Pita the right way.

September 17, 2009

So in all my wanderings I have only ever found two places to get amazing Israeli pita. One is the Food Showcase on Fairlawn ave in Fairlawn, NJ which is a kosher food store that sells mostly Israeli products and, on occasion, has the thick pitas that i crave.  The second is at the Shushan Grill in Highland Park, NJ which is a restaurant that serves them and if you ask the owner really nicely (in Hebrew) for a pack of the pitas, he’ll be kind enough to sell them to you for a redonkulous price. So one night, as I was pondering one of life’s most consistent mysteries (what to have for dinner) I decided upon Lebanese Kofte Kebabs (a post for another day) with some Israeli salad, pita and  hummus (I ONLY eat Sabra brand hummus, 4 out of 5 Israeli’s agree, and that last one is a liar).  But Alas! I haven’t any pita! Well on the website that I found the kebabs, (along with other traditional Israeli fare, really a great site, the link for which appears at the bottom of this post) I also happened to notice a pita recipe!  So without further ado:

Israeli Pita
3 1/2 c. Flour
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 packet quick rise yeast

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add half the water (for all those numerically inept folks out there, that’s 3/4 of a cup :-p ) and combine with a rubber spatula. Once the first dose of water is thoroughly integrated, start adding the rest of the water a little bit at a time.  You will eventually have to switch to using your hands.  YOU DO NOT NECESSARILY NEED TO ADD ALL THE WATER !!! Add water until the dough becomes rubbery and slightly sticky.

At this point, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface (such as a large cutting board or clean counter top). Knead the dough until it is smooth and slightly elastic, about 10 min  (if you poke it and remove your finger, the indent starts to pop back out). Put the ball of dough back into the bowl, cover with a dry hand towel and store in a warm, dry place  and let rise till it about doubles in size (Unfortunately I cannot really give you a set time for this.  It could be 45 min, could be an hour and a half. It depends on too many factors to really be sure Use your best judgment).

Once the dough doubles in size, or around when you think it will double in size, you should start thinking about preparing your oven. Remove all the racks from your oven put one. If you have a pizza stone, but the stone and the one lonely rack on the lowest possible space and preheat the oven to anywhere between 450 – 490 deg. F.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a cookie sheet.  The whole point is to emulate the cavernous wood burning brick ovens that these pitas are usually made in.  You want the oven and the stone or sheet to be blazing hot when you put the rolled out pitas in.

Punch down your dough (possibly the best part of the procedure, aside from eating them)  and lightly knead it. Roll out the dough into a long snake and start pinching off pieces and rolling them into balls.  Bigger balls = bigger pitas (no pun intended, though also completely true). A good size is about the size of a tangerine, or slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Separate the balls (giggity), cover and let them sit for another 5 or 10 min.

After this waiting period, take a ball, place on a lightly floured surface, squish it with your hand, and roll it to the desired thickness (optimal for REAL Israeli pitas is a little over 1/2 a cm , or quarter of an inch, but this it totally up to your preferences and how you like your pitas. So experiment and see what gives you the best results.) Repeat for all the dough balls and set aside again and let sit for another 10 min or so.

Throw the rolled out dough onto the stone (or sheet) and let bake for about 4 min or until it has puffed up.  It will not necessarily look brown on top, so don’t judge the done-ness by color.  Remove the glorious pita from the oven, making sure not to leave the door open too long as so not to lose heat, and let cool.  Repeat for the rest.

Now, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill American pitas.  These are thick, fluffy, POCKET pitas.  If you’re using pitas and you have to wrap them around whatever you’re filling them with, they’re not pitas, they’re frauds.

Here is where I got the recipe:

Israeli pita

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One Response to “Pita the right way.”

  1. Ruti said

    I will unabashedly take credit for preparing the pita on the occasion related above. 😛 ❤

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