Free ebooks Library zlibrary project Immediate Prospect

10
Dec

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/17534402[/vimeo]

There are many places I return to whenever I visit Aleppo. I go at least once to have ful medammes at Hajj Abdo. I stay at Yasmeen d’Alep, and if I am not, I make a point of going there to sit in their peaceful courtyard and have a chat with the lovely owners Badeeh & Hannadi Qudsi; and I always walk up to Sahet el Hatab in Jdaydeh at around 9 am to watch the pita bread being made and then spread right on the pavement to cool before being packed. The process, as you can see from my not so great clip, is fully automated, from kneading the dough, to dividing it, to rolling it out (first into ovals, then into perfect circles), to putting it in the oven, to taking it out of the oven and sending it to the sales window or the packing floor, with the loaves going from one place to the other on a conveyor belt. The only thing that is not automated is placing the dough into the dividing machine and then packing the bread.

cooling bread on the pavement copy

The breads are normally spread on mats right on the pavement outside the bakery and I always thought that the mats were no-go areas for people to step on but I was there the other week and saw everyone, including the bakery employees, step onto the mats with their dirty shoes then spread the bread right where they had stepped. Now this could be one of the explanation as to why so many people get tummy ache when they visit the country! It would be just as effective and far more hygenic if they cooled their breads on benches like the man in the picture below.

cooling bread on a bench copy

Home-made pita bread is quite different from that made in commercial bakeries. There are several reasons for that. The flour used in commercial bakeries is milled from hard wheat and has a little bran left in it. Also the process of making the bread (as you see in the clip at the top) is almost completely automated, resulting in perfect loaves.

You can successfully replicate some elements of this production. You can knead the dough in a machine instead of by hand as I do, and you can use a pasta machine to roll out the dough instead of a rolling pin – this will ensure a more evenly flattened out dough although I am not sure it will result in a perfect circle. But you will still come to the final stumbling block, which is the baking. However good your oven is, it will never produce the fierce heat of commercial ovens, some of which are still wood-fired, which causes the dough to puff up in seconds and the layers to separate equally.

This is not to say that homemade pita is not good. In fact, I love taking the puffed balls of bread out of the oven and watching them deflate, oddly enough never as quickly as in commercial bakeries, perhaps because the layers are not so thin.  The only country where commercially produced pita is quite close to that made at home is Egypt. Their pita is smaller and thicker than that made in Lebanon or Syria and it is called aysh baladi when made with wholewheat flour. Makes 10 individual pitas

500 g unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed

heaping teaspoon (1/2 package) easy bake yeast

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the oil to the well and, using the tips of your fingers, rub the oil into the flour until well incorporated.

Gradually add another 1 1/4 cup warm water, bringing in the flour as you go along. Knead until you have a rough, rather sticky ball of dough

Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Remove the dough onto it and sprinkle with a little more flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes, sprinkling with more flour if the dough sticks. Invert the bowl over the dough and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead for a few more minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and rather soft. Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat all over with oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours. Fold after the first hour.

Remove the dough onto your work surface. Divide in 10 equal parts, each weighing just under 3 ounces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover with a wet, although not dripping towel and return to rise for 45 minutes.

Roll out each ball of dough to about 6-7 inch disks, flouring your work surface and the dough every now and then and making sure you form even circles – a good way to achieve this is to give the disk a quarter turn between each rolling out.  You can also use a pasta machine to roll out the breads. Cover the disks of dough with a floured couche (baker’s linen). Let rest for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, or to its highest setting.

Bake in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, or until well puffed and very lightly golden. The baking time will vary depending on how hot your oven is. I suggest you start checking the breads after 5 minutes. You may have to bake them in separate batches if your oven is not large enough. These are best served immediately or at least still warm. Alternatively, you can let them cool on a wire rack and freeze them for later use. When you are ready to serve them, simply defrost them in the bag and reheat in a warm oven.

Ps. to make manaqish bil-za’tar, mix 6 tablesppons za’tar (a mix of dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds which you can buy in Middle Eastern stores) with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and spread some of it on each of the disks of dough then bake. when spread with za’tar or any other topping, the dough will not puff up the way it does when left plain but it will bubble up around the edges like pizza.

©anissa helou from Savory Baking from the Mediterranean


There is 29 comments on this post


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Pita. The bread of breads, as far as I’m concerned…


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    They’d never allow that kind of ‘cooling process’ here in Australia!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you can say that again 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I am so suprised and frankly disgusted..Halibis/Aleppines are famous for and proud of their refinement, sophistication and cleanliness in the kitchen …furthemore, bread is considered so sacred throughout the Levant that is considered Haram/ a sin for it to touch the ground, ,albeit there are mats but those are stepped on …is this bakery an anomoly there?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    … or Canada.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i think it is. the mats on the floor are everywhere but it was the first time i saw them stepping on them and inside the bakery, they had breads right on the floor which was very strange. perhaps it was that morning only.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i absolutely loved your “not so great clip.” i don’t agree, i think it’s excellent. it’s like the viewer is riding along on a conveyor belt throughout the bakery. and with the sounds in the background, reminded me of a toy factory – all the little pieces and noises, things going in all different directions. and the many surprises of seeing more stations, more people… each and every stage of the process. fascinating ! thank you for sharing, loved it. (but yes, did say to myself, oh so unsanitary ! ;))


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    hey, thanks kerrin. so glad you like it. i must learn to edit my clips. just did one in a live poultry market in rasht, where people buy their chicken live and take them home live, with only a few holes poked in the plastic bag to let the poor animals breathe their last breaths 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i’m surprised those chickens even go in bags ! i am picturing olivier and myself at the fruit/veggie markets in madagascar, morocco and even portugal. people leaving carrying live chickens by their tied feet.

    i like how your clips are unedited. they’re natural and as real as it gets. as close for us readers as being there.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks kerrin. i still think they can do with a little editing. as for the chickens, you will see how they go in the bags when i post those clips 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    My home made pita tasted great, but were not puffy. I am intrigued by the thought of the pasta machine for rolling out. (next time!) To freshen pita the next day I run a bit of water over the bread and heat it in the regular old toaster. It comes out steaming and tender.
    Thanks!
    Barbara


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Bread making especially rural flatbread like pita is such a beautiful and grounding ritual. I have yet to make it at home.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks for this posting Anissa. I’ve particularly enjoyed all your postings on Aleppo, and my four-year old son enjoyed the bread and halawa videos.

    I have a slightly unrelated question about sumac berries. I bought some of these because I liked the look of them on a recent trip to Jordan, but I don’t know how to use them. My family is originally from Nablus, but it seems they don’t do anything with non-ground sumac there (as far as my parents are aware!). Do you have any tips on how I could use these?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    just made some small pitas with minced lamb meat, pomegranates and pine nuts like the ones they make in Baalbeck…to eveybody (italians friends) that were delighted… thanks for yr recepies I’m in a pita mood and merry xstmas to you


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you are welcome luisa, and a v merry xmas to you too…


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I love looking at the various middle eastern bakery clips on youtube. Made pita years ago and it came out fine. A pizza stone could do limited batches and presumable a roasting tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven would make it heat up.
    Very much enjoyed that clip. Wish I could affoprd one of the foodie trips but for a single ticket it’s still a dream.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I lived in Damascus for two years and everyone in Syria does this! People will spread the bread out on any available surface (sidewalks, railings, parked cars of people they don’t know, etc). However, I will note people usually did this after they purchased their own bread, vice the bakery drying the bread for you. I love buying the bread straight off the conveyor belt!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    yes, it is delicious still steaming when you tear it open.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks for the pita freshening tip – you saved my Easter brunch.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Goodness me.. Such lovely bread in such a filthy environment, and people are buying and eating it…???? Like Samir, I am so surprised and frankly disgusted..
    That would never be allowed here in Denmark or UK or in the EU for that matter.. I agree that it’s totally Haram..


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    quick question. I am a bit confused on how much water is needed total. Just one cup?

    “Add the yeast water and gradually add another 1 cup warm water,”


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    no, the 1 cup of water plus however much it is you diluted the yeast in 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I enjoyed watching this process. Even though there was mechanization there was a laid back quality to it. They are really set up to pump out some stuff and the dough in the hopper looked well bulk fermented. I noticed there were no women in this bakery, is that a common arrangement? Laying out the breads on the floor seemed all right, after all they are all stepping in flour and the pitas are getting pack well before the 60 second rule.;)
    Besides, their food inspectors are spread out few and far between. So food hygiene attitudes might be somewhat…nonexistent.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    How filthy, the guy in the bakery stepping on the bread while bagging it. In contrast, bakeries in neighboring Lebanon are ISO 9000 certified. In Kuwait if the food preparer is caught touching food with bare hands, the establishment gets shut down!

    By the way, I make pita at home, they puff up in under a minute; the secret is to use the broiler and bake the bread about 6″ under the broiler on a preheated cast iron griddle.

    I only let the dough rise for about an hour, roll into balls, let rest for about 15 minutes, roll into 1/8″ thick flat discs and bake right away.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Hi,

    I have successfully prepared the round and valloned pita bread following your instructions.

    However, after few hours they become hard rather than remaining soft. I cool off them on wire rack then I wrap in a cloth to store.

    Pls guide where I’m wrong.

    Thank you,


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    if you put them in a plastic bag once they have cooled, they should stay soft


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thank yo for the reply!.

    PL also guide how can I store the dough so that it may safely last (without freezing) dor
    48 hours at least.

    Regards,


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i don’t think it will be that good two days later. freezing is best.

Leave a Comment


Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/comments.php on line 38