It’s funny how some recipes come about. This one was born of blinding, ravenous hunger. Admittedly not the real, haven’t-eaten-for-days type hunger. But the sort of hunger that makes you want to weep when you wake up in the morning and realise your fridge is empty. The sort of hunger that won’t even let you contemplate going to the corner shop to buy supplies (how can you afford to waste minutes going to the shop when you absolutely must eat now?!). And the worst thing about this particular episode was that there was food in the house. There was a giant loaf of delicious crusty white bread just begging to be eaten. But it wasn’t gluten free and so while K was salivating over it, I was experiencing escalating levels of panic about my breakfast options.
And so I grabbed what I could find, which amounted to a bag of gluten free flour (from my previous disappointing forays into gluten free bread-making – of which more in a future post), some olive oil, and nestled at the back of the fridge, a bottle of tonic water. Which won’t surprise anyone who knows me well, being the enthusiastic drinker of G&Ts that I am.
And in they all went into a bowl, stirred sloppily and mixed into an unpromising approximation of pita dough. When K walked in and asked me what I was up to I got a bit sheepish, like a kid that had been caught making mud pies, but seeing the desperation in my eyes he retreated. But after just a few minutes in the oven, I was amazed to see my little unpromising flats begin to puff up and rise.
And when I took them out, they were transformed. Somehow, with hunger-induced tunnel vision, I had made gluten free pita breads, and it is a recipe I still rely on to this day. Who can say whether the tonic water imbued the pita breads with their incredible rising properties. Maybe fizzy water would do just was well. I did once try tap water, but it was a flop. So try them for yourselves, experiment away, but my money’s on the tonic water. If you don’t fancy bread, you can always have a G&T instead.
- 450g gluten free brown bread flour, plus extra for dusting (I use Doves Farm)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp xanthan gum (I use Doves Farm)
- 1 tsp salt
- 270 – 300 ml tonic water (must be fresh and still bubbly, not flat!)
- Put the flour, xanthan gum and salt together in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the olive oil in, followed by the tonic water, added slowly. Start to bring the mixture together with your hands or a large spoon, continuing to add the tonic water until the mixture comes together into a supple but not sloppy ball of dough. Move the dough to a floured work surface and knead briefly until it hangs together nicely. At this stage you can wrap the dough in cling film and store in the fridge for up to three days, or you can go straight ahead to step three.
- Preheat your oven to the highest temperature it will go. Mine will eventually hit 230C given enough time, but I usually get impatient and bung it in earlier! Meanwhile, lightly dust a work surface with flour, then divide the dough into four even pieces. Using a well floured rolling pin, roll each piece of dough out until it’s half a centimeter thick and approximately pita bread-shaped. Then, taking your thumb and forefinger, pinch around the edges to neaten them up and make sure that the hot steam that forms inside the bread as it cooks can’t escape through a crack or a crevice.
- Transfer the pita breads to a grill pan and pop them into your preheated oven. After about 5 minutes has passed, start to keep an eye on your pitas as they cook. As they dry out in the heat they’ll start to puff up with the steam that forms inside. The trick is to catch them after they’ve puffed up but before they’ve been incinerated in the blinding heat of the oven! But don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time, and even the slight failures are delicious to eat!