A Pretty Pile Of Pita Bread

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on October 23, 2012

Pita bread is something I grew up with at home. It was always on our table, probably more so than sliced bread which we rarely ate, if ever. We had several international markets close by that had a few deliveries of fresh bread each week. My dad would always co-ordinate his shopping around those days and would bring home a few packs of fresh pita along with some of our other favorites. It was always a treat. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy them fresh, then you know what I mean. The traditional ones were huge round shaped discs and usually came in a 6 pack…one was more than enough for each person.

That telltale chewiness that traditional pita breads have along with that unmistakable underlying tang is something that you will only find in a product made by experienced hands. If you look at the ingredient list on these types of products you will only find the basics: flour, yeast, water, salt and very little sugar…that’s it. In the Middle East, pita is made and consumed daily, and if they don’t make it they buy it daily. It was the same in Australia, and this was the expectation…serving day old bread is NEVER an option, you make pita crisps with those!

In the USA, the expectations are different. People don’t have the time to shop daily, and so the products they consume must have a longer shelf life. Nowadays, you see modified versions of the traditional pita bread with added oil or other conditioners to make the product softer and make it last longer. This is not to say that they don’t taste good…many do…but it’s just not anything like the traditional product.

I still come across the large dome shaped discs every now and then, but you can also find the medium size and the smaller pocket pita for sandwiches. Sometimes you can even find the pita bread topped with olive oil and za’atar mix (thyme, oregano, marjoram, salt, sesame seeds, salt and sumac). When we made it at home we added ground cumin and coriander too. If you ever come across this product in a Middle Eastern market, pick some up because it is such a treat.

After grocery shopping recently, I was shell shocked to find that my usual pack of whole wheat pita bread carried a new sticker price of $3.25 for 10 small pita pockets! This is highway robbery in my opinion, especially since you can buy a 10 lb bag of premium unbleached flour for $6 at the local warehouse store! It was time to revolt and I was determined to begin making my own.

I was determined to find a good recipe, and after all, they couldn’t be that hard to make… could they?

I must admit, I was a little nervous. Getting that little pocket of air is so critical in achieving a great result. I did come across many recipes online that did not come out right at all. I was lucky to come across this video where Marjorie did a great job of explaining the process in addition to providing a good recipe.

I did come across a few extra secrets in the process that she did not share with you, but I have provided them below:

  • Use a 500°F oven and bake the pita on the lowest shelf
  • Add a bowl of water to the top most rack 5 minutes before you are ready to bake to create a steam that will intensify the heat.
  • After you have made your dough, cover and refrigerate it at least overnight, this will help to develop that underlying tang that traditional pita breads are known for.
  • For a perfect air pocket, the dough should not be sticky at all. Make sure that the dough is pliable but not wet.
  • For whole wheat pita bread, substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of white flour.
  • Use unbleached flour instead of bleached flour.
  • Use a large pizza stone if you have one or unglazed tiles, if not use a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Now that I know how to make these, I’m going to make some time during the week to make a huge batch and freeze them. They are so delicious and easy, I don’t know why it took me so long to make them. If you’re a pita bread lover like me, make sure to try this recipe sooner than later. You’ll soon be hooked on how easy, versatile and delicious they are to make and to eat.

Pita Bread Pockets

1 packet rapid rise yeast

1 cup warm water **(I decreased, see NOTE below)

3 cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt (I increased from 1 ¼ teaspoons)

1 teaspoon sugar

NOTE: I decreased the original quantity of water in Marjorie’s video down to 1 cup. I found that in the original amount, I had to add a good bit of flour in order to bring it to the right consistency. By decreasing to 1 cup, you may still need to add just a very little bit of water to make it pliable enough so that you can knead it, which will depend on your environment. I actually dip my hand in warm water and then work that in, instead of adding extra water up front, which requires more flour. Keep doing this until it is pliable enough but not sticky.  

Add the yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer and then add the warm water and whisk until the yeast has dissolved. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl and beat for a good 5-10 minutes on slow until the dough begins to pull away from the edges of the bowl. If it does not do that, then add a little flour at a time until it does. This part is important. I removed the dough from the bowl and kneaded it by hand until I got the right consistency. The dough should be moist and pliable but not sticky.

Add the dough ball to a lightly greased bowl and swirl around so that the entire ball of dough is coated with oil. At this point, you can continue on and finish the pita breads, but I allowed mine to develop a little flavor overnight. If you are going to let them develop some flavor before baking off the dough, then cover and wrap the dough then place it in the refrigerator overnight and finish the final portioning and proofing the following day. This is what mine looked like the next day…

If you are going to continue on, allow this to proof until it has doubled. Once doubled, remove and knead for another 5 minutes. Roll out into a log and cut into 12 equal portions.

Roll each portion into a small ball and place onto a tray lined with a floured parchment paper and let them rest for another 15 minutes.

You will see that they begin to puff up slightly.

When they are ready, place them on a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll out thinly.

Place on a paper lined sheet pan and bake in a preheated 500°F oven for 2-5 minutes until puffed. Do not leave these unattended or they will dry out and become very crispy.

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Vera October 23, 2012 at 10:18 p

I want to tyry this! I have a pizza stone…
I’m a bit chicken, but I’ll give it a shot!

These look far better than supermarket ones ;)

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet October 27, 2012 at 10:38 p

Hi Vera! It’s great if you have a pizza stone but definitely not necessary…I used an aluminum sheet pan lined with parchment paper and it worked beautifully. I’m going to adjust the quantity of water a little bit, because in the last batch I had to add a good bit of flour to bring it to the right consistency…so I’m decreasing it to 1 cup. Try them and let me know what you think…I loved the recipe so much I’m making them every week.

avatar elpida charalampidou January 28, 2015 at 3:39 p

Tha tis dokimasw Caterina mou Teleies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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