Pita is one of those things that is just so much better when made at home than bought from the grocery store. Or at least this recipe, which is the only pita I’ve made, is. The bread is more tender and of course flavorful than what I buy.
Pita isn’t any harder to make than other homemade bread. The dough is kneaded and allowed to rise, like other bread recipes. It’s then shaped into balls, left to rest a few minutes, and rolled into a thin oval. Like most kneaded doughs, this one doesn’t like to be rolled out and will probably need to rest half way through to let the gluten strands relax. Otherwise it’ll be like trying to roll out a giant rubber band.
Only the baking process differs substantially from other breads. Pita is baked on a pre-heated surface, which I’m guessing is what produces the characteristic pocket. I’ve seen recipes that use a pizza stone for this, but I’ve always just preheated a flour-coated baking pan. As much as I love my pizza stone, the baking pan seems a little easier.
These pita were a fantastic addition to the Middle Eastern feast I made a few weeks ago. But my lunch of leftovers the next day was at least as good as the dinner – hummus, falafel, and vegetables stuffed into the pita’s pocket made for an incredibly satisfying mid-day meal.
Pita (adapted from Ultimate Bread, by Eric Treuille and Ursula Feriggno)
UB note: The staple bread of the Middle East, called Khubz in Arabic, is more commonly known by its Greek name, Pita, in the west. Its soft, chewy crust, absorbent crumb, and hollow pouch make it the most versatile of breads, ideal to scoop up, dip in, wrap around, or be filled with all manner of food. Best served warm, Pita can be easily reheated: sprinkle lightly with water and warm in the oven. Keep Pita in a sealed plastic bag to prevent dryness.
Bridget note: The only things I’ve changed from the original recipe are adapting it for instant yeast and for a stand mixer.
Makes 8 breads
3½ (17.5 ounces) cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups water
1 tablespoons olive oil
1. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix water and olive oil in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth, supple, and elastic, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Initially, the dough will be quite stiff. It will soften and stretch as you continue kneading. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand for 15 minutes.)
2. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, about 1½ hours.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Let rest 10 minutes.
5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each ball to form an oval, 9 inches long and ¼ inches thick. Cover with a dish towel and proof until slightly risen, about 20 minutes.
6. Dust two baking sheets with flour and preheat in the oven for 5 minutes. Place the dough ovals on the hot baking sheets and return immediately to the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until puffy. Wrap in a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and to prevent drying out.
I think these are the last of the pictures from my old camera. Woohoo!