(… and a recipe for pitas from so-called “Cornell” dough). Our third book will be officially released on October 25, 2011, but it’s now available for Pre-Order on Amazon! To view the book’s cover, which is now finalized, click here. It will have pizza and flatbreads from all over the world—plus, the recipes will be complemented with soup, salad, and dip recipes so that these pizzas and flatbreads become the basis of an entire five-minute meal. As in all our books, the idea is to do all the mixing once, but serve many times from a big batch. That’s a perfect fit for soups and dips (and you can get a salad ready while your bread’s in the oven).
Turns out that you can make great flatbreads (like the pitas above) using a modification of our Whole Grain Master Recipe (that original appears in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day). The modification was inspired by “Cornell Bread,” a bread baked from soy-enriched dough originally developed as a vegetarian protein source during World War II. Many of you have asked us about whether our recipes work with some soy flour— they do… Return to FAQs page, or scroll down for more on Cornell Pitas…
In the 1940’s, war rationing took hold, and panicky parents began to wonder whether their families were going to be able to meet nutritional needs, especially those with growing children. Back then, most Americans believed that you couldn’t be healthy without eating meat, which was one of the most strictly rationed goods.
Money was also tight; between the ration stamps and dwindling income, Cornell University nutrition professor Clive McKay was motivated to develop a high-protein dough that baked into what became known as “Cornell Bread.” To replace the protein and nutrition people were missing from meat, McKay added non-fat dry milk, wheat germ, and soy flour. Along with Victory Gardens, “Cornell Bread” was promoted to dutiful families as a way to stretch budgets at a time of national emergency.
Here’s what blows my mind about Cornell Bread: the original is made almost entirely from white flour. McKay understood that Americans still hadn’t embraced the nutritional value (and good taste) of whole grains. White bread was still viewed as the pinnacle of developed bread-cuisine, and he needed something that would be embraced by everyone.
When I saw the original recipe for Cornell Bread, I was struck by how much skim milk powder, wheat germ, and soy flour was needed to make white bread more nutritious. I decided to use McKay’s ideas to create a super-fast, nutritious pita bread, but start with more whole grains so I wouldn’t need as much soy and milk powder.
The Master Recipe in our second book is based mostly on whole wheat flour and other inexpensive ingredients, so I used that as a nutritious and economical basis for Cornell pitas. Because whole wheat is so much more nutritious in the first place, I felt comfortable decreasing the wheat germ, soy flour, and skim milk, letting the grain flavors shine through.
And like all our recipes, stored dough is the key for busy families: if you have the dough mixed and ready to go every day, whenever you need it, you’ll make your own bread as often as you like.
Best news of all: all the ingredients for a four quarter-pound pitas cost less than 70 cents! When you do the math, you’ll see what I mean. Remember that the full batch makes enough dough for over sixteen pita breads. Buy your yeast in bulk or in 3-pound packages to realize the most savings. When you’re done with this quick and inexpensive recipe, you’ll have 4⅓ pounds of dough that will develop lovely sourdough flavors over its 5 days of storage. With our method, you just pull dough out of the storage container as you need it. Because that recipe has no milk, it can be stored for 14 days in the refrigerator. In addition, we go through the steps for forming loaf-shaped breads (Cornell dough can be used similarly). As you look over this recipe, you’ll also find pictures and instructions from our other pita bread postings (click here). Or, here, for Turkish-style pita. And here’s a version done over a hot grill (click here).
2. Add the water and mix with a spoon to form a wet dough. Cover loosely (leave lid open a crack) and allow to rise for two hours at room temperature. NEVER PUNCH DOWN or intentionally deflate. The dough will rise and then begin to collapse. Refrigerate and use over the next 5 days, tearing off quarter-pound lumps for pitas as you need them, or grapefruit-sized balls if you want to make a loaf bread (see end of recipe for instructions on loaf breads). The dough can be used immediately after the two-hour rise but is easier to handle when cold.
4. Cut off a peach-sized piece of dough (about a quarter-pound), using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Quickly shape into a ball by pulling the top around to the bottom while rotating quarter-turns as you go. DON’T KNEAD or otherwise overhandle—you don’t want to knock gas out of the dough. Place the dough on a pizza peel or wood cutting board (preferably with a handle). Using a rolling pin and dusting with flour, roll out in a circle-shape to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Use enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the board.
5. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water and sprinkle with seed mixture. Slide the bread onto the pre-heated stone or cookie sheet and bake for about 5 to 7 minutes and bread is just beginning to brown. Whole grain pitas don’t puff quite as much as white pitas.
6. Wrap with a clean cotton towel for the softest, most authentic result. Allow to cool inside the towel.
7. Split open with a fork and enjoy as a sandwich bread or with dips.