Whether we’re talking falafel or deli ham, pockets of pita bread are one of my top choices for sandwiches. So portable! So neatly contained! So easy to eat! The pitas you make at home are worlds apart from the stuff you buy in stores, and watching them puff to glorious heights in your oven or on your stovetop is culinary magic at its best. Here’s how we do it.
Pita is actually a very straightforward bread dough: water, flour, yeast, salt, and that’s about it. What makes it puff so impressively is the dual action of water turning to steam and the yeast becoming hyperactive when both are hit with the heat from the oven or stovetop. The pita has been rolled so thin that this action forces the top and the bottom of the dough to separate and balloon outwards.
You can make pita bread either in the oven or on the stovetop, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. In the oven, pitas puff up much more grandly and make softer pockets, but they stay pale-colored and fairly mild-tasting. On the stovetop, you lose some of the impressive puffing, but gain tasty and crunchy toasted spots on the surface of the dough. You can also make several pitas at once in the oven, where you can only make one at a time on the stovetop. Both methods work equally well, so the choice is yours!
Pita is also great make-ahead bread. I often prepare the dough through the first rise, punch it down, and then keep it refrigerated for up to a week. The flavor actually improves after a few days of chilling. You can bake the whole batch at once or cut off just what you need to make one or two flatbreads at a time.
I make and love homemade pita just as much now as I did when I first wrote this tutorial. It’s an easy and nearly fool-proof recipe for those who are just getting into baking and don’t feel quite ready to make a full-on sandwich bread. It’s also a good one if you’re cooking for just one or two people and maybe have a hard time finishing an entire loaf of bread before it goes bad. I love that I can make the dough for this ahead of time and pinch off just enough for one quick pita whenever I want it. Yum. – Emma
How to Make Homemade Pita Bread Makes
What You Need
Ingredients 1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling) 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast 2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons salt 1-2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
Mixing bowl Rolling pin Cast iron skillet (for stovetop baking) Baking sheet or a baking stone (for oven baking)
1. Form the Pita Dough: Mix the water and yeast together, and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil (if using). Stir until a shaggy dough is formed.
2. Knead the Dough: Sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading.
3. Let the Dough Rise: Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.
At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.
4. Divide the Pitas: Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Sprinkle the pieces with a little more flour and then cover them with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap wrap until you’re ready to bake them.
5. Shape the Pitas: Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as your oll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if its starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get into a rhythm, you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)
6. To Bake Pitas in the Oven: While shaping the pitas, heat the oven to 450
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