Middle East +Lo Chef.
Prep: 10 min plus -
Cook: 20 min -
Total: 3 hour 30 min
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
If you are careful with your proportions, you won't wind up with a sticky nightmare!
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (100 - 110 deg. F; hot to the touch)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (8 fl oz) lukewarm water
Mixing bowl, rolling pin (or use a bottle), paddle or similar to transfer bread to and from oven, pizza stone or baking sheet, oven.
DISSOLVE yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, stir and let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
IN a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt, mix thoroughly using your hands or a rubber spatula; make a well, add the yeasty water and about 1/2 the lukewarm water; mix and gradually add more water a few TBSP at a time using a rubber spatula (it can be very sticky until well mixed) until firm and elastic and just a little sticky (may adhere slightly to your hand).
TURN dough on to a lightly floured working surface and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 2-3 hours (much less if you are using 'rapid-rise' yeast).
WHEN dough has nearly doubled in size, punch down, knead lightly, roll out a 'rope' and pinch off hand fulls to form into balls about the size of tangerines - between a ping-pong and a tennis ball.
PUT pizza stone or baking sheet in oven on lowest rack; remove any other racks to ease access, pre-heat oven to 450 deg. F.
PLACE balls on a lightly floured surface a few inches apart, cover and let rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Dough has 'relaxed' if it doesn't spring back when you prod it, or try to roll it out. If it springs back, let it rest longer.
ON your lightly floured working surface, squash a ball flat and round with your hand and then roll out, flipping and turning, a round of the desired thickness - less than 1/4 inch thick and about 5" across. This will take experimentation, until you achieve the kind of bread you like. I like it very thin, but suit yourself.
SET aside, covered, for another 10 minutes.
NOW the interesting part: baking the bread. Middle Eastern bread ovens are cavernous affairs (even wood-fired from time to time) and are very hot, with a very hot floor. The bread is put on long paddles (same as pizza) and deployed in the oven until it puffs and browns slightly on top.
WE try to achieve the effect by using the bottom rack of the oven; using a pre-heated pizza stone or baking sheet; transferring the bread to the hot stone or sheet and baking for about 4 minutes - when the bread has 'popped' and browned ever so slightly on the edges or top. The time depends on how thick and moist your bread is; how your oven is constructed, and how hot the oven is. My best results have been with the stone - you will have to experiment.
ALLOW to cool, flatten, store in plastic bags. Can be refrigerated or frozen, with appropriate re-heating or micro-waving.