If you had only one night for dinner in New Orleans, would you choose to eat in an Israeli restaurant? It's an odd choice given that New Orleans is home to some of the best Creole and Cajun restaurants in the country. But if that restaurant happens to be the acclaimed Michelin star Shaya, it's a great choice to make. Shaya is small, with a casual vibe and an enticing menu. We fell in love with the homemade pita bread served hot and puffy as it emerged from their wood-burning oven. It inspired us to try making it at home. I was surprised at how simple the dough was to make, yielding bread so tasty that it had me wondering if I could ever buy commercial pita bread again! Please note, a wood-burning oven is not necessary for good results. Pita can also be made successfully in a conventional oven. Instructions are provided in the recipe.
wood fired pita bread
Makes 8 breads
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 2 t. sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour ( I use King Arthur)
- 2 cups bread flour (King Arthur)
- 1-1/2 t. kosher salt
- 2 T. olive oil
Microwave 1/2 cup water in a pyrex cup until it reaches 105-110 degrees on a yeast thermometer. Stir in yeast and sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Combine both flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Mix on low until blended. Add the yeast mixture, 1/2 cup water (at room temp), and the oil. Continue mixing on low until the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add another 1/2 cup water (you have now added a total of 1-1/2 cups) and continue mixing until incorporated. Turn out on the counter and knead by hand for a minute. It shouldn't feel too wet or too dry. Sprinkle a little flour or tablespoon of water if necessary.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn over once so that the top is oiled (just slightly). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temp until doubled in size (about and hour) or overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the ovens according to the directions below. Roll the dough into 8 balls the size of a baseball on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise until they are the size of softballs.
Roll each ball to about 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Bake one or two at a time until puffed and cooked through. It can be served immediately, or once cooled. It can also be frozen.
Wood-Burning Oven- Heat oven to 800F. Using the turning paddle (smaller and easier to work with), place pita in the oven. When it puffs up, give it a turn to bake evenly. Brown very lightly and remove immediately.
Conventional Oven: Preheat oven to 500F. Place a rack on the upper third of the oven. Place a baking stone or an inverted baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well. Place one or two pitas at a time on your baking surface. Bake until puffed and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Recipe from Zahav, A World of Israeli Cooking
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