Pita is not just an extremely popular pocket bread, it is the mainstay of the way Israelis eat. Anything can go into a pita − from chocolate spread (a favorite school snack) to a whole lunch, such as schnitzel with salad and French fries. Apart from packing it with innumerable foodstuffs, pita has another important use: to mop up hummus, tahini, labane, eggplant and other dips, spreads and salads. Pita must be oven-fresh or it’s no good. Try the following recipe for your own version of this wonderful pocket-bread.
Ingredients (for 10 pitas)
500 g (1 lb 2 oz, 31/2 cups) bread flour
25 g (1 oz) instant yeast
360 ml (121/2 oz, 11/2 cups) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
30 ml (1 fl oz, 2 tablespoons) olive oil
Mix the yeast with the flour in a mixer fitted with a kneading hook. Add the water, sugar, salt and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny and slightly sticky.
Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Sprinkle olive oil over it, cover with cling wrap and allow to rise to twice its original size.
Preheat the oven to maximum (250°C/500°F).
Place the dough on a work surface sprinkled with flour and divide into 10 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball. Cover with a moist towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Roll out each ball into a disk 10-12 cm (4 inches) in diameter and 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Arrange on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 5 minutes, just until the pitas swell up and begin to show golden spots. Avoid over-baking, which will cause them to dry up.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Cover the pitas with a kitchen towel for a few minutes to keep them soft.
Pita with Sesame and Nigella Seeds Toss the dough balls in a bowl containing 12 cup sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon nigella seeds, until fully coated. Roll into disks (the seeds will sink into the dough) and bake as instructed.
Pita with Za'atar Combine 12 cup za'atar spice mix with 12 cup olive oil, coarse salt to taste and a few drops of lemon juice, until a spread-like paste forms. Spread a tablespoon of the paste on each pita just before placing in an oven preheated to 200°C (400°F). Bake for 10 minutes. The heavy coating and relatively low baking temperature produce a thicker flat pita with no air pocket.
photo: Eilon Paz ("The Book of New Israeli Food")