Hey there readers! My fun tangent this week is just to tell you that I went to visit Manhattan on a field trip this weekend and I visited my favorite falafel restaurant. Here are some snippets from my journey:
Okay, now I’m ready to shift from pita to pitta.
This week in the lab we were making pitta ‘mpigliata, a traditional Italian Christmas dessert somewhat similar to a cinnamon roll. They are stuffed with walnuts and berries and cinnamon and love and wrapped to look like a rose (or the baby Jesus’s diaper, according to our Italian professor).
Amisha and I started this lab off by splitting duties, I made dough while she made the stuffing. While she expertly chopped nuts and raisins and measured out honey and cinnamon to taste, I struggled a bit with our dough.
Despite my precise measurement, the dough seemed much too wet and hadn’t really come together even after the full kneading time. So on the advice of my professor, I added more cake flour a teaspoon at a time. I had to add about 6 teaspoons (or 2 tablespoons) before the dough seemed an acceptable consistency.
This photo was taken midway through the process of adding extra flour to the dough to form a consistent ball, as you can see it is still somewhat shaggy.
After letting the dough rest for a few minutes, we rolled it out to a rough rectangle, to about as thin as we could without fear of tearing. My trailing pinky nail still did a little bit of damage with my new acrylic tip, but we repaired it fairly easily. It was also at this point that we preheated the oven.
We then drizzled honey over our flattened dough and tried and failed to spread the honey with the back of the spoon, despite the liberal application of lots and lots of nonstick spray to the convex side.
Next, we started to lay down the filling into even rows to make the cutting and rolling processes easier for ourselves. This was sloppy work, and it helped immensely to use our fingers to spread out clumps of filling to a more even layer.
Then after a quick snip with our fluted roller, we shifted to the rolling of the roses. (WARNING: this is about to be a very image-heavy section; brace yourselves)
First I rolled the hefty boy pictured above, with whom I was mostly happy, but I wanted to see more filling in the roll to create more contrast in the spiral. I switched things up for the next roll, pushing the filling up towards the cut edges.
I was much happier with this look, so I rolled up the third brother much like I had the second and we popped our pitte into the preheated oven, where they cooked nicely.
About halfway through the cooking time, we opened up the oven and brushed on some egg white to improve the color and crust of our rolled roses.
You can see in the picture how they’ve puffed up somewhat from the cooking process.
Finally, our pitte ‘mpigliate were ready to eat.
Final science thoughts:
The protein content of cake flour is low, typically 6-8%, which limits gluten formation and keeps the rolled pastry from being too bready. Our dough was a little overworked due to our original underflouring and therefore its texture ended up somewhere between pastry and bread.
The addition of olive oil coats the flour particles with fat. Oil is hydrophobic, so if the flour is coated in fat, it will absorb less water and form less gluten. This works in tandem with the low protein content of the cake flour to keep the pastry light.
The baking powder here works as a leavening agent in place of yeast. The baking soda and tartaric acid react to create water and carbon dioxide gas, which keeps the pastry light and forms air bubbles. Without a leavening agent like baking powder, the dough would be very dense.