Thursday, May 7, 2009

Falafels in Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Pockets

In a little kitchen experiment tonight, I decided to try baking my falafel balls at a high heat. I was hoping to replicate the crunch of deep frying with the more healthy oven method. While they were quite good, next time I will fry the little guys.
It's not even that I am against frying, I just happened to have been deep frying the night before and two nights in a row just seemed excessive. But I do think that the over-all healthiness of this meal is more than enough to make up for a little frying, don't you think?
I made the pitas on my handy baking stone, and they all puffed up beautifully. This is only the second time that I have made pita, the first time being with the fabulous Bread Baking Babes, and this is the first time that I have made pita entirely out of whole wheat flour. I was fully prepared for them to be flat, but they all had perfect pockets. Amazing.


Pocket Bread Recipe
Adapted from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book

Ingredients
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
6 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups water (I only needed 2 cups)
1 tbsp honey

Dissolve the yeast in warm water, add the honey.
Mix the flour and the salt and make a well in the center. Pour the liquids and yeast mixture into the well in the flour, and stir from the center outward, making a smooth batter. Fold in the rest of the flour and mix thoroughly. Check to see whether the dough requires more water or flour, and add what is needed to make a soft dough. Knead very well.
Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in warm, draft free place. After about an hour and a half, gently poke the center of the dough about 1/2 inch deep with a wet finger. If the hole doesn't fill in at all or if the dough sighs, it is ready for the next step. Press flat, form into a smooth round, and let the dough rise once more as before. The second rising will take about half as much time as the first.
Place a baking stone on bottom rack of oven.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees when the second rising time is nearly finished. Turn out the risen dough and press flat on the board. Divide it into 20-24 pieces and shape them into smooth rounds. Let the rounds rest about ten minutes. Protect from drafts to keep the surface of the dough from drying out. This is essential.
Use as much flour on the board as you need to keep dough from sticking. Roll several rolls into flat circles about as thick as a wool blanket and about 6 inches across. If they are too thick, they will make nice buns, but won't puff; if they are too thin, or if you are too rough with the rolling pin, they will puff in places, but will not balloon up. Put the rolled breads on the baking stone in oven. Continue to roll out dough, but check those in the oven after 3 minutes. They should be puffed and may be slightly brown. Remove one and open to see if the insides are done. It should look moist, but shouldn't be shiny wet. If you think they need a little more time, you can bake them a bit more on the top rack while the next batch bakes on the stone. Don't let them get crisp, though, as they will break when you fill them. The steam inside bakes them extremely fast and they will stay soft and flexible when cool. Layer the cooked pitas in clean kitchen towels. I froze half the batch in a freezer bag with all the air removed with a drinking straw.

Falafels
Adapted from The Food Processor Bible
.
2 cups dried chickpeas (I think it is important to use the dried stuff, the canned don't have the right texture for falafels, save them for salads)
6 cloves garlic
2 large onions, quartered
1/2 cup fresh parsley (I used dill)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp each cayenne pepper and coriander
6 tbsp bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
oil for deep frying

Pick over chickpeas; discard any stones or debris. Soak overnight in cold water. Drain thoroughly, Divide ingredients in half and process in two batches.
Using a steel blade in a large food processor, drop garlic through feed tube while machine is running; process until minced. Add onion and parsley; process until minced. Add remaining ingredients and process until finely ground, 20 to 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as necessary. Transfer to mixing bowl and repeat with second batch of ingredients. Form into 1-inch balls.
Heat oil to 375f in deep-fryer. Fry falafel in hot oil until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. They will float to the surface when done. Drain on paper towels.

I just served the falafels with chopped tomatoes, Napa cabbage, red onion, fresh herbs and a tahini yogurt sauce.
The tahini yogurt sauce is just equal parts tahini and good, plain yogurt, seasoned with lemon or lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. This can be easily adapted to your tastes or what you have on hand.

These pitas have been Yeastspotted!