Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The end of last year was a busy one for me, which meant some of the blog commitments I wanted to fulfill had to take a backseat. One of them was a tag from Uma to bake bread to feed Africa.
Well, not really: it's just symbolic :). This is part of a "blog action" campaign started by a charity that seeks to raise awareness about hunger and poverty in Africa, by asking food bloggers to post their bread recipes. It's a wonderful and worthy cause, and you can read more about it here.
Because this is a tag, I am required to tag other bloggers, but I think I'll just leave it up to you: if any of you is interested, just consider yourself tagged and bake away!
It seems a little weird to write about hunger in a blog that celebrates food, and yet, I also think it's rather appropriate. To me, veganism is not just a cause for saving the animals I love, but also a good way to start building a world where we become conscious of waste and needless consumption.
I strongly believe we have to share the resources our Earth provides us, with other people around the world, and with every creature that shares the Earth with us. I believe, as Gandhi once said, "The Earth provides enough for every man's need but not every man's greed."
Now think of this: it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. Very simply put, if more people eat a grain-based diet, more people can eat.
So a vegetarian diet can- and this is not an exaggeration by any means- fight world hunger. How cool is that?
Now on to the baking part of this post. I love baking bread and especially experimenting with veganizing versions of bread that use loads of butter or eggs. But baking -- while not exactly very time-consuming-- does take hours of planning and a few minutes of attention at different times throughout a day.
Not pita bread, though. While it does require two rises, the first is only about a couple of hours, and the second rise is 20 minutes and is not really a rise as much as an opportunity for the dough to kick back and relax before being plunged into a hot oven.
The resulting bread itself is so warm, pillowy, delicious and fragrant, you know it is worth the effort, instead of picking up a packet of days-old, plastic-packed pita bread from the supermarket.
I made my pita mostly whole-wheat, and I used some of the loaves the next day to make pita chips: which I absolutely adore and which are heaven with some guacamole or hummus.
I am going to move on to the recipe now, but don't forget to see pictures of the inauguration of President Barack Obama at the end of this post. It was one of most memorable days of my life.
Whole-wheat Pita Bread
2 cups white whole-wheat flour (can substitute with regular whole wheat flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
4 tsp active dry yeast
Warm water (about 1 1/4 cups)
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together all the ingredients.
Knead into a smooth dough, and continue kneading by hand, or on low speed in a stand mixer, for about 10 minutes.
Place in a bowl coated with olive oil, turning over once so that the dough is coated with oil.
Keep in a warm place to rise, about 2 hours, until doubled in volume.
Now punch down the dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll into balls, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow the balls to rest about 20 minutes.
Roll each ball into a dough around 7 inches in diameter. Try to roll evenly so the pita will rise in the oven, making a perfect pocket.
Place a pizza stone or unglazed ceramic tiles in an oven, and preheat to 450 degrees.
Spritz the pizza stone with water and, after 30 seconds, place as many pitas as you can on the stone without overlapping.
Leave alone for 3 minutes. The pitas should puff up.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. The pita should now deflate. If, for some reason, it doesn't, I find that putting it in a microwave for 30 seconds after it has cooled down softens the pita and does the trick.
Stuff with felafel and fresh veggies and enjoy!
I made some spinach felafel to go with the pita bread, but I baked them instead of frying. I wasn't too happy with the texture of the baked felafel: I should've just fought the healthy urge and gone with frying which is how felafel is usually made. But the felafel were tasty enough, although I'm going to wait until another time, when I've perfected it, to share the recipe.
To make pita chips the next day, cut the pita into eight wedges, like a pizza.
Put the wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle some olive oil. Toss.
Place in a 350-degree preheated oven and bake about 3-5 minutes, flipping over once if needed.
Remove to a plate and serve with some hummus or guacamole.
I can imagine many of you have by now watched pictures and videos of the inauguration over and over. But since I was there freezing to death, I think I deserve to be able to post some of my own :)
I won't wax on about the inauguration itself, except to say it was colder, way colder than it was at the concert Sunday, and much more crowded. It's estimated around 2 million people made it to the inauguration ceremonies, which include the swearing-in, the parade, and the many balls. The National Mall was so packed, it might have been hard to slip a newspaper between two people! Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. You can see the pictures for yourself.
And now that all the festivities are over, it's time to get back to real life. Wish you all a wonderful week ahead, and here's hoping the weekend gets here very, very soon!
There I am, all bundled up but not about to let go of a photo op with PETA's mascots who we encountered on the way to the inauguration. Don't miss the "Yes we can go veg" signs!