|Fresh baked Pita|
|Pita flat bread on left is from grocery store, with no air pocket.|
Did you ever notice how often store bought pita pockets are on the dry side and don't taste quite fresh? Other flat breads also named Pita are flat, with machine poked perforations throughout, and no pockets at all. Have you ever had one crack and split just as you are trying to fill it? These don't do that. You will not find either type of Pita fresh in our grocery stores or regular bakeries, though both are baked fresh daily at bakeries throughout the Middle East. The soft ones from the grocery store likely have preservatives added!
Pita is eaten any time of the day, often filled with meats, salads or grains and eaten as a pocket sandwich, like gyros or falafel. It is torn into pieces and used to scoop up Hummus, Tsatziki and other savory dips. Pita can be used as a wrap instead of a tortilla, or stuffed with any sandwich filling you favor. You can add part wheat flour to the dough, if you want to. It is versatile, tasty and freezes nicely. So I figured, why wouldn't you want to know how to make it?
This recipe makes eight (6-7 inch) pita breads. If you are making them to serve with a dip, you could make 12 smaller ones, instead. :-) It is an easy, non-fussy recipe that will work right into most schedules. It is my recipe, so feel free to share it wherever. :-) I developed it through trial and error after three other Pita recipes simply didn't work for me. It is now perfect for me and my equipment, and I think it will work well for you in your home kitchen, also.
It is important you use quality flour. Cornstarch is added as a filler in cheaper, all purpose flours. The resulting flour lacks protein strength, and makes doughs like pie crust resist stretching and expanding. They tear, crumble and crack easily. People then think they can't roll a pie crust or make bread, when it is really the flour's fault. If you like to bake, splurge on good flour! My favorite all-purpose flour brands are King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill. My favorite bread flours are King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill, or All Montana, in that order. King Arthur and Bob's are available at most grocery stores. All Montana (bread) flour can usually be found in 25-50 lb. sizes at Cash and Carry Restaurant Supply stores. I use part all-purpose and part bread flour in this recipe.
1 cup tepid water (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 tsp. active dry or instant SAF yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar or raw honey
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Can of Vegetable pan spray (or extra olive oil) for rising bowl and your hands!
Misting spray bottle filled with distilled water
Instructions: (illustrated in photos, below)
Whisk yeast into warm water in small mixing bowl or a glass 2 c. liquid measure. Stir in sugar or honey and salt. Allow to dissolve together for a few minutes. The mixture may get foamy, but that is not a concern. It just means your yeast is alive and ready to work for you.
Place in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl:
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into the flour in the mixing bowl. Attach a dough hook. Mix on speed 1 for about a minute, until oil is dispersed into the flour.
Pour/scrape the yeast mixture into the flour in the mixing bowl. Turn to speed 1 to gather ingredients together. Then turn to speed 2 to knead the dough. Allow to knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be slightly tacky, not sticky. Adjust if necessary, by adding a little bit of flour (or water) with the mixer running, to achieve that consistency.
Place dough in an oiled or sprayed bowl. Oil top of dough. Cover with saran wrap and allow to rise for about an hour in the summer or an hour and a half in the winter. When dough has doubled, punch down, and separate into 8 roughly equal pieces. Knead each one lightly, shaping each into a ball. Spray the tops with vegetable spray and lay saran wrap over them. They must rest for 15 minutes to make it easier for them to stretch and for you to roll them out.
Place a baking stone and an empty water pan in the oven while the balls of dough are resting for 15 minutes. Fill a teakettle and bring it to a boil. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees convection or 425 degrees if using regular bake setting.
Roll one Pita out at a time, leaving the other balls covered, while the previous one is baking. It takes less than 2 minutes to roll each Pita out. Also, I use NO added flour when I roll them out. Many recipes tell you to "be sure to use plenty of flour!" Using "plenty of flour" makes rolling them very difficult, if not impossible. If you follow my recipe exactly they will be tacky, but not sticky, and will roll out perfectly without sticking to the bread board.
|Shaped dough resting period of 15-20 minutes|
|Finger pressed dough ball shaped into small, flat circle|
Finger press/flatten one ball of dough onto a plastic bread board, a pie dough rolling mat or even the kitchen counter. Use rolling pin from the center outward every direction, pressing to flatten dough and stretch it while you roll, to about a 1/8th inch thickness. The circle of dough will kind of hang on to the surface you are rolling on, and stay where you roll it, but will be easy to lift off when you are ready.
Pour about 1/2 cup of boiling water into the water pan in the oven.
|Roll from center outward, as thinly as possible, to about 1/8th inch thickness|
|Place Pita circle on hot baking stone and spray quickly with water!|
|Oven is steamy above from water pan and water spray. After 3 minutes air pocket will begin to form.|
|Within 3-5 minutes, bread will puff completely. Remove and transfer with spatula to cooling rack.|
|Air deflates as the breads cool on rack. 8 delicious pita pocket breads!|