Syrian Pita or Pocket Bread
Published by Harvard Common Press
Stuffed with ijeh (small egg patties or omelets), fried eggplant, or even tuna fish salad, the pocket that this bread forms when baking makes it perfect for sandwiches or scooping up all kinds of meats and dips. Fresh or toasted, you’ll enjoy this low-calorie bread found everywhere in the Middle East.
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party
Recipe CourseAntipasto/mezze, Side Dish
Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Halal, Kosher, Lactose-free, Low Calorie, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and TextureChewy, Crisp
Type of DishBread, Yeast Bread
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2½ cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 6 cups enriched white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, ½ cup of the warm water, and the honey. Let stand until slightly frothy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and mix.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the yeast mixture into it, mixing it into the flour with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining 2 cups warm water, ½ cup at a time. Shape the dough into a sticky ball and knead on a clean, well-floured work surface until very smooth and elastic, a good 10 minutes (add more flour as needed, a little at a time, if your dough is too sticky to knead).
Place the dough in a greased glass or plastic bowl and cover with a towel. Let rest in a warm place for 1½ hours to rise and double in size.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for another 10 minutes (again, adding flour as needed) and roll it into a tube about 1 foot long and about 3½ to 4 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife, mark 16 equal lines on the roll of dough, then break the dough into 16 pieces of equal size and roll each into a ball.
On the same floured surface, roll out each ball with a rolling pin or tall glass until the dough is ¼ inch thick and 6 inches in diameter, resembling a small pizza. Place each rolled-out piece of dough on a floured piece of foil cut to the same size as a baking sheet, 4 to 5 at a time, until all 16 have been made.
Cover the flattened dough pieces with a kitchen towel and let them rise in a warm spot for another 2 hours. (At this point, preheat the oven to 550°F for 2 hours. It is important to get the oven temperature as high as possible so that each pita bakes quickly and forms a pocket.)
Carefully lift up one sheet of foil with the risen dough pieces and place on a baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Do not open the oven more than a crack until you see the bread puff up. Take the sheet out and remove the baked pita breads, placing them in a basket and covering them with a clean cloth to keep warm. Discard the used foil and transfer another sheet of unbaked pieces to the baking sheet. Continue to bake in this manner, one sheet at a time, until all the pitas are baked.
Serve immediately alongside any maazeh salad or spread or as a sandwich with ijeh in its pocket. These really don’t stay soft and fresh past a day, but if you have a lot left over, store them in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 2 days on the counter or 1 week in the freezer, toasting them in the oven when needed.
2002 Jennifer Felicia Abadi