People are often astounded that I bake my own pita bread. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t understand why I bother, or because they believe it’s difficult to make.
Well, I bother because I like to know what’s in my food, AND because I love to save money. Breads are so cheap to make!
As to the difficulty – it’s not! If you think about it, pita bread has been around for thousands of years. People managed to bake it without the use of machinery or sous chefs. How hard could it be?
The key elements to getting the dough to puff is a HOT oven – 500° F, and rolling them thin (but not too thin). They’ll be the correct thickness if you divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each 6½ in diameter.
NOTE: Even if they don’t inflate, they still may have formed a pocket.
If, for some reason, the pita doesn’t inflate or, at least, separate inside so you can stuff them, never fear. They’re still usable! Simply pile the filling on top and fold the bread over like a taco. Some people prefer it that way.
PITA BREAD: makes 6
- 3/4 cup water
- 1½ tsp yeast
- 6 T whole wheat flour
- about 1¾ cup bread flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 T olive oil
Heat water to 100°-104°. Stir in yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.
Into the work bowl of your food processor put all the wheat flour, 1½ cups of the bread flour, the salt, and oil. Turn on the machine and slowly pour in the yeast water through the pour spout. Let run 30 seconds. Check dough to see if it needs more flour. It should be slightly tacky if you tap it quickly, but not so tacky that it sticks to your finger. Add more flour if it is. Run machine again. Let run another 30 seconds, even if you didn’t need to add more flour.
NOTE: If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to mix and knead the dough by hand. During the 10 minutes of kneading, try and figure out how you can afford a food processor!
Pour dough into an oiled bowl, flip dough so it’s oiled on both sides, cover, and let rise for 1 hour.
Punch down dough and divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let rest 10 minutes to decrease its elasticity.
On a floured surface, roll each ball with a rolling pin into a circle 6½” in diameter. Keep dough covered when not working with it.
Place oven rack on bottom slot, set bread stone or a cookie sheet on top of rack, and preheat oven to 500° F. The time it takes to heat oven allows the dough one final rise.
When oven is ready (make sure it reaches 500° F – don’t get impatient!) gently place as many dough circles as will fit. Cover those that don’t fit and cook them when these are done. Set timer for 4 minutes. DON’T OPEN OVEN DOOR UNTIL TIMER GOES OFF! If you want to watch, turn on the light and peer through the door. For the pitas to puff properly the temperature needs remain really hot.
Stack baked pitas and wrap completely in a tea towel. This allows steam to finish the cooking, plus it keeps them pliable.