Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pita Breads and Baked Falafel Balls

Pita Breads and Baked Falafel Balls
A Light Mediterranean Summer Dinner!

I admit it--I have a special fondness for the thick, soft pita breads that I used to eat in Los Angeles.  I make a special effort to bring some back in my suitcase when I visit.  The kind I have been able to get here is thin and just not as tasty.  With practice, I am getting closer to baking the kind I crave.  So I was really glad to see that our "Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" baking group would be doing pita breads for this assignment.

Our  baking group is using the HB5 Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil dough to make Seed Encrusted Pita Bread.
I made a couple of substitutions to the dough:
--Used white whole wheat flour
--Cut the water by 1/4cup to avoid overly wet dough

I also had some Master Dough from "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" in the refrigerator.  I decided to make pita bread from this recipe, also.  It would give me a good opportunity to compare pita breads made from both doughs.

I rolled out the dough using my new pastry roller.  Michelle, our group leader, told me about this gadget.  I was skeptical, I found it very easy to use.  I can grab one roller end with a whole hand.  The angle can put more pressure on a small area.  I quickly rolled out the pita breads, and felt I had more control than with a large rolling pin.   

Check out the big bottle of seed mixture in the picture above!  After running to the store constantly to replenish my small jars, I finally bought 1/4 pound of seeds like sesame, anise, caraway, flax, and poppy.  I mixed them altogether and will keep them in my fridge.  Now I can shake them over my baking items as much as I want!  I think they make whole wheat breads taste so much better.

I immediately placed the finished pitas between two kitchen towels on top of a cooling rack.  That way, they stayed soft and pliable.  Here is a closeup of the finished pita breads: 

For our dinner,  I decided to finally try a 1996 baked falafel recipe that I had in my files.  Here is my adapted version:

Baked Falafel Balls
Serves 4 (16 balls)

1 lb can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 egg white
1 TBSP oil
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP  lemon juice (I didn't have fresh, so I added a few drops lemon extract to reconstituted.  It works well.)
1 TBSP  sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
3 TBSP wheat germ (could use bread crumbs)

Preheat oven to 357 degrees.

Mash the garbanzo beans
with potato masher or fork.  Add all but wheat germ to the mashed beans.  Roll into one-inch balls.  Roll each  ball into wheat germ.  Bake in a non-stick baking pan for 20 minutes, turning the balls over halfway through baking.

Serve 4 falafel balls in a pita bread with tomato, cucumber, and lettuce.  Top with plain yogurt or nonfat sour cream (optional). Tehina sauce would be wonderful!

I also added some sweet onions that I sauteed in olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  YUM!
We tried the falafel w/pita sandwiches with both the regular and whole wheat seed encrusted pitas.  Both were good, but the regular ones were much easier to open and fill.  I had this great picture of the food spread out to show you, but it got deleted. But we had a wonderful, low fat dinner that night!  I had made baked falafel from a mix, but it's inexpensive and easy to make it yourself with this recipe.  These recipes will be made again!!!   Hope you enjoy them soon, too.

Handwise tips:  If you have hand pain, tendonitis, or arthritis or any other pain issues and want to make this recipe, you might space it out over a few days:
  1. Use some HB5 stored dough that you made several days before.  If you make both doughs, you don't have to make them on the same day.  You can store the whole wheat and olive oil dough in the fridge for 7 days, and the white/master dough in the fridge for 7 - 10 days.  You don't have to bake them on the same day, but they roll out pretty fast and cook quickly.  It's nice to do it all while the oven it hot!
  2. When you are mixing the dough--If your hand problems respond to warmth, mixing with your hands may be a wonderful option.  The water you add is about 100 degrees, and it's a very wet dough.  It's pretty easy to mix, and no kneading.  I always love to put my hand into the warm dough to mix it!  You can get a better idea of when the dough is "just right," too!
  3. Let the dough rest if it resists stretching out.  Wait 10-15 minutes after doing the gluten cloak, and it easily should be able to be patted into a larger circle or rolled out.  Good time to have a seat and rest your hands!
  4. Find what kind of rolling method works best for you.  You might pick up the dough and have gravity stretch it for you.  You might use an OXO-type rolling pin.  Or a pastry roller may be easier for you to use, with the angle of the roller coming from above.  I thought the pastry roller was easy to use.
  5. Soak your tools in your empty dough bucket or a pan when you are finished using them.  Soak your baking pan with soapy water after you remove the falafel.  That way, you can wash them easily later (or tomorrow!)  Give yourself the permission of time to clean up much later. 
  6. Mashing the falafel mixture can be tricky and hard on hands.   Unfortunately, a mini food processor would make the mixture too thin. I think it's easier to mash the beans in a bowl with a little bit of water or saved liquid from the can.  Then, mix in the remaining ingredients.  That's one of my recipe changes.  It goes quickly, and is easy to do. 
Thanks for stopping by to visit!  I hope you will leave a comment below.  Maybe you can add a handwise or time saving suggestion that will help others?

About the HBinFive Baking Group
The HBinFive Baking Group, started by Michelle of Big Black Dogs, is baking through all of the breads in the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes book. For more information on the HBinFive baking group, check out BigBlackDog.


  1. I didn't get to this recipe but yours certainly turned out beautifully!

  2. Great looking pitas. Mine with seeds did not puff much if at all, but when I make them without seeds using the HB in % Master they puff just fine. HMMMM. I will try the falafel, thanks.

  3. Great looking pitas. Can you believe I've never had falafel? Going to have to try it now.

  4. Thanks for all the great comments! It was surprising how night and light that dinner was. Usually, falafel is deep fried. Baking it or making it in a nonstick pan is a lower fat way to go.

    I always try to keep cans of various beans in the pantry. You can do so much at the spur of the moment with them

    Old Pop, I think pitas with mostly all purpose flour puff up a lot better. You don't see 100% whole wheat pitas, usually.

    Thanks for visiting, and leaving a comment! I love your blogs, too!!! I sure am learning a lot.

  5. Looks lovely. Can see it made for a great dinner. Couldn't manage this bread, but hope to manage the next one. :)

  6. I have never made pita bread. Yours looks exquisite. I am going to have to try these.

  7. Thanks so much or your wonderful comments. For me, it's still a work in progress till I get that "perfect" pita! :)