Pita Bread

Pita Bread

Far across the Mediterranean sea is a country called Greece that invented the Pita bread. But many countries along the sea and far across the desert have their take on it as well. Algeria does not have a recipe for pita bread but have many variations such as Kesra or M’semen. The Algerian flat breads could have been easily influenced by the Turks as the country was under the Ottoman Empire for nearly 300 years. In Turkey their variation of pita bread is called pide and you can see the Turkish influence all throughout Algeria in the architecture, food and city names. So it is easy to assume where some Algerian recipes have come from.

For the longest time Pita bread was the only bread that my son would eat. The soft and chewiness of the bread wrapped around a kebab or dipped in hummus. It could have anything and he would eat it. This bread is easily paired with olives or hummus as a snack, wrapped around a kebab at a barbecue, stuffed as a sandwich for on the go, or with any dish in between. Depending on how thick you roll the dough out will decipher how the bread will come out. Roll thinly and let puff completely to split and make a sandwich out of, or roll thick to dip with. Either way you roll it, this bread will be a hit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

Dough:

  1. In a large bowl mix the water and yeast together. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and flour.
  3. Mix together to form a small ball.
  4. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Add flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking, use sparingly.
  6. With the remaining olive oil drizzle into a clean bowl, and set dough in.
  7. Cover the outside of dough with oil.

Bread:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F for 1 minute and turn off.
  2. Cover bowl and let rise in oven for 1 hour.
  3. Punch the dough down and split into 6-8 even pieces (6 if you want thick pita or 8 if you would like to use them thin)
  4. Roll each piece onto a floured surface into discs of a 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Between rolling out dough, wipe a flat pan with a napkin saturated in olive oil.
  6. Turn the stove onto a medium heat.
  7. Once the pan is hot enough place dough on pan and wait for it to puff up with bubbles.
  8. Flip bread making sure to not burn one side from the other (1-2 minutes each side)
  9. Cover with a clean cloth.

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*you can stop at step 9 after the dough rises and refrigerate dough. or you can split the dough into 6-8 pieces, roll flat and stack with parchment paper in between for future use. dough can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 1 month. always best served fresh.

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Chekchouka (Algerian Ratatouille)

Shakshouka

Chekchouka which means a mixture is a kind of tomatoey-egg ratatouille. It is a beloved summer dish in Algeria. As always, there are many variations of this dish not only in each region of Algeria but also in the neighboring countries, Morocco and Libya. But chekchouka actually originated in Tunisia, and has spread far wide to many countries in the maghreb region and even farther to Turkey, Israel and Yemen!

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 bell peppers sliced thick
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 large tomato diced
  • 4 garlic cloves diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large pan heat olive oil over medium high heat, and add bell peppers skin down. You want to char the skin so it will be easy to peel off. (This step can be skipped, but peeling the skin by charring gives the dish a smoother and smoky taste.)
  2. Once the bell peppers have charred enough (3-5 minutes) remove and let cool. Then gently remove the skin with a knife by scraping.
  3. Heat a bit more olive oil again to the pan over medium heat and saute the onions. Add a teaspoon of salt to help sweat the onions.
  4. When the tomatoes have sweated transparent add in the garlic, making sure the garlic does not brown as it would result in a bitter aftertaste.
  5. Add tomatoes to create a sauce. Then once the tomatoes have been broken down add back in the bell peppers.
  6. At this time you will begin to spice the mixture with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. Adjust at will, my husband likes it a deep red in color and spicy, so please add more or less.
  7. Mix and continue cooking for 35-45 minutes. Simmer over medium-low heat.
  8. Crack open eggs over mixture, salt eggs lightly and cover.
  9. Once the eggs have been poached thoroughly serve with warm bread.

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Kesra (Algerian Semolina Flatbread)

Kesra (Algerian Semolina Bread)

Kesra or Khobz F’tir is a fast and easy everyday flatbread. Unlike its counterpart the traditional Khobz el Dar another semolina bread, which is baked, this bread is cooked on the stove and contains no flour. Traditionally the flatbread contains no yeast and this recipe has been adapted from my husband’s cousin, Maha, whom is very dear to me. With her recipe she has sent a new bread press which makes it easier to prepare the bread. Normally the older women would press the bread with their bare hands or covered in a cloth, to create a evenly cooked flatbread. The wooden press can easily be made from basic materials at your home improvement store.

Algerian Bread Press

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups semolina four
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup room temperature water +/- (may not need all of it)

Directions:

  1. Mix together semolina, salt and yeast.
  2. Add olive oil and continue to mix until a sand texture is created.
  3. Create a well with the dough and add most of the water. Depending where you are you may need more or less water. It is always best to use less and add more if needed.
  4. You want to create a firm dough consistency, making sure to not overwork the dough.
  5. Cover and let the dough rest for 25 minutes. The dough should not rise if not at all.
  6. Divide the dough into 2-3 sections and oil the surface where you will be rolling out the dough. As this dough is a semolina dough rather than a flour dough, you will use oil rather than flour to create a nonstick surface.
  7. Heat pan over the medium heat.
  8. Roll dough out into a disc of about 1/4 – 1/2 inch in thickness.
  9. Reduce heat to medium low and place the dough on the pan. This part is the trickiest as the dough is very delicate and does not maintain its shape. Try to slide your hand under and flip onto the other hand until your initial hand is under the dough like a spatula.
  10. Quickly mark the dough with a fork in any design. Marking the dough with a fork will ensure that the dough does not rise or puff as a pita bread would.
  11. Once dough has been half cooked on one side, flip bread with spatula.
  12. Press with wooden bread press and spin bread as you press.
  13. Flip bread and press with tool. Spinning bread as you press.
  14. Serve warm with jam, soup or anything you’d like.
  15. If serving at a later time, wrap in a cloth napkin also called a tarchoona.

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