My kids love pita bread; there is just something really appealing about that pocket in the middle! Flat breads are some of the oldest breads eaten in the world because they require significantly less technology that loaves: no oven necessary. At my house we eat corn and wheat tortillas, lavash, bruchetta, focaccia and pita and if you think about it, for the most part these breads require a hot stone and a fire. Ovens are a more complex form of technology. So, before you get nervy and decide that you can’t make pitas, remember that people who could not build ovens could bake pitas. You’ll be fine.
Wardeh at GNOWFGLINS offers a sourdough class which features a sourdough version of her Arabic family’s recipe for pitas (see HERE). Her family prefers a thicker, more substantial pita which she says is the more authentic preparation. I am not Arabic, but I know when I buy them at the local Arabic market, they are thicker so I make mine that way. I can’t improve on her sourdough recipe at all, but I can offer you a sprouted flour, commercial yeast risen version.
A few tips…
If you roll them too thin, they will crack to readily when trying to open the pocket so better to ere on the side of thicker rather than thinner. Keep the dough moist in order to get the most rise out of them when they are in the oven and this means keeping rising dough balls well covered and to use as little flour as possible when rolling. Also, the top part of the dough ball will be more dry than the bottom, so I turn it over and roll with that side down and I do not flip them as I am rolling. I roll directly onto my pizza peel and slide them into the oven keeping what was the top when rising on the bottom when baking. Don’t have a peel? Use a cutting board. When one goes in, I roll the next one. You can use a baking sheet, turned over to keep the sides out of the way (if it has them), but I prefer a stone; but either way, preheat the oven to 400F with the rack in the second to lowest position.
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 C ground flour (I used Kamut)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 C warm water (think bath temperature)
Mix together and cover. Rest about thirty minutes until you can see foam. Then proceed with the recipe.
To the sponge add 1 Tablespoon salt and enough flour (about four more cups) to yield a smooth dough. Knead for several minutes until the dough stretches rather than breaks when pulled. Divide dough into 16 even balls. I rise the dough on silicon baking sheets to keep the moisture in and then cover with a clean dish towel and then a bath towel. Allow to rise until almost doubled. Preheat stone or baking sheet in oven set to 400F.
One ball at a time, roll out to about 7-8 inches across being careful not to make the ends thinner than the middle. The more even your circle is, the better the puff. Using a spatula, slide the pita off the peel (or the cutting board) and onto the stone (or baking sheet). The bread will puff as it cooks and will be less prone to cracking if you do not let it get browned. This should take 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the oven and stack a few high but carefully wrapped in a dishtowel to allow them to slowly cool. They are best served hot but no store bought pita compares to this even if a day old.
We like to fill our pitas with hummus, like the one HERE, but also with pretty much anything. What do you put in your pitas?