Today I have a recipe to share with you, and that recipe is for gluten-free pitta breads. However, they are so good I suggest we put the gluten-free bit to the side and just call them delicious. If I’m honest, they are not much like a regular pitta bread, but if a regular pitta bread is one of those long-life supermarket jobs with a texture like flabby cardboard, that may not be a bad thing. These are more tender, subtly sweet, and full of flavour from toasted nuts.
I found this recipe in one of the latest in the prolific River Cottage series, River Cottage Gluten Free, by Naomi Devlin. It’s a book which I can highly recommend for anyone who is, or cooks for, a gluten free diet – well, obviously – but also for anyone interested in exploring alternative flours to plain old wheat. The book comes from a perspective of good health and the recipes, so far, are all good – with Naomi’s help I have successfully made and maintained a brown rice sourdough starter which I use mainly to make her sourdough crumpets and, occasionally, a loaf of bread.
I first made these when we had Gav and Ellie round to dinner (who I can now officially say are my brother- and sister-in-law, as opposed to ‘my boyfriend’s sister and her husband’ – hooray!) I had most of a bag of teff flour left over from making the mocha muscovado brownies – also excellent! – so I decided to give them a go. Gav and Ellie loved them. Tom loved them, and that’s saying something as he usually treats my forays into alternative flours/sweeteners/etc with suspicion (sample conversation in our house: “do you want one of my brownies?” “are they….normal?”) Since then I’ve made them again, to check they were really that nice, and then again. And now I’m sharing them with you.
Naomi Devlin’s Teff Pitta Breads
Makes around 8
A few notes: while you can play around with the nuts, the combination of pecan and teff is so good I would definitely try that first. I also think it’s worth making a double batch if you can – that way you can have some on standby in the freezer. I just put them straight in the toaster from frozen. This is easier than making traditional wheat flour bread in a way – no kneading – but there are a few steps and you’ll need to be near your kitchen for a few hours.
Teff flour is easier to find that you might think – I’ve seen it in the Morrisons in Horsforth – check the ‘free from’ aisle. Millet and tapioca flours can sometimes be found in Indian or Chinese grocers, otherwise a reasonable sized health food shop should have them (e.g. Out of this World or Millie’s in Leeds town centre).
For the sponge:
7g quick dried yeast (I use the stuff in the cylindrical tubes, you can also use 20g fresh yeast if you can get it)
175g tepid water
115g white teff flour (plus extra for shaping later)
60g millet flour
25g ground linseed
For the pittas:
115g finely ground pecan nuts (or try another type of nut, or grind oats to make a flour – make sure they are gluten free oats if this is an issue)
60g tapioca starch
2 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil or melted butter
2 tbsp date syrup or honey or rice syrup
1 large egg
7g sea salt
1/2 – 1 tsp psyllium husk (if needed – I never have)
Butter or olive oil for greasing
Milk or water for brushing
Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)
First, make the sponge by mixing all the ingredients together (if using fresh yeast, you will have to activate it with a little of the water first). Cover and leave to rest in a warm place for an hour.
Add the rest of the ingredients up to the salt and mix together thoroughly. Leave to stand for 10 minutes so the nuts and starch can absorb some of the moisture in the dough.
If the dough seems to wet to handle, you can add some psyllium husk now. My dough is usually quite soft and sticky but not unmanageably so.
Grease a couple of large baking trays and sprinkle with sesame seeds or teff flour.
Make a little pile of teff flour on your work surface and flour your hands. Scoop out an egg-sized lump of dough and drop it into the flour. Roll it around with your hands into a ball and flatten it slightly into an oval about 5mm thick. Place it on a baking tray (they don’t expand much, so you can put them quite close together). Repeat to use up the rest of the dough. Brush the pittas with milk or water and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Cover the trays with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (NB: I have also left them to rise in the fridge for around 8 hours and they still turned out fine).
Preheat the oven to 240c/220c fan. Put a roasting tray on the bottom shelf of your oven and boil the kettle.
When the pittas are ready to go in, sprinkle them and the trays with water. Half fill the roasting tray with boiling water to create a steamy atmosphere. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until they are just starting to turn golden brown at the edges (they may look underbaked, but if you leave it too long they will be tougher).Enjoy warm or let them cool and freeze for later.
From River Cottage Gluten Free by Naomi Devlin; Bloomsbury, 2016