Handmade Za’atar Spiced Pita Bread

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October 29, 2010 by Dana

I consider myself to be a relatively rational person.

Now, my mom may disagree.  She’s the one that gets the frantic concerned phone calls.  When I need medical advice.  STAT.  Because I have a spot on my leg.  And I’m sure it’s a tumor.  Or a blood clot.  Or some other life threatening illness.

And Jake may say otherwise.  He’s the one that gets locked out of the apartment.  After I triple lock the door.  Because I’m sure that if I don’t, someone will break in and steal me.  An axe murderer, perhaps.  Maybe a sexual predator.  I live in NYC, so that’s not too irrational, right?  Hmm… maybe I should stop watching Law & Order SVU.


Anyway, like I said, I think I’m rational.  As rational as can be.  Except for one little thing…  a measly five letter word…  a simple baking component…

Yeast.

Yeast makes me nervous. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true.  I just feel like something is going to go wrong when trying a recipe that calls for yeast.  Between the kneading, and the rising, and the shaping, and the baking… there’s a lot of room for error.

So I avoid all recipes that call for yeast.  If I scan the ingredient list and I see yeast, I discount the entire thing immediately.  Quick breads only, please.  Banana bread? Fine.  Pumpkin bread? Not a problem.  But bagels, baguettes, or sourdough?  I’ll buy those at the store, thank you.

Until now.

I am proud to say that I have seen the light.  I have gotten over this fear and see the error of my ways.  Working with yeast may be a little more work and take a little more time, but it’s certainly not scary.  Just follow the directions and working with yeast can be a painless process!

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
Za’atar for seasoning

This recipe, from Brown Eyed Baker, is extremely detailed and easy to follow.  Just be sure you have sufficient time to make these… there are a lot of rounds of resting and rising.  I also added my own touch of spicing the pitas with Za’atar right before baking.  Feel free to omit this step if you are just looking for plain pita.

Directions

1.  Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

2.  Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

3. When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

4.  When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. (This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.)

5.  While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

6.  After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

7.  Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

9.  Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface.  Lightly sprinkle the dough with za’atar, or any other seasoning that you desire.   They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.

We all know that when it comes to baked goods, homemade always trumps store bought.  These pitas are no exception!  They are so light and fluffy right out of the oven.  I wonder what other homemade yeast goods I’ve been missing out on??

*I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting… who would have thought??

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22 thoughts on “Handmade Za’atar Spiced Pita Bread

  1. Victoria says:

    Great job! See, yeast isn’t so scary! Next time try making pizza dough from scratch! So easy and your pizzas will be amazing :)

  2. Your pitas look so soft an fluffy! Perfect for dipping in some olive oil and extra za’atar…love that stuff! Theresa

  3. Veronica says:

    Glad to hear you got over your fears! I was the same way for quite a while but once you try it, you see there’s not anything to be afraid of. Except a loooong wait when you’re craving bread RIGHT NOW.

  4. RavieNomNoms says:

    Ooo Dana, that looks and sounds so delicious! The pita looks just fabulous!!

  5. medmom says:

    As your go-to medical girl, I feel that someone should make this pita for me to try :)

  6. I still have some Za’atar from Israel from two years ago (does it go bad?)… I just love that flavor!!!

    Maybe I should use that this weekend!

  7. hi dana, that looks so good. it’s making me hungry:) thank you for sharing. have a nice weekend.

  8. Faith says:

    Yay, I’m glad you’ve seen the light, lol! :) There’s absolutely nothing that tastes as good as fresh, homemade bread…not to mention how amazing it makes the house smell! Love your za’atar-spiced pitas…sounds delicious, and I have almost a whole jar of it waiting to be used! :)

  9. Joanne says:

    I like to think I’m rational too…but I’m pretty sure that just about everyone in my life would beg to differ. Especially my mother.

    I used to be scared of yeast as well but the thing I learned was that the worst that can happen is that the dough doesn’t rise. And once that happens a few times, you kind of get over it. These pitas look absolutely fantastic! Love the seasoning.

  10. Pita bread was my first recipe using yeast and I was also pleasantly surprised. But I haven’t made anything else with yeast since. I guess I’m still a chicken.

  11. Isabelle says:

    I’m so glad you’ve decided to make friends with yeast… especially since homemade pita are so easy to make and taste a million times better than store-bought. Looks like you’re off to a great start.
    Your post just reminded me that I’ve got a giant bag of za’atar sitting in my pantry. I think I’m going to make some pita of my own this weekend! :)

  12. Monet says:

    What a wonderful bread recipe…you rocked this one! And I get pretty paranoid about health issues too. I thought I had skin cancer last week…needless to say, my dermatologist thought I was a little crazy. Thank you for sharing and for your kind thoughts for my family. They mean so much to us all.

  13. Good for you for confronting your yeast fear. I have a bit of fear too but always brave it on lol. Maybe next time you will only lock 2 of the 3 door locks?

  14. Beth says:

    Congratulations on overcoming your fear of yeast. For me it’s pastries — I don’t make them very often, so I never get better!

  15. Ahhh, I have to make this! I’ve been wanting to make pita bread for quite some time, but like you, yeast terrifies me!

  16. justcooknyc says:

    interesting… i’ve never thought of attempting to make a bread like this at home before

  17. Evan @swEEts says:

    Dana I am right there with you! Yeast scares me so I always let the boy toy deal with it :) I’m going to be passing this recipe along for sure!

  18. Rich says:

    Oh man, I have the same feeling about yeast – I mean, I’ll always try it, but every time I do, I feel like the odds are just stacked against me.
    But these look good enough to take the risk!

  19. Tes says:

    I have never tried spicing up the pita bread this way before. It looks really yummy.

  20. Green Girl says:

    I think I’m your opposite. I love yeast breads and hate quick breads.
    Your pita breads look so good, love the Za’atar touch
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, somehow I missed it at Brown Eyed Baker

  21. [...] few months ago, after a string of posting one delicious baked good after another, I received the following IM from my cousin, [...]

  22. [...] 5. Post That Was Surprisingly Successful: Handmade Za’atar Spiced Pita Bread [...]

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