Middle Eastern flatbread fresh out of the oven.
Reprinted with permission from e-rcps.com.
Pita bread, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, is a round flatbread with a pocket. It is traditionally eaten with falafel, hummus, and Israeli salad, but can also be used for other sandwiches or dipping.
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 packet dry yeast, (1/4 oz)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup lukewarm water
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, add one tsp sugar, stir and let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt, mix thoroughly using your hands or a rubber spatula; make a well, add the yeasty water and about 1/2 the lukewarm water; mix and gradually add more water a few tablespoons at a time using a rubber spatula (it can be very sticky until well mixed) until firm and elastic and just a little sticky (may adhere slightly to your hand).
Turn dough on to a lightly floured working surface and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 2-3 hours (much less if you are using rapid-rise yeast).
When dough has nearly doubled in size, punch down, knead lightly, roll out a “rope” and pinch off handfuls to form into balls about the size of tangerines–between a ping-pong and a tennis ball.
Put pizza stone or baking sheet in oven on lowest rack; remove any other racks to ease access, pre-heat oven to 450 .
Place balls on a lightly floured surface a few inches apart, cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
On your lightly floured working surface, squash a ball flat and round with your hand and then roll out, flipping and turning, a round of the desired thickness–less than 1/4 inch thick and about 5 inches across.
Set aside, covered, for another 10 minutes.
Now the interesting part: baking the bread. Middle Eastern bread ovens are cavernous affairs (even wood-fired from time to time) and are very hot, with a very hot floor. The bread is put on long paddles (same as pizza) and deployed in the oven until it puffs and browns slightly on top.
We try to achieve the effect by using the bottom rack of the oven; using a pre-heated pizza stone or baking sheet; transferring the bread to the hot stone or sheet and baking for about 4 minutes–when the bread has “popped” and browned ever so slightly on the edges or top. The time depends on how thick and moist your bread is; how your oven is constructed, and how hot the oven is.
Allow to cool, flatten, store in plastic bags. Can be refrigerated or frozen, with appropriate reheating.