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Hummus & Pita

Before Little One entered our lives, Pierre & I dined, quite often, at Le Baalbeck, a small family restaurant specialised in Lebanese cuisine, down the street from our apartment in Nantes. Each time, without fail, we ordered our favourite apetizer, Humus and Moutabal even though we knew that we would struggle to finish our main course afterwards, like always. LOL!

So when Michele of Veggie Num Nums, Daring Cooks' February host, challenged all of us to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Dugid, needless to say, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to make Hummus & Pita bread but never got around to make it. Especially the Pita, as my skills at making bread is somewhat a hit & miss... most of the time, it's a miss.

For those who aren't familiar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Pita (means bread in Aramaic) is a round pocket bread which is used to scoop sauce or dips such as hummus or to wrap kebabes, gyros or falafel like a sandwich. It is baked at very high temperature causing the flattened dough to puff up like a puffer fish, thus creating a "pocket". And when the bread cools and flattens, this pocket in the middle remains, creating a space used in various dishes.

Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip made of chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Hummus is high in iron and vitamin C with a significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6.

Hummus & Pita

(Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)

Serves: 6 - 8 people

Ingredients

Hummus

  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas (soaked in cold water overnight) or well drained canned chickpeas
  • 2 lemons (juiced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed or pounded)
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • some olive oil

Pita

  • 2 tsp regular dry yeast
  • 2½ cups lukewarm water
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Directions

How to make Hummus

  1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Skip this part if you are using canned chickpeas.
  2. Drain, but reserve some of the cooking liquid.
  3. Puree the beans in a food processor (or use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Add in lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt & tahini and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
  5. Lastly, stir in some olive oil to get a smoother & creamier paste.
  6. Serve with pita.
  7. If not serving it immediately, keep it covered in refrigerator.

How to make Pita

  1. In a large bowl, pour the warm water over the dry yeast. Stir to dissolve it.
  2. Stir in 3 cups of flour - 1 cup at the time. Stir it 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes or as long as 2 hours.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well.
  4. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir.
  5. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. To check if your dough is elastic, pinch a small bit of dough, lightly coat with flour, spread it out. If it spreads easily without breaking into holes, your dough is done. If not, continue to knead.
  6. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F - gas mark 8).
  8. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and set half aside covered.
  9. Divide the other half dough into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands.
  10. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
  11. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious.
  12. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
PitaPita
The Verdict

The Hummus was perfect - creamy and tasty as it should be. However I added more tahini in my hummus than indicated in the above recipe to balance the taste.

The Pita was perfect too - tasty and beautifully puffed up like it should. The only thing that disappoints me is that it didn't get a bit brown like those in the restaurant. Perhaps baking it at higher temperature like 330°C under the grill for a minute or so might do the trick. I'll try this out next time.

Notes

For Hummus, it only takes about 15 minutes to make this if you are using canned chickpeas. Keep the leftover hummus covered in the refrigerator. Mine still tasted great on the 3rd day kept in the refrigerator. The bottle of tahini I bought from a local store is just grounded sesame seeds with water and not oil.

Hummus & PitaHummus & Pita
19 comments.
#1, by A Bowl Of Mush (02/16/2010)

Seriously yum!!!
There's nothing like fresh pita and hummus!:-)

#2, by sarah, Maison Cupcake (02/16/2010)

That's a serious blob of hummus. I torture myself that I don't make it more often as it is so quick. Not made fresh pittas before though.

#3, by Asha@FSK (02/16/2010)

How you enjoying Paris??

yep, I have a toon of hummus left over!! hoping it really lasts.. I used a lot of sesame oil to flavor mine since I didn't have tahini...

#4, by Su-yin (02/16/2010)

Oh man, hummus. I went through this phase of hummus madness a while ago, and was eating them by the bucketful (with carrots as that was how I justified it, lol). I honestly think it's one of the harder things to photograph but you've managed to make it look yum.

#5, by Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) (02/16/2010)

I haven't attempted to make pita in years. I used to live just a few blocks from a pita bakery in Boston, and with fresh pita so readily available, I never felt the need to make my own very often. Just a few times, to prove that I could do it. But hummus is something I make nearly every week. With lots of garlic.

#6, by Michele (02/16/2010)

Thank you so much for making hummus and pita along with me this month. You did such a fantastic job and your photos are just lovely. Your hummus is so perfectly smooth and creamy. Yum!

#7, by Irit (02/17/2010)

The only way I have a consistence success with pita puffing up, is when I bake it under the broiler. The only thing is- I need to watch is because it takes about 2 minutes, including turning it over in the middle of baking.

#8, by Jamie (02/17/2010)

Pam, that is really fabulous looking hummus. Yum! It is one of our favorites. And I've never made pita and have always wanted to. I actually prefer the pita to look like yours - white rather than browned. It's softer, isn't it? And I'm going to check out that restaurant in Nantes.
Thanks for the recipes. WIll try!

#9, by The Cooking Ninja (02/17/2010)

@A bowl of mush: Oh yes...my hub was having a great time eating it.:-)

@Sarah, maison cupcake: Hummus is very easy and fast to make. I'll make it more often now that I know how. Pita - you got to make this. It's very easy too. I've already made it twice and never failed.:-)

@Ashafsk: Paris is cold and grey. Enjoying food. LOL! I only made 1 cup and it was a lot to last us for 3 days. I once made it with sesame oil but it turned out really not nice - perhaps I shldn't use Chinese sesame oil which is very strong.:-) I'm going to try to make my own tahini.

@Su-yin: Thank you.:-) Indeed, I was trying to avoid taking just a blob. LOL! I'm glad the photo came out great.

@Lydia, The Perfect Pantry: ooh...must be nice. Here we have good bread easily available that we don't bother to make our own. It's the first time I made Pita and was so happy it turned out perfect.

@Michele: Thank you for getting us to make this challenge.:-) We enjoyed it very much especially my significant other.

@Irit: LOL! That's how I judged my success with pita too. I get all excited and sigh of relief when I see it puffed at end of 2 minutes.

@Jamie: Yes the pita is soft on the outside and inside. It's very good. We even ate it with curry like a naan. LOL!

#10, by Ching (02/17/2010)

Yeah, nothing beat freshly made, looks yummy!

#11, by Ria (02/17/2010)

I love hummus! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

#12, by Ling (02/18/2010)

Though I have never tried hummus but it looks interestingly yummy.

#13, by Cynthia (02/18/2010)

Soft pitas, nutty hummus... what's not to love.

#14, by Sarka (02/19/2010)

I'd been wanting to make hummus for more than a year. I finally made it about three weeks ago, and since then I made two more times!:-) Your hummus looks delicious too!;-) I've never made pittas though. Adding it to my list!

#15, by Kitchen Butterfly (02/21/2010)

That hummus looks delish.........

#16, by Ivonne (02/25/2010)

Looks absolutely awesome. Especially the hummus ... very fluffy!

#17, by The Cooking Ninja (03/02/2010)

@Ching: Oh yes...didn't realized it was that easy. I just made another portion for hub.:-)

@Ria: U are most welcome. Can't wait to see your new addition. Matthew is such a love and will make a great brother.:-)

@Ling: You should try. It's very good and easy to make. You can dip it with bread too.

@Cynthia: LOL! Except the side effects of having too much hummus

@Sarka: Oh you should try making pita. It's very easy and doesn't cost you a lot of money. U can make them fresh.:-)

@Kitchen Butterfly: Thank you.:-)

@Ivonne : Thank you for dropping by.:-)

#18, by Gloria (03/14/2010)

Hey, Ronan finally made hummus. Yummy ! We skipped on the tahini cos didn't find any... now we've got hummus to eat for a week at least (a blender full...). Can it be freezed you think?

#19, by The Cooking Ninja (03/15/2010)

@Gloria: Yes you can freeze your hummus in an airtight container (fill it up to the rim) making sure there's no space in between or you can freeze it in freezer bag (make sure you squeeze out all the air before sealing it). Any air inside the container or freezer bag will cause freezer burn in your hummus and ruin it. From what I can gather, it can be frozen up to 6 months. Defroze your hummus overnight in the refrigerator.