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Pitah

Updated: 2012.08.24

Pitah Iraqit (haShipudia)
Pitâh I•raq•it (ha-Shipudia Restaurant, Yᵊru•shâ•layim)

Pitâh; popularly spelled "pita." The most authentic, both to Har Sin•ai and the 1st century CE, is Pitâh I•raq•it – from the land of Av•râ•hâm; which makes it sort of an Israeli family recipe. To make your own Pitâh I•raq•it

Utensils Needed

  • large bread bowl

  • Ingredients (for 4 large Iraqi pit•ot):

    (adapted from Maggie Glezer, A Blessing of Bread)

    This pita is very large and has no central pocket, which makes it ideal for sopping up stews, but it becomes stale pretty quickly. This will make four large pitas – if you freeze the leftovers, they will keep a few days more and need only to be warmed up under the grill.

    Directions:
    1. Sift the yeast over the warm water in the large bread bowl.

    2. Stir to dissolve.

    3. Add whole wheat flour, one cup at a time, then 1 cup white flour.

    4. Stir one minute (about 100 stirs) in the same direction to activate the gluten in the flour.

    5. First Rest: Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes or as long as 2 hours, until it has begun to ferment and bubbles are appearing. This fermentation is what distinguishes Pitah Iraqit from similar breads.

    6. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the sponge, stir in the extra-virgin Israeli olive oil and mix well.

    7. Add white flour (one cup at a time if making a multiple recipe).

    8. When the dough is too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a lightly floured bread board and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic (alternately, the lesser experience is to machine mix for 5 minutes). Cut it into four equal pieces and round them, then roll them in more flour. Return the dough to a lightly oiled bread bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

    9. Allow to rise
      Allow to rise ≅ 1½ hours
    10. Second Rest: Vital: It won't be Iraqi Pita unless you let the dough rise rise until at least double in size – approximately 1½ hours.

    11. While the dough rises, place your baking surface on a rack in the bottom third of your oven, under the broiler, leaving a one inch gap all around to allow air to circulate, and preheat the oven to 290°C (550°F), or whatever is its highest temperature setting.

    12. Either the pitah must be turned over after about 5 min.; it will quickly burn after that) or a broiler can also be used to brown the top simultaneously. After an hour, turn off the oven and heat the broiler (the pitas need to bake from both sides, the iron below and the broiler above).

    13. Roll it thin
      Punch it down thin
    14. On a lightly floured surface, with lightly floured hands, gently punch down one of the chunks of dough until its about 3mm (") thick and 30 cm (12") in diameter. Do not stack them (they will stick).

    15. Place it on a baking sheet, and put the baking sheet on top of the heated iron or baking stone under the broiler. Bake it about 5 minutes, but be careful not to over-bake, because it will burn in the space of a minute. Meanwhile, stretch out the next pita. Wrap the finished pita in a towel and put the next one in the oven.

    Dough can be made ahead to this point and then stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 5 days or less.

    (If at this time you want to save the dough in the refrigerator for baking later, simply wrap it in a plastic bag that is at least three times the size of the dough, pull the bag together, and secure it just at the opening of the bag to allow full expansion. This will give the dough a chance to expand when it is in the refrigerator (which it will do). From day to day, simply cut off the amount of dough you need and keep the rest in the refrigerator, for up to one week. The dough will smell slightly fermented after a few days, but this improves the taste of the bread.)

    Dough should be brought to room temperature before baking.

    Pitah Iraqit is generally spread with khumus and skhug, perhaps a dash of Zaatar or Salat Turki, and wrapped around, or used to pick up, salads, meat, vegetables or fillings.

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