Israeli pita bread
If you have ever been to Israel you’d know that the pita bread there is nothing like the dried disks of pita we get here. In Israel the pita is smaller, fluffier and so delicious it’s hard to stop eating it. I just returned from a short excursion to Israel where I indulged in some amazing foods both at restaurants and while visiting family. Let me tell you, Israeli food is worth a special foodie expedition.
And so I returned from the journey craving more of the food and thought I’d try making the hummus and pita breads that I experienced there. Although the setting here is different, no long sandy beaches or blue Mediterranean, I think my attempt was quite successful and even brought back some of the visual and sensory experiences of traveling.
I am offering these recipes in two posts, one for the hummus and one for the pita bread.
These little fluffy pita breads are not intended for stuffing but rather for scooping delicious hummus, eggplant, labne (yogurt cheese) or other dips. I make them really small and fairly thick. The same recipe will produce pita for stuffing, only you need to roll it thinner and larger. Heat is very important when baking pita. It needs high heat, so heat your oven to its maximum temperature, hopefully 500℉, and use a pizza stone to slide the pita dough onto. I make the dough in a food processor, it’s quick and easy, and then finish it by hand on a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. The parchment saves some cleanup afterwards.
Pita is best served fresh but in a pinch, it will last a day or so, especially the thicker ones.
1 package dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
Place yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let it proof for 10 minutes or so.
Place 2 cups of the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to aerate the flour.
When the yeast is ready pour the liquid over the flour in the food processor and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
Begin blending the dough just until it is mixed.
Add the remaining flour and continue mixing only until it begins to pull together into a mass.
Scrape the sticky dough onto a lightly floured parchment sheet on the counter and bring the dough together adding just a little bit of flour as necessary. The dough will be somewhat sticky but should come together into a soft dough nicely. Knead it a little, gathering it into a soft and shiny ball. The secret of bread making is to add just enough flour to make a pliable dough. Avoid the temptation to add to much flour.
Drizzle a little olive oil into a ceramic or glass bowl and place the ball of dough in it, rolling it around to coat with the oil.
Cover with a towel or plastic and let rest until it rises to at least double its size. You can press two fingers gently into the dough, it they leave imprint, the dough is ready, if the dough resists, leave it to rise a little longer.
When the dough is ready turn it onto the floured parchment and press to deflate. I don’t bang it around and slap it, leave that for the gym.
Roll the dough with your hands into a cylinder and cut into 8-10 equal portions. No worries if they are not exactly even, a few different size pitas are just fine.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten, then with a rolling pin roll out each ball into a circle. The smaller the circle the puffier the pita. About 1/3 inch thick would make a nice fluffy pita.
Let the dough circles rest now until they begin to rise and puff, about 10-15 minutes.
Place a pizza stone in the oven and heat it up to its highest temperature, about 500℉. The oven should be at that temperature for at least 30 minutes before you bake the pita.
Using your hands or better yet, a pizza peel, place the pizza rounds, two at a time in the oven and close the door. Within a minute you should see them puff up.
Turn them over once. These pitas are not meant to be golden brown, they remain white with a couple of dark spots here and there. If you over-bake them they will dry.
As soon as they are ready remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and cover with a lightly damp towel.
Repeat with remaining dough.
If you have zaatar you can sprinkle some zaatar on the pita before you bake it. With your fingertips press into the unbaked dough to create little craters. Drizzle olive oil over the pita, it will pool in these craters. Then sprinkle liberally with zaatar and bake the pitas without turning them over. So delicious.
Serve with hummus or your favourite dip. great also alongside a salad.