As I forewarned in my blog last week, I decided that I needed whey to jump start my sauerkraut fermentation. This ended up being a great thing, because it helped me learn about another fabulous product of separating yogurt, Lebnah. Lebnah is the cheese that results from the yogurt once the whey is removed and not only is it easy, it is really yummy. You simply buy a 16 ounce container of plain yogurt. I just got Dannon from our local grocery. You add a teaspoon of salt and stir to mix things up well. Then, you place a cheesecloth or clean cup towel in a bowl and pour in the yogurt. Fold up the corners and wrap with a string or rubber band and hang over the sink (or over a bowl if you are saving the whey that drips out). After about 24 hours, the cheese is separated and you can scrape into a bowl.
When you are ready to serve the Lebnah, you just form into a ball and place on a platter. Form a well in the top and pour good olive oil over this. Then use pita bread for dipping. I used Oliva Bella oil which is imported to Lexington, but can now be bought in Louisville and I added Za’ Atar spices someone gave me from Just Creations. This is a Middle Eastern spice mix made primarily of sesame seeds and sumac. You often see this on pita bread in restaurants. I had been wondering how to use it, so now I know!
Well, that was all so much fun, I couldn’t stop there. I wanted to make my own pita bread. Turns out, this is complicated when you decide what type of bread to make. Traditional pita bread is cooked in very hot ovens which causes the bread to puff up and create the pocket. You can simulate this in your oven with a pizza stone at 500 degrees, but then you get a pita bread that is more crispy and not as good for dipping. You can make the same bread and bake at 350 degrees and you get a soft bread great for dipping, but it no longer forms the pocket. You decide which is what you are looking for. Either way, it’s simple to make.
Homemade Pita Bread
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 cup of warm water
4 cups of bread flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and set aside, covered, for 15 minutes. Dissolve salt in the remaining 1 cup of warm water. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture and salt water to flour and knead with hands for 10 minutes in the bowl. Add olive oil and continue to knead until all oil is absorbed. Shape into a ball in the bowl, cover, and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead for 5 more minutes.
Preheat oven with lightly oiled pizza stone on bottom rack to 350 degrees if you want soft pita and 500 degrees if you want crunchy pita with pockets. Separate dough into 12 pieces and roll three at a time to 3/8 to ¼ inch thickness (keeping other dough covered). For effect, you can roll za’ atar spice on the top of your pita as well. Place three pitas at a time on the pizza stone and bake 2-3 minutes, then turn the pitas over and bake for another 2-3 minutes. You’ll know when the crunchy dough is ready because it’ll puff up. You’ll need to carefully push it back down flat when you remove it from the oven. Place pita on a tray covered with a clean dishtowel. Pitas can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. Before using, brown in a lightly oiled frying pan for a few minutes until browned on both sides.