--- Join Paul Hollywood as he shows you how to make his favourite breads from around the world, from yeasted loaves to flatbreads, sweet breads and more in Paul Hollywood’s Bread, double episodes Mondays 8.30pm 6 July to 20 July on SBS Food and SBS On Demand ---
“When you make pitas at home, the oven is like a magician’s cave as you watch the dough puff up and transform into bread,” says Paul Hollywood.
And he wants to convince anyone who’s not tried it that this is a bit of magic we can all make.
‘If I can inspire you to make one flatbread at home, this is the one, because it has a very special place in my heart,” says the British baker, author and TV host. Hollywood lived in Cyprus for six years so it’s no surprise that when he devotes an entire episode of his show, Paul Hollywood’s Bread, to flatbreads, a Cypriot-style pita is on the menu. He also cooks up another throwback to his memories of island life: “I associate pita with my favourite lunch, pork souvlaki … I used to have this for lunch, and dinner… and if I could, I would have it for breakfast as well. I just love that meat with the bread,” he says.
The breads Hollywood remembers were often made in wood-fired ovens, but you can make a great pita pocket in a home oven, too.
"The secret is to roll out the dough as thin as you can and to put the pitas onto a very hot baking tray. This ferocious initial burst of heat helps them puff up and cook properly," he says of his recipe.
The basic process is to mix a soft, smooth yeasted dough; turn it onto an oiled bench (this will stop the dough sticking); knead the dough well, for 5-10 minutes, until it's smooth and elastic - "Pummel the dough," says Hollywood in the show. "It’s that rhythm and action that begins to build up the gluten strands that you need inside the flour” – and then allow it to rise.
When pre-heating the oven, put two trays inside so they heat up, too.
Divide the risen dough into balls, flatten out into a pita shape with your hands or a rolling pin, then into the oven they go. That’s when you get to watch the magic happen as the rounds of dough puff up.
As they cool down after baking, the bread will soften and deflate. Wrap the bread in a cloth, "to trap the steam and keep them soft, and leave to cool. They are best eaten the same day, or they can be frozen," Hollywood says of his recipe.
He's made quite a few versions of these soft, stuffable pockets - you can find his recipe for wholemeal pita here, his gluten-free pita here, and a campfire pita served with babaganoush that featured The Great British Bake Off here.
And as to size, well, that's up to you. You can make big or small pitas, he says, but he likes big ones. "I want a lot of souvlaki in there if I’m honest!”
Man'oushe (singular to the plural manakish) is a popular Levantine flatbread topped with anything from za'atar to ground meat, or Hoda's Australianised version with Vegemite and cheese. They are typically enjoyed for breakfast or lunch.
A perfect year-round salad bringing to the table juicy marinated lamb, fresh greens, homemade gluten-free pita and zesty tzatziki.
Similar to Indian Naan, just lighter and flakier (and in my opinion yummier), taftan is a hearth-baked flatbread from Persia and Pakistan. It is often flavoured with saffron – as this one is – which gives it a striking golden hue and alluring flavour perfect to serve alongside curries and soups (although don’t discount just nibbling it on its own).
Many of my Asian patients with blood sugar problems tell me that they struggle to replace flatbreads or chapattis in their diet. Unfortunately, most shop-bought flatbreads these days are made of highly refined wheat flour, whereas in India they are traditionally made with wholemeal chickpea flour, which is relatively lower in carbohydrate and high in protein and fibre. It is also gluten-free.
This flatbread is a real crowd pleaser. I often make the dough the night before and let it prove slowly in the fridge, rolling, topping and baking it just before guests arrive.
"When I go home, the first thing I want to eat is piadina with prosciutto. Luckily, there’s a shop about 50 metres from my place. You can eat the breads with rocket and all kinds of cheeses," says Matteo.
Known by the Catalan locals as coca, these leavened flatbreads are indeed similar to pizza but you'd better not tell them that! While this version by chef Frank Camorra is topped with thinly sliced summer vegetables, you can use whatever is in season. They're just as good room temperature as they are warm, so they make great appetisers and picnic fare.