Arabic Breads & Pies
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All photos by Nicky Garratt copyright 1999

 

Basic Lebanese Pie Mixture
"I make double or triple the amounts of this dough and freeze the pies."

  • 3 Cups of flour
  • Heaped 1/2 t of salt
  • Heaped 1/2 t of active yeast powder
  • 3 T. of warm water
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1 cup of warm water

Activate yeast in a small bowl by mixing with sugar and 3 T. of warm water. Takes just 3 or 4 minutes. While yeast mixture stands, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Dilute the yeast mixture with a cup of warm water, then add to flour bowl and stir in. Work mixture for ten minutes with hands, kneading on floured surface until you get a rubbery dough. Place in oiled bowl in a warm place covered with cheese cloth or towel until it rises to almost twice it’s original size. Then form into a ball and set aside for ten more minutes. (This will give you time to prepare filling, or topping).

Bread (Topped with Zaatar)
"This Lebanese mountain bread is very filling - I use the super activate yeast to ensure it's not too dense"

  • Basic pie mixture
  • 5 T. of Zaatar
  • 5 T. of extra virgin olive oil

Roll out basic pie mixture to form flat oval loaves around 3/4 of an inch thick. Let stand covered with a cloth for half an hour. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Make a paste with the Zaatar and oil. Lightly coat the top of each loaf before baking for around ten minutes. I have a convection oven which cooks very fast - cooking time may vary a little.

Pita Bread
"If you live near a source for real pita bread, such as an Arabic store, then you may as well skip this recipe, because the price on half a dozen fresh pitas is around 50 cents and can be as low as 25 cents. Pita bread is an essential accompaniment to Arabic food, if you can't find a supply of authentic bread, forgo the supermarket variety, which is almost always stale and dry, and give it a shot."

  • 1/2 T. of yeast powder
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 7 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 T. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • extra 1/2 cup of floor

This will make around 12 pitas. This thin bread does not keep well, although it can be frozen, it never tastes so good as when it's freshly made.
Mix yeast powder, sugar and 1/2 cup of warm water and let stand for ten minutes. In a large bowl stir 7 cups of flour and the salt then fold in 2 1/2 cups of warm water. Knead together until it forms one mass. Dust work surface with extra flour and work for a quarter of an hour until it forms a rubbery ball - keep dusting the surface and your hands with extra flour. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil, place dough in and cover with a clean towel. Place bowl in a warm area for a couple of hours for the first rising. oil your hands then re-handle the dough reducing it's size then divide into around 12 balls. (If you want to make two different size pitas you can make 6 balls the size of a tennis ball and 3 twice that size). Place on a greased platter or tray and re-cover with towel for an additional half an hour for 2nd rising. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll out the dough into round flat breads about 1/5 of an inch thick. Let rise for a 3rd time on baking trays for an hour covered with towel. Place a second greased tray over the dough when the towel is removed and flip them onto new tray. Bake them for around 5 minutes. They will puff up like a balloon. Collapse the bread and store under a moist towel until ready to eat.

Spinach Pies
"These Lebanese pies are a great addition to the Vegan diet."

  • Basic Lebanese Pie Mixture
  • 2 pounds of spinach after the stems are trimmed. Wash and chop
  • 1 medium to large onion diced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
  • 5 T. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 T. of lemon juice
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 t of salt

Decide on the size of the pies you want to make. For small pies divide dough and roll into 12 balls (oil hands with olive oil first). For large pies divide into four balls.Pie.JPG (12473 bytes) Or, any combination of small and large. Let dough balls sit for half an hour covered with cloth. Fry onion in a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil, until golden, then turn into mixing bowl. Drop wet spinach into saucepan and heat until it withers. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary. Let cool then squeeze out all the water. Add to onions along with salt, pepper, remaining oil and lemon juice and mix well. Roll out each dough ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Place enough filling into the center of each so that it forms a plump pie when folded over into a half circle. Press edges together firmly. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake in greased pan for a quarter of an hour.

Vegetarian Option:    Add 3/4 pound of Feta cheese crumbled and mixed into filling.