Pita bread canapés

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RECIPE: My neighbours did a lovely thing and arranged drinks and nibbles in their backyard for several of our other neighbours (five houses in all). We’ve lived here for two years and haven’t really met most of our neighbours, just our immediate ones and mostly because we share a driveway. I really appreciated the effort, so took a plate of canapés with me. I wanted something tasty that involved some technique but didn’t take a huge amount of time – and it had to be savoury! I liked the look of some mini pizzas with caramelised onion and goats cheese, but decided I’d substitute in fresh homemade pita bread. I halved the recipe from Half Baked Harvest, which made 16 canapé-sized breads (with a couple of testers to spare).

COMPONENTS: Make sure the water added to the yeast is no hotter than 40 degrees Celcius to avoid killing the yeast. I used it as soon as possible after I could see bubbles coming to the surface. I used a stand mixer to do the kneading and didn’t need to add all the flour. I mixed it until it was still sticky but it was coming clean off the bowl. One hour to rise and then I broke off a piece the size of a golf ball, split it into two, then gave the two pieces a quick roll on a floured board before popping them in the pan. They were about 5-6cm wide. The cooking was pretty simple, but don’t walk away because they really do cook quickly. While the bread was rising, I started the onions, which took the same amount of time to caramelise as the bread took to rise, so the two worked together well. Keep the heat lower so the onions don’t burn.

ASSEMBLY: Taking a hot fresh mini pita bread, I spread it with a little purchased olive tapenade, topped it with the caramelised onion, a couple of small pieces of goats cheese and a mini basil leaf (I didn’t have any thyme).

IMPRESSION: Yum. I’m converted. The homemade pita bread was so light, fluffy, soft and tasty compared to bought ones, and went with the topping perfectly.

Recipe for the pita bread from Tieghan on Half Baked Harvest

Pita Bread with caramelised onion, olive tapenade and goats cheese
110ml hot water but not boiling
1 tsp active dry or instant yeast
190g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

3 medium brown onions, sliced
20g butter
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 tbs black olive tapenade
50g goat’s cheese
Mini sprigs of thyme

Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer (a large bowl will also work if you do not have a mixer), and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add most of the flour (saving a few tablespoons for kneading), salt, and olive oil. If using a stand mixer attach the dough and knead the dough on medium speed for eight minutes, adding more flour until you have a smooth dough. If using your hands sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and run it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about one hour.

At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week, sealed in a zip-lock bag.

Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Take a golf-ball sized piece, split it in two and gently flatten each piece into a disk about 5mm thick, using a floured rolling pin to even them out. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get the hang of it you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)

Warm a heavy skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess. Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

Caramelised onion
Melt butter and oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add onion and stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until light golden. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes or until caramelised. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread a small amount of tapenade on a pita bread, top with caramelised onion, and half a teaspoon goat’s cheese. Top the canapé with a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately.

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