke.  But I was inspired, and while the results were nothing like the good bread I know, love, and will travel for, this was tasty, and worked quite well with the carrot soup.

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My hang up with the soup is that the flavors really weren’t all that complex, so it seemed more like carrot puree to me.  However, the tahini topping & roast chick-peas complement it nicely and make it like an inside out hummus…. the carrot to hummus ratio is all backwards… but it works.

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And the other thing is that this is a whole lot of peeling and dicing for soup that you don’t crave.  Maybe there are people out there who love carrots a lot more than I do.

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I am fairly certain, however, there aren’t many who love bread more than I do.

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And really, the most difficult part about this bread (once you get over the fact that it isn’t really anything like you can get at a Lebanese bakery, and realize that is much thicker, and more like a pocket-y version of naan) is the waiting. Waiting for the dough to rise. And waiting again.  The baking process is quick and easy, and almost magical how the bubbles form.

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It is best devoured right away. Warm, preferably. Though I don’t think you’ll have any trouble accommodating that.  You’ll want to enjoy as soon as it comes out of the oven, and you should.

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If you do show some restraint, heat up the bread when you go for the leftovers. It will be much, much better. But never as great as fresh out of the oven.

Carrot Soup recipe from smitten kitchen.com

Pita Bread from The Bread Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients:
3 cups + scant 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups water, at room temperature (70-90 deg F)

1) About 2 hours before baking, or up to 3 days ahead, mix the dough:

With a stand mixer:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer & mix on low speed just until all the flour is moistened (about 20 seconds).  Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium, and knead for about 10 minutes.  The dough should clean the bowl and be very soft and smooth and sticky to the touch.  Add a bit of flour or water if necessary. (The dough will weigh about 27.75 ounces)
Mixing by hand:
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the scant 1/4 cup of flour.  With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until the flour is moistened.  Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together.
Sprinkle some of the reserved flour on the counter, and scrape the dough onto it.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible.  The dough will be very sticky.  Scrape it together, cover with the inverted bowl, and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes.  This will make it easier to work with.
Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and sticky to the touch. Add a bit of flour or water if necessary. (The dough will weigh about 27.75 ounces)

2) Let the dough rise.  Scrape the kneaded dough into a 2-quart or larger bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil.  (Olive oil works well here with this recipe) Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.  Let rise for at least an hour, until doubled, if using immediately.  If you are preparing well ahead, refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.

3) Preheat the oven to 475 deg F at least 1 hour before baking.  Have an oven shelf at the lowest level with a baking stone, cast iron skillet or baking sheet prior to preheating.

4) Shape the dough, first by dividing into 8 or 12 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth.  On a lightly floured counter with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten into a disk.  Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick.
Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.

5) To bake the pita, quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone, skillet, or sheet and bake for 3 minutes.  It should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown.  The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough.  If it hasn’t puffed nicely, spray and knead each remaining piece with water until soft and moist, and allow to rest before baking.
Proceed baking the remaining dough, 3-4 pieces at a time.  Transfer the pita breads to a clean towel.  Allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes at least between batches.

Enjoy warm, or reheat for 30 seconds or so before serving.

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