07 April 2012

Chag Pesach Samech!! May HaShem's Peace be Upon You All!

Last night we had our Pesach, (Passover), celebration. It was a lovely time of fellowship and as always I was caught up in the story from long ago, of the night that the Angel of Death passed over the children of Israel and spared their first born. Then at the break of day the entire House of Israel and a vast number of others left the hardships of bondage in a foreign land and followed Moses into the deliverance that God had promised more than 400 years before.
  During the next seven days I will eat unleavened bread and contemplate the future Exodus. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of the time to come when God will regather his children, Judah, (the 2 southern tribes) and Ephriam, (the 10 northern tribes), from the four corners of the Earth and settle us as one family, in peace in the land that he promised to His people so long ago.... sigh... let it be soon!
  During the week of unleavened bread we will enjoy tender and tasty flat breads cooked on a hot griddle, no nasty, tasteless matzo crackers in this house! The secret to good unleavened bread is the kind of wheat that is used to make the bread. Most recipes call for whole wheat flour or unbleached flour, but normal bread flour is made from hard red spring wheat, which is high in gluten. Gluten is great for making wonderful lofty loaves with the assistance of yeast, but unleavened bread made from hard wheat is tough and chewy, due to unstimulated gluten. In order to make light, tender unleavened bread it is best to use soft wheat flour. Cake flour is made from soft wheat, but is void of nutrition and makes for a pasty textured flat bread. It is possible to find Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour in small bags at most higher end grocers or you can find soft wheat berries at a natural food store and grind your own. I use Atta flour if I am short on time, but I prefer to grind my own from my cache of long term stored soft wheat berries, since they are organic. Atta flour, which is used in Indian cookery to make chapati, is made from whole grain soft wheat berries. It makes great unleavened bread and can be found at any Indian grocery.
  Here is a simple recipe for unleavened bread:

2 cups whole wheat soft wheat flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup very warm water
Olive oil

  Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with finger to incorporate. Slowly add water with one hand while mix in with fingers of the other hand. When water is completely absorbed and flour is beginning to stay together,remove from bowl and knead until ball of dough is smooth. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Break into pieces the size of a walnut and roll into smooth balls, it should make 12 to 16 balls. Cover with a towel.
  Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium high heat and drip a small drop of olive oil on skillet and polish with a paper towel removing most of the oil and leaving a shiny smooth finish on pan. Choose a ball, drop it into a small bowl of extra soft wheat flour and roll it around to lightly coat. With the palm of your hand flatten ball into a round and roll out into a circle 4-6" in diameter, turning and rolling to keep it in shape. Check to see if water sizzles when a drop is flicked onto the skillet surface, if it doesn't sizzle an pop the water on contact, the skillet isn't hot enough, so heat more and test again. Once the skillet is hot and the first dough round is rolled out to desired size, drop the dough circle onto the griddle, leave there until small bubbles start to form on the bottom side and the bread slides easily when pushed lightly with a finger. Turn when bubbles are forming and allow bubbles to form on top side. The bread should begin to puff. Use a spatula to lightly press to help bread to puff. When there are a few good pockets of air in bread turn and repeat until bread is mostly filled with air. Don't worry if it doesn't completely inflate, but make sure that there are large pockets of air or the bread will be chewy. When done remove from heat and brush lightly with olive oil or ghee. Place in a towel lined bowl and cover with towel corners to keep warm. Roll and cook dough balls one at a time, so that the dough rounds don't dry out.
  The breads freeze very well, if let cool completely before freezing. To use after freezing, place in foil and heat in the oven until just warmed through. They will taste like you just made them! Whether or not you keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, these little flat breads are nutritious, full of flavor and filling.

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