Oh, am I so happy to finally have a great pita recipe. You see, pitas themselves aren’t hard to make. Most recipes very closely, or even exactly, resemble a standard pizza dough and they’re not much more difficult to assemble. No, the trouble comes when you pop them in the oven and pray for the kind of puffiness you can pop some falafel into and end up with flatbread. Delicious, warm, toasty flatbread, but definitely not a pita.
But this works! These babies puffed up like a mouth-watering poori bread in the oven, coming out closer to balloons than pizzas — at last. The technique, which should be 100 percent attributed to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s brilliance, and not my own, puts indiviuals pitas on a searing hot baking stone (or if you’re me, and have busted another one I don’t want to talk about it a cast iron skillet) and bakes them for just three minutes. I found that spritzing the tops with water guaranteed a perfect puff, but really, that’s all there is. It’s that easy.
This may also be the perfect starter bread, for those of you intimidating by the bread-making process. A long rise in the fridge lends itself to a developed flavor we associate with high-end artisanal breads; it also does the hardest work for you. The ingredients are as simple as any bread can be and with a baking time of three minutes per pita, it’s hard to argue that it will keep you tied to the kitchen for long. Best part — even if yours don’t puff, you’ll still have a most delicious flatbread, and with a little extra effort,the most delicious hummus to dip it into.
One year ago: Almond Biscotti
Deb went on vacation and all I got were these lousy pita breads! Wondering why your comments aren’t being responded to at the speed that you’ve come to expect? It’s true, we’ve flown the coop and we’ll be back at the end of the week. But come on, we left you homemade pita bread — you shouldn’t have to miss us at all.
- 3 cups plus a scant 1/4 cup (455 grams) all-purpose or bread flour
- 2 teaspoons (13 grams) fine sea or table salt
- 2 teaspoons (6 to 7 grams) instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) olive oil
- 1 1/4 cups (295 grams) water, at room temperature
About 1 1/2 hours before shaping, or for best flavor development, 8 hours to 3 days ahead, mix the dough:
Mix by hand: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for a scant 1/4 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible; it’s going to be very sticky. Invert your empty bowl over it and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes, then knead the dough another 5 to 10 minutes, until it’s soft a little sticky to the touch.
Let the dough rise: Scrape the dough into a large oiled bowl. Press it down and coat the top with a little oil too. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or in the fridge overnight (or up to 3 days), until doubled.
To bake pitas in the oven: Preheat your oven to 475°F 20 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before preheating. Do not oil the skillet or baking sheet.
Shape the dough: Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, on a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking. Spritz lightly with water while resting.
Bake the pita: Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 to 4 minutes (less for small ones, longer for big ones). The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray each remaining piece with additional water before baking.
Proceed with the remaining dough, baking 3 or 4 pieces at a time if using a stone or baking sheet. using a pancake turner, transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. Allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches. The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving.
To cook the pitas on the stove top: Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly, very thinly, grease the surface and cook the pitas one at a time. Cook for about 30 seconds, then rotate the dough slightly (about a quarter-turn) and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes more. Small surface bubbles slowly grow to larger ones, and then eventually “find each other” merge and that becomes your big balloon pocket. Make additional small rotations if the process stagnates. The entire cooking process for each pita should be about 3 minutes.
Whole wheat variation: For a whole wheat version, use half whole wheat and half white flour, or you can make these entirely with white whole wheat flour — for this last option, you’ll need 1/4 cup extra water.