Gluten Free, Sweet Potato Pitta Breads

Fin's lunchbox has often been the subject of scrutiny by his friends or even the bemused dinner ladies drawn over to look at the contents as though they were an exhibit. Fin told me that one of his friends refused to sit next to him one day because egg features so often! Not that his lunches seem odd to me; there are always carrots in there for crunching and some other raw veg to keep the carrots company, maybe some fruit too or a piece of gluten free liquorice, or maybe a slice of cake or muffin.

The main part of the meal though does tend to be either a rice salad/eggy rice or a pitta bread filled with something mashed, on the mornings when I can't be conjuring up much at 7.30am. I had been buying these gluten free pitta breads purely for convenience at £1.99 for four! Eeek! They were overpriced and underwhelming, not to mention being composed of real high GI ingredients; rice flour, potato starch and tapioca, that woosh in and out of the blood stream like the TGV. I may as well have packed Fin's lunch box with sweets and crisps (like the other kids). So I decided to crack this gluten free pitta bread thing and make my own more wholesome versions. Since then I have made white Teff and chestnut pittas, incredibly moreish Brazil nut pittas and now Roasted Sweet Potato Pittas which I give you the recipe for below. I will work on the others some more and try to get photos before they are all gobbled up.

These pitta breads really are orange! They have a sweet soft crumb and a nice chewy crust, they even puff up properly to make the requisite pocket and they won't ruin your blood sugar. Keep them in the freezer and turn to them gratefully in times of need - just sprinkle with water and grill or toast straight from the freezer.

Roasted Sweet Potato Pittas (makes 8-9)

1 large sweet potato roasted until soft (8oz weight) (or same weight of squash)
6oz sorghum flour (or 3oz white teff and 3oz buckwheat flour for a lower GI version)
2oz maize flour (or millet flour)
2oz sweet potato flour (or 2oz arrowroot or tapioca starch)
2 tsp xanthan gum (3 tsp gelatine powder or 3 tsp ground chia/flax seeds with 2 dessertspoons water)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fast acting yeast or 10g fresh yeast (walnut sized lump)
25ml date syrup (or 1tsp molasses) this is optional you can make them without any sweetener at all!
50ml olive oil or melted butter or coconut oil
1 large free range egg

Oil two or three large flat baking trays and set aside.

Roast the sweet potato with its skin on for about 45 minutes until soft. Peel and cool till warm.

Sift all the other dry ingredients over the cooled sweet potato and add the oil, date syrup and egg to the bowl and squidge together with your hands or mix briefly with a fork.

Add in enough warm water to make a really soft sticky dough - about 100ml. The dough really should be almost unmanageably sticky! Squidge it through your hands, enjoying the warmth and orangeness of the dough, until it’s really smooth and the colour is uniform. Leave to rest for at least 1 hour in a warm place (but not more than 2 hours) or overnight in the fridge or other cool place.

Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon, to release all the gasses from the yeast.

Sprinkle your work surface with some flour or fine polenta. I used fine polenta which gave the crust a really nice crisp bite, but Nick didn't enjoy the slightly sandy quality it gave - so use your judgement here. You could use any gluten free flour you like; it's just to stop things sticking

Scoop a large egg sized lump of dough out of the bowl with a spoon and roll it in the flour to coat and form a neat ball. Roll the ball out into an oval with a floured rolling pin - aiming for a thickness of about 3/4 of a centimetre. They don't rise much, so don't make them too thin. Place the pitta onto a prepared tray and finish up the mixture in the same way.

Don't worry about trying to get all the pittas on to two trays - any that don't fit in the oven can go in when the first batch is cooked as they only take 8-10 minutes.

Leave the pittas to prove for about an hour in a warmish place. You can cover the tray with Clingfilm or a cloth, but I find they are usually fine uncovered. If you like, brush them with milk or egg wash and sprinkle on some seeds.

Heat the oven to 200C. Just before the pittas are due to go in, sprinkle them and the trays with water, to help them rise and form a nice crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes, during which time they should puff up. Some will puff up like balloons - great if you can catch it happening - like watching one of those speeded up films of a flower opening. They are done when the crust is golden brown around the edges. Don't over bake or you will have crackers.

Cool on a rack and enjoy one straight away with some creamy butter. Freeze once cold.