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hazardnc

Perfect khoubz (Pita bread) - getting a good puff

47 posts in this topic

'Pita' around here is used for quite a variety of flat breads in terms of thickness, pliability and diameter. I have had some as thick as, say, an Oreo, and very soft at Israeli places (and they've been called Yemeni style pitas?). What are the names of the two Lebanese varieties you described?

Both are referred to as "khibiz 'arabi" in Lebanese dialect (I might be wrong, it might just refer to the pre-packaged kind). The fresh-baked ones my friends always refer to in restaurants as "khibiz fresh/fraiche" or, if you wanted to say fresh in colloquial arabic, "taza".

This is in comparison to various other indigenous bready objects, like khibiz mar'ou', or saaj, or mana'ish (which are sort of all related to each other), which do not have pockets.

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I would imagine that the latter type is easier to make. JoNorvelleWalker, could you post a picture of what you made?

Oops, I just saw this, sorry! The latter type does indeed sound like the pita I made.

This weekend I hope to make hummis. If so, I will again try pita. I'd not had a digital camera, but my son kindly let me borrow his. Of course I need to figure out how to use it before I can think about getting a pita picture.

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Hassouni - do you know if there's any other name to identify the very thin lebanese pita (which still has a pocket, but would be served as a wrap rather than opened)?

I used to go to an amazing bakery in Massachusetts that made that, and it ruined me on the thicker pita bread. Nobody in new york seems to make it, so I want to see if I can get close at home. So far, all my searching online has only dug up recipes for the other style.

Thanks!

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Hassouni - do you know if there's any other name to identify the very thin lebanese pita (which still has a pocket, but would be served as a wrap rather than opened)?

I used to go to an amazing bakery in Massachusetts that made that, and it ruined me on the thicker pita bread. Nobody in new york seems to make it, so I want to see if I can get close at home. So far, all my searching online has only dug up recipes for the other style.

Thanks!

I've only ever heard it referred to as "Arabic bread" (khibiz 'arabi)

It's not easy to find in the US, and more than any type of bread besides a baguette, is BY FAR best on the day it's baked. I also don't think it's made much at home, but rather by commercial bakeries. (It's an urban thing too, in the countryside/mountains they make marqouq bread on a saj, which is something entirely different)

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I made my pita. Sorry, still no pictures. The camera sits here untouched. Again the pita turned out well, with a nice pocket, though more puffed. The dough was fresher this time than last, which may have something to do with it. I think the trick with pita is to bake only for a couple minutes, until it browns and blisters, without getting over done.

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I've had luck in puffing pita using a hot baking stone and oven around 500-550 (preheat the stone thoroughly), as well as using a baking stone on a charcoal grill. The pita won't puff unless rolled thinly, and the trick to rolling thinly is to allow the dough to rest a bit after it is preshaped. IOW, divide it, round into portioned balls, then wait 10 mins. Roll/stretch each portion into a disk, then cover with a damp cloth, and wait a bit more. Patience is key, and you can roll as thin as you'd like, provided you don't try to do it all at once.

Someone up thread suggested adding cake flour to make the pitas roll thinner--except this won't work. Using a lower protein flour will lead to tearing and holes, not a thinner pita. You need decent gluten development in order to get a thin disk of dough.

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I've posted this before but can't find the topic.

This is a very easy recipe and produces a thin, tender and PUFFY pita.

 

Here is my recipe:  This is so much better than store bought.

Pita Bread   Very easy

2-1/2 cups unbleached bread flour   (I add 2 tablespoons if all I have is all-purpose flour)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons rapid-rise or "instant" yeast

2 tablespoons oil, olive or canola or grape seed.

1-1/4 cups water room temp.

Measure the flour (unsifted) into a large bowl.

Add the salt, yeast and oil.

Make a "well" in the center of the flour and pour in the water.

Using your hands, bring the flour into the water and continue mixing until a ball of dough is formed.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 15 minutes.

(If you have a mixer that has a dough hook you can place all ingredients into the mixing bowl, blend until ingredients form a ball then continue mixing for about 10 minutes with the mixer set on lowest speed.  Or you can use a food processor add all the dry ingredients, pulse briefly to mix, add the oil and pulse.  Then, with the processor running, slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball, usually takes only about 20 seconds total.

The dough should feel silky and soft but not flabby, when a thumb is pressed into the dough it should fill in quickly.

Spray the inside of a large Zip-lock bag with Pam or similar oil spray.

Place the dough ball into the bag and seal.

Set aside to rise until it has doubled in size.

At normal room temp this should be about an hour to an hour and a half.

Turn the dough out onto the floured board, knead 3 or 4 times then stretch into a fat cylinder.

Cut in half, then cut the halves in half, and so on, so that you end up with 8 pieces of dough.

Roll the pieces into balls and press flat into a disk.

Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with oil, place disks on it then cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Set aside to rest for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 475 degrees, F.

Using a rolling pin, flatten the disks on a lightly floured board and roll into about a 6-inch circle.

They should be about 1/4 inch thick or slightly less.

If you have a baking stone you can bake the pita directly on it, mist the stone with water before placing the pita on the hot stone then mist the pita.

Otherwise, place the pita on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place on center shelf in oven.

Mist the pita and close the oven door.

Watch closely. In about 3-4 minutes the pita will have blown up like a balloon and are done. They should not brown, but might show a little color around the edges.

Immediately remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Depending on the size of your oven you should be able to bake 3 or 4 at a time.

You have to leave room above the pita for them to expand.

To reheat, fold into a kitchen towel and heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds.

 

I did something like this tonight (I don't want to blame the recipe) and got a tastey enough bread but not really a pita.  When I made pita before I flipped the bread over on the stone half way through.

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Ive made pita numerous times and sometimes i get a puff, sometimes i dont. I use a preheated pizza stone in the oven at 500 degrees. My last batch had a slight puff but it looks less appetizing to me when they dont brown so sometimes after baking, ill heat up the cast iron skillet to very hot on the stove and brown them briefly. Sometimes i avoid the oven all together and grill them on cast iron pan with good results for puff and color.

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*bump*

 

I've been exploring pita-making lately; my latest adventure with it is here.  Thanks in part to understanding bread-baking better than I did 3 years ago, I think I'm getting a better grip on how to make reliably successful pita pockets.  Here are the mechanical factors I've worked out to be necessary:

 

  • Smooth, thoroughly kneaded dough, rolled very thin - somewhere between 1/4" and 1/8" thick.  The thinner the disk is rolled, the more likely it will puff - but the more tender it is, also.  If it's too thin it will tear instead.  I'm sure the dough formula influences this behavior as well.

     

  • Dough ball size: smaller than 100g makes a pretty small pocket.  200g makes a huge, impractical pocket.  For my purposes, a dough ball of 110 - 150g seems to work out about right.

     

  • Dough ball moisture: the dough needs to be kept from drying out as it rises, lest a 'skin' form that splits when the ball is being flattened and rolled just prior to baking.  (That uneven coloring in the upper left photo, below, is due to that dried-out skin.)  Once the ball is flattened and rolled out, it also needs to be kept from drying out.  A damp towel helps.  

     

  • Moisture is also important for a smooth surface.  If the disk is too dry it will split instead of puffing.  If it's too damp it will flop and stick.

     

  • HOT surface for cooking.  According to my oven thermometer (digital baker's thermometer) the minimum temperature to get a good puff is 440F, as measured by the oven probe immediately adjacent to the baking stone.  I kept the temperatures between 440F and 450F and got good puffs every time.  The first dough ball, at 435F, only got a small rise.
  • The baking surface is important because it has to provide a lot of heat.  I've worked with both a baking stone and a cast iron griddle in the oven, and I've used a cast iron pan atop the stove.  The dough disks are less likely to puff if they go onto a baking sheet (with no  underlying stone) in an oven, because the sheet will cool too easily when the dough comes in contact with it.

  • The cast iron seems to hold heat a little better than the baking stone, and that's a mixed blessing.  If the cast iron is too hot it sears the pita before it has a chance to puff; on the other hand, the cast iron seems to brown the pita more than the stone does.

I'm interested also in the bread dough formula.  These days I'm using half whole wheat flour, half unbleached bread flour.  Most recipes I look at use volumetric measurements and I haven't figured out the hydration for those formulas, but the batch of sourdough pita I made today came out at 62% hydration. 

56cbef5771032_Pitacomparison.thumb.jpg.8

 

Andiesenji noted uptopic the feel that the dough should have, and gave good procedures, but some of the issues I list above seem to be things I've had to work out on my own.  What about anyone else?  Have I missed some factors?  Does anyone have a new favorite recipe?

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I've used the recipe in Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's wonderful Flatbreads and Flavors for several years, though I haven't made pita recently. Here's the recipe for those who don't have the book--makes about 16 pitas.

 

2 tsp. dry yeast

2-1/2 c. lukewarm water

5-6 c. flour, half white and half whole wheat

1 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

Begin by making a sponge with half the flour, and all the water and yeast. Stir together to combine completely and then stir 100 times in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Add the rest of the flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Let rise in a clean bowl until doubled, about 1 hour. At this point the dough can be refrigerated. Gently punch down the doubled dough and roll out the rounds. Keep covered with a towel so they don't dry out, but don't stack them. I guess you could use a bread machine or food processor to mix the dough.

 

I found that the pitas puff more reliably if the dough is held in the fridge for at least overnight and up to 7 days, with the slight fermentation after a few days giving a nice flavor to the breads. Ir's also great to be able to pull off a chunk of dough to make a few pitas without having to go through the entire process of mixing and rising the dough.

 

You have to bring the dough at room temperature before baking, which takes a few hours, so plan ahead. I use a baking stone and set the oven temp at 450. Make sure the stone is fully hot--preheat at least 30 minutes, preferably longer. I found it took 3 to 3-1/2 minutes to cook. I roll the dough less than 1/4" but not much less. And be a little careful about how you put the pitas on the hot stone, because a crease or wrinkle will keep them from puffing evenly, though they will still taste good.

 

There's something just magical about seeing that pita puff up into a big ball! And they taste a whole lot better than the thick ones you buy in the store.

 

I think it's time to get reacquainted with pitas in this household. Thanks for reminding me how much fun these are to make.

 

Nancy in Patzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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I have taught pita making in culinary school from the LCB cookbook and the CIA baking program. And, I learned while attending LCB.  Maybe I'm just incredibly lucky, but, I don't recall any serious issues happening. Even lackadaisical students who didn't really put much effort into the project made them just fine. (and we made them within the time frame of one 5 hour class, no long fermentation periods, no poolish, no biga, no pate fermente. I think problems may be arising for you from perhaps rolling them too thinly, that or maybe proofing issues.

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Over on the Lunch! topic, a side discussion about pita has begun.  In this post@shain stated regarding making pita in a home oven:

 

Quote

The problem is not with the pocket, it's with the texture of the bread itself. As with pizza, a lower temp means a longer bake which results and a drier and more chewy dough. Home ovens are also lacking the steam injector that is used in commercial bakeries.

 

Just for compression, on the left is a (semi)random photo from Google (source) , showing an average pita. On the right is a pita from my favorite pita bakery. The difference in thickness and texture is quite visible.
IMG_6879.JPG20160401_114638.jpg

I don't think an home oven can compare with a dedicated one. But just in case someone knows how to get this kind of crumb, please do tell me! :)

 

I'd like to explore this topic further.  Perhaps someone here has (or can develop) a recipe that fits this bill.  For starters, it looks to me as though this is a higher hydration dough, possibly with honey or whole wheat to get the browner color.  @shain, can you tell whether this the case with regard to sweeteners or flour? Could it be a sourdough pita?

 

Some of my pitas have a looser crumb than other batches, but I can't find any pictures for comparison. 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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3 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Over on the Lunch! topic, a side discussion about pita has begun.  In this post@shain stated regarding making pita in a home oven:

 

 

I'd like to explore this topic further.  Perhaps someone here has (or can develop) a recipe that fits this bill.  For starters, it looks to me as though this is a higher hydration dough, possibly with honey or whole wheat to get the browner color.  @shain, can you tell whether this the case with regard to sweeteners or flour? Could it be a sourdough pita?

 

Some of my pitas have a looser crumb than other batches, but I can't find any pictures for comparison. 

 

The specific pita pictured above indeed contains whole meal wheat as well as whole rye. The same bakery also makes white pita breads, which have a slightly softer texture. I prefer the wholemeal version flavor-wise, and find the texture difference very minute (which I think is very impressive, I have never seen such a soft whole meal bread).

According to my experience, I agree that the dough used is more hydrated then usual, I'll assume 60-70%. It is sold covered in a notable dusting of flour, which I guess is used to allow handling of the stickier dough.

It is not sourdough. It might contain a small amount of sugar (it's not as sweet as some other pita breads I've tasted).

Crumb is showing the gloss which I relate to it being well gelatinized, it is gently chewy and melts in the mouth. The outside is, as said, quite soft.

One thing I know from experience is that all pita breads are to be wrapped shortly after baking, while still very warm, and kept from the air at all times. 10 minutes of exposure are enough to dry any pita.

 

I'll be delighted if I could manage to make such bread, either whole meal or white. I hope to get myself a mini pita oven. They are rarely sold those days, but I think it might be a step in right direction, as they were quite common for home baking about 30 years ago.

 

20160401_115339.jpg1_134634999.jpg

On the left is another picture of the same pita breads. On the right an electric mini pita oven (source).

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~ Shai N.

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Neat!  Please tell more about that mini pita oven.  How is it used? I'm used to putting my rounds directly onto a hot surface, but would expect it to stick to a grate. If the grate stays on top I'd expect less than perfect heat transfer.  Clearly, I'm about to learn something here. :)

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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53 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Neat!  Please tell more about that mini pita oven.  How is it used? I'm used to putting my rounds directly onto a hot surface, but would expect it to stick to a grate. If the grate stays on top I'd expect less than perfect heat transfer.  Clearly, I'm about to learn something here. :)

Click. I was also curious.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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@Anna N you spared me from some long explanation. As said, a picture is worth a thousand words (and a video?). Thanks! 

Anyhow, this type of oven was used in times when an home oven was expensive. It was used for anything that requires high temperatures, from baking breads to grilling meat. Wundertopf was used for cakes and such at lower temperatures. Today it lost it's popularity, but still considered a cheap and good tool for pita baking. 

High temperatures and moisture retainment are what makes it suitable. 

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~ Shai N.

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20 hours ago, Anna N said:

Click. I was also curious.

 

Thanks for that link, @Anna N.   Guess I've gotten overly accustomed to all the safety engineering that's supposed to protect us from ourselves these days but I must say it looks like an accident waiting to happen with that semi-exposed heating coil.

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27 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

 

Thanks for that link, @Anna N.   Guess I've gotten overly accustomed to all the safety engineering that's supposed to protect us from ourselves these days but I must say it looks like an accident waiting to happen with that semi-exposed heating coil.

Strangely though I am almost always up for a new (to me) toy this has little appeal. It is not fear of the heating coil but an instinct that the recipe plays such a huge role. I suspect that those of us who take pride in our home made pita bread (and I am one of them) are comparing it to the unflavoured cardboard available commercially. In other words many of us have little idea of what a good pita bread is really like. Accustomed as we are to what is available to us we might not even like what Shain has shown us!

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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That is interesting shain, I've never seen that before. I used to use the wonder pot (sir peleh) all the time, they make very good cakes. But I always bought pitot. Can you make more than one pita at a time in that? They probably bake very quickly. I'm very interested in knowing how they turn out (if you find the pot, and I hope you do). 

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15 hours ago, cakewalk said:

That is interesting shain, I've never seen that before. I used to use the wonder pot (sir peleh) all the time, they make very good cakes. But I always bought pitot. Can you make more than one pita at a time in that? They probably bake very quickly. I'm very interested in knowing how they turn out (if you find the pot, and I hope you do). 

They come in various sizes, so I guess you can bake more then one in the larger version. My assumption, as that like with Neapolitan pizza, a very short baking time is desired, I think a maximum of 3 minutes is what I'll aim for, but it's only an assumption at this stage. Iv'e seen then sold online for  170-200 ILS (45-50 $US). A friend said she can probably find one for almost half the price in Umm al-Fahm's market.

 

On 6/6/2016 at 7:05 PM, Anna N said:

Strangely though I am almost always up for a new (to me) toy this has little appeal. It is not fear of the heating coil but an instinct that the recipe plays such a huge role. I suspect that those of us who take pride in our home made pita bread (and I am one of them) are comparing it to the unflavoured cardboard available commercially. In other words many of us have little idea of what a good pita bread is really like. Accustomed as we are to what is available to us we might not even like what Shain has shown us!

I tend to agree. I can reproduce an average supermarket pita in my regular oven, which is OK, but not worth the effort of making myself. To be honest, I don't think I'll be able to achieve a results as good as this bakery, but maybe I'll try for sport.
I feel you about the commercial pita breads. I have never tried a pita outside of Israel, but I cringe to think of the stuff being commercially sold as bagels, baguettes, tortillas, etc. (and don't get me started on cheeses!) over here. Anyhow, I'm sure you would like the pita - no one can dislike a warm pillow of carbs :)

 

I thought about the subject some more and concluded that the interior texture I'm looking for is very much like that of a ciabatta. 70-80% hydration, but perhaps not as strong of a flour, to get less chew.

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~ Shai N.

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10 minutes ago, shain said:

They come in various sizes, so I guess you can bake more then one in the larger version. My assumption, as that like with Neapolitan pizza, a very short baking time is desired, I think a maximum of 3 minutes is what I'll aim for, but it's only an assumption at this stage. Iv'e seen then sold online for  170-200 ILS (45-50 $US). A friend said she can probably find one for almost half the price in Umm al-Fahm's market.

 

I tend to agree. I can reproduce an average supermarket pita in my regular oven, which is OK, but not worth the effort of making myself. To be honest, I don't think I'll be able to achieve a results as good as this bakery, but maybe I'll try for sport.
I feel you about the commercial pita breads. I have never tried a pita outside of Israel, but I cringe to think of the stuff being commercially sold as bagels, baguettes, tortillas, etc. (and don't get me started on cheeses!) over here. Anyhow, I'm sure you would like the pita - no one can dislike a warm pillow of carbs :)

 

I thought about the subject some more and concluded that the interior texture I'm looking for is very much like that of a ciabatta. 70-80% hydration, but perhaps not as strong of a flour, to get less chew.

 If you decide to do some experimenting I am certain you will have quite a following.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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For future reference, I link up a thread where I'm making things with the pita oven that I mentioned, including pita breads.

 


~ Shai N.

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      Let them bake for 13 minutes at 450 degrees. Then turn the loaves and bake for another 10 minutes.
       
      Remove when the crust is as dark as you want and the internal temperature exceeds 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
       
      Now pull out and make sure to let cool off of the sheet pan with room to breath underneath. You don't want your crust steaming!
       
      Now here is the hardest part, wait at least 20 minutes before getting into the bread. Also, cutting into bread to early really seems to come out poorly. I would rip the bread until 1-2 hours has passed.
       
      Now serve it with your favorite butter, goat butter or whipped duck fat!
       
    • By Catherine T
      Hi, I have just discovered and registered on this site. My main cooking and baking concern is that I have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and haven't been able to eat gluten. BUT I have discovered an exception. When I have visited Continental Europe such as Spain and Russia, I have been able to eat their bread and have had no negative repercussions. Then when I try eating bread in Great Britain and North America I have become sick. My research on the Web has not provided any explanations although I believe the EU has banned GMO grains. I was recently gifted panetonne from a Toronto restaurant called Sud Forno that uses Italian flour and I was able to safely eat it. Another bakery called Forno Cultura advertises that it uses European flour. So I am going to approach them to see if I can buy their flour in bulk. I will let you know how it goes.
    • By borgr
      I want to leave my sourdough (itself, not baked loaves of sourdough bread) for a while (going abroad) but I do not want it to die, can I leave it in the freezer? do you have other ideas?
    • By FrogPrincesse
      San Diego has a small number of artisanal bread bakeries. Bread & Cie has been my favorite for years, and their breads are now available in many supermarkets, which is very convenient. But it's nice to have some variety. So I was excited to spot a new bakery this weekend in Linda Vista. It's called Pacific Time and it is also a sandwich place with a small market with things like small-batch preserves, local beers, a cheese counter, charcuterie platters, and wine. It's located within a recently renovated strip mall that also hosts Brew Mart & Ballast Point.
       
      The bread I bought was a French-type rustic boule, dark, a bit reminiscent of Poilane but less dense. The crust could have been a little more crispy (it felt like the bread had sat around a little bit and softened in the paper bag), but the flavor was wonderful.
       

       

       
      Here is the bread:
       
       
       
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