Let me start of with a word of caution. If you choose to proof your dough in the oven (as I do) it might be worth your while to attach some sort of tag or sign to the oven controls alerting other household members to the presence of a bowlful of live organisms inside. Those tiny bugs (I speak of yeast here) while hardy will perish once the oven becomes warmer than 140F, which will happen if someone else preheats the oven to do some baking.
However, as Scarlett observed, “tomorrow is another day”. On this fine Monday we are making pita. Now, pita is available in every country around the Mediterranean, from the Moroccan r’ghayef to Italian Piadina and of course the many variants of pita ranging from the soft small Greek variety to the large Iraqi pita (called a lafa in Israel).Where good pita is not available is around the Bay. In fact the best thing on offer is pita baked in LA, frozen and trucked up here. Good pita is fresh, as in the restaurant owner just sent a kid running back to the bakery to get more, fresh. After an hour or two they start to harden up and become better suited to throwing than wiping up hummus or holding a tasty bit of kabob.
These pita are inspired by the small Armenian bakery just on the edge of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city. This small bakery has served countless Israelis, tourists and religious pilgrims over the years. The specialty of the house is pita baked with a topping of olive oil and za’atar. Za’atar for those of you not familiar is prepared from dried leaves of the hyssop plant, mixed with salt and toasted sesame seeds. Like everything else in the spice rack, freshness is the key. So if you are buying this outside the Levant smell it first and make sure it still smells fresh. Rancid sesame seeds are nasty!
Recipe after the break
Pita with Za’atar
12 oz flour
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup of warm water
Mix the dry ingredients and then add the water slowly until the dough forms a nice ball. Cover with plastic wrap and proof until doubled in size (at least two hours). Preheat oven to 450F, place a baking stone or sheet pan on the lowest rack possible. Punch down and cut into 3 oz portions. Roll each ball out on a board and place on a sheet of parchment. brush with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar. Place in oven for 4 minutes, flip and bake another two minutes. Serve quickly, these don’t keep.