Every summer growing up, my mother was sent to stay with her Aunt Rifkah in Taybeh (yes, the same Taybeh that makes he delicious beer…. and the one Jesus stayed in). She says that her aunt would wake up in the early hours of the morning to make fresh pita bread. she would then wake up her rabble of visiting nieces and nephews and as the sun began to rise they would all set off down the road out of town to my Aunt’s lands. Once there they would be put to work climbing fig trees to collect the fruit and collecting vine leaves from the grape vines that used to snake along the floor- a traditional practice which decades later i would be training women how to build frames to grow their grapes along! (life can be so odd…..) . After a good few hours of work in the sun, Rifkah would unload a basket that she can carried on her head and out would come the freshly made pita breads, boiled eggs, freshly made cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, zayt and za’atar; in the shade of the trees protecting them from the hotting sun, they would have their breakfast.
mama always talks about Rikfah when we make this bread now and she still eats it with the rigour of a 10 year old girl who has done a few hours of hard graft!
5 cups of strong flour
1 tsp yeasr
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups warm water
in a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together
mix in the olive oil
then slowly add in the water, mixing into a dough with your hands as you go.
once all the water is in, you want to achieve a tacky but not sticky dough (add more flour if you need to to achieve the correct consistency)
turn it onto a floured surface and knead it for 5-10 minutes until its silky and smooth. pat the entire dough ball with olive oil and then put it into a bowl and cover with cling film and wrap in a blanket and put in a warm corner.
leave it for 60-90 minutes to double in size.
preheat the oven to its highest setting, which is 275c on my oven, with two upturned baking sheets in the oven so its hot when you put the bread on them. (you can use a pizza stone if you have one).
once the dough has doubled in size split it into 8 or 16 balls and put back in the bowl and cover while you work. (I make 16 smaller ones usually)
using a rolling pin roll each bread until its about 1/2 cm high and about 15 cm across. place each rolled bread on a floured surface and cover with a tea towel. repeat until they are done. the first breads should have had a second rest of about 20 minutes under the tea towel before being baked.
bake the bread for 6 minutes in your very hot oven to get those natural pockets (i manage to get 4 in at a time). as the bread comes out put in on a basket and cover immediately. you will get a lovely bread that its pillowy, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Once they are all done, enjoy them hot. any that you wont eat over the next two days, you can freeze.