The kitchen doesn’t necessarily have to be all about the food, either. I remember dressing in front of an open oven door on chilly mornings in Florida, when I was four-years-old, turning around to warm every side of my little body equally, like a well-toasted marshmallow. And later in life, pulling all the pots and pans out of my mother-in-law’s cupboard so my toddler son could beat on them with a wooden spoon—instant entertainment center for a visiting child.
In her small house in Greenacres, Washington (at that time just as country as it sounds) my grandma lived in the kitchen, phone stretched from the wall, the receiver cradled at her neck yak yak yakking, while she vigorously peeled vegetables at the sink, stirred a bubbling pot at the stove, canned her garden’s bounty to be added to the rows of gleaming glass jars lining the basement walls, and baking pure and heavenly bread. One snowy night on the slow and cautious drive home from her house, I sat in the back seat with a freshly baked loaf, snuggly wrapped in a tea towel. I was pleasantly drowsy, the bundle warming my lap, and the smell lured me into sliding off my mitten and fumbling my hand inside the towel until my knuckles thumped hollowly against the heel of the bread. I straightened my fingers and gently pushed through the crust, opening a steamy doorway that wafted out the tantalizing aroma of yeast, flour, and cozy kitchen. I closed my fingers around some of the bread and brought it up to my mouth – chewy, comforting, tasty goodness filled me to the core; fed my very soul. I went in for more. My soul was insatiable. Tunneling my way into the loaf, tearing off chunks from the sides, the top, scraping at the bottom with my nails, I filled my lungs with the earthy vapors, marveled at the warm, fluffy texture as I balled it into small Lori-fist-shaped pieces and chewed blissfully away. When we arrived home I brought in the swaddled shell of a loaf and placed it lightly on the counter. (In hindsight, I imagine this was a moment when it became apparent that my hungry soul had absolutely no willpower and was even kind of sneaky.)
As a young wife and mother, I carried on the tradition and made my own bread. It was economical, tasted great, and kneading was a pleasant, productive way to work out the stress that came along with those same roles of wife and mother, as well as being a student in college. Even during lean times the motions of making and baking bread filled the house with quiet contentment, which was picked up by my not-even two-year-old son, when one day he tiptoed into the kitchen to see a loaf cooling on the counter covered in a towel, and turned to me, finger to his lips, and whispered “Bread sleeping.”
It was during this time that my mother-in-law, always a steadfast encourager of all my creative endeavors, gave me a set of four clay baking tiles, and a clipping from a magazine on how to make pita bread. The flying saucer-shaped individual loaves turned out to be easy, and fun to make. Rolling little balls, and flattening them into discs, and watching them balloon in the oven was a simple and satisfying treat. When I came across the tiles in the pantry last week in a narrowly-dodged notion of reorganization, I was inspired to bake pita to go with our lentil soup. Have some flour, salt, yeast and water? Then you can do it, too. If you don’t have a mixer with a dough-hook, get your hands in there and knead for 10 minutes. It’s messier, but with a little flour on your nose, you’ll look like a bread-making warrior, and can punch and pull all your worries away for a little while.
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 ½ cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm, not hot, water in the bowl of a mixer until bubbly (about 5 minutes). Add salt and 1 ½ cups flour and with the dough hook, beat to make a batter. Add additional 1 ½ cups of flour until it's a rough, shaggy blob. Knead 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is too sticky.
Turn dough onto a lightly-floured surface and divide into six pieces for standard-sized pitas. Roll dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into even (this helps with future-puff), ¼-inch thick discs. Let rest on the floured surface 30-40 minutes until slightly puffy.
Preheat oven to 425F. With a large spatula, flip the rounds of dough upside down onto a baking sheet, (or pre-heated waiting-in-the-oven clay baking tiles). Bake 10-15 minutes until lightly golden and hopefully puffy. (Even if they don’t balloon you can split them open for stuffing use.)
(Recipe borrowed and adapted from this site, because I have no idea where that original magazine clipping is hiding...)