Pita bread is the recipe I have received the most questions about and requests for ever since I started this blog. After much experimentation here it is :)
Living in the middle east means you can get great pita bread at every bakery and restaurant but that also means that if you decide to make it at home, you either do it right or not at all.That is why it took a little time for me to get it right, a pita bread recipe I can post on my blog knowing it is the one!
Before we get to the “How to make pita bread”, let’s cover “Why to make pita bread?”
Pita bread is one of the most versatile things to have in your kitchen. There is a world of possibilities to use this wonderful flat bread
1. Fill the pita pockets with your choice of filling and turn it into a sandwich or wrap
2.Serve it with dips, soups and appetizers
3. Cut it into squares and drizzle it with olive oil and season it with herbs or spices. Bake it in the oven till crisp and enjoy the crunchy pita chips (be warned, they are addictive)
4. Fry them or toast them and use them to top your salad and add crunch to it. If you have never tried it before, make fattoush..you’ll love it
5. Use them to top Horaa osbao
If you try to google “pita bread recipe” you will find that most recipes share three basic ingredients : flour, water and yeast. You see, pita bread is simply a yeasted dough that is baked in a very hot oven and the trapped steam inside the bread causes it to puff and as a result the pockets in the pita form.
Keeping that in mind your bread dough needs to be soft as opposed to stiff and dry. You also need to use little flour during rolling because you don’t want to dry the dough out. Some recipes will tell you to mist the rolled dough before baking or mist the baking sheet. I personally cover the dough balls and the rolled bread with a damp kitchen towel during resting and that helps keep them from drying out.
If you look closer at different bread recipes you will find some that add olive oil, powdered milk, replace water with milk and others use ghee and honey. Each addition serves a purpose. Olive oil makes the dough easier to handle and makes it less likely to stick during rolling and consequently you use less flour while rolling it. Powdered milk and honey make the resulting bread chewy and soft and helps keep them soft after cooling.
I know some people will lecture me on the fact that traditional pita bread never uses honey and that may be true but the honey is my personal addition to the recipe. My secret ingredient. You can’t taste it in the final dough but the bread is so much more chewy and soft and I love the texture that results from adding it to the recipe. I have tried MANY pita bread recipes and the one I am sharing today is the end result of those experiments. It is soft and chewy. It puffs up beautifully in the oven giving you wonderful pockets to turn your homemade bread into a variety of sandwiches. It stays soft for a few days if wrapped and stored at room temperature and last but not least, it freezes very well. All you have to do is take the bread out of the freezer and heat it on the stove top or in the oven and it is as good as new. Give it a try and you will never buy pita bread again.
Pita Bread recipe
1 package (about 2 1\2 teaspoons) of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
4 to 4 1\2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon dry milk
1 1\2 cup lukewarm water
Preparing Pita bread dough
Proof the yeast by mixing it with the 1/2 cup of water and the sugar and honey. Wait for the yeast to foam and bubble.
If the yeast does not foam and bubble with in 10 minutes it has gone bad and you need to discard it and start again
In a bowl add the flour, salt and powdered milk then drizzle the olive oil.
Using your fingertips rub the oil into the flour mixing all the other ingredients in the process.
Keep rubbing the flour and oil until the oil is completely taken up by the flour.
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast water mix and 1 cup of warm water.
Using a wooden spoon (if you are doing this by hand) or the hook attachment if doing this in a stand mixer, stir to form a dough.
Take the dough out of the bowl or mixer and place on a floured surface.
Add the rest of the water slowly and knead with your hands to get a better feeling of the dough.
Continue kneading until the dough becomes soft, smooth and elastic ( this takes about 5-7 min.)
A tip that will get you smoother dough is to left the dough and slam it on the table 7-10 times as you knead it.(it’s a great way to vent stree too :))
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it,lightly coat it with oil and cover the bowl with a damp clean towel.
Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (the time required depends on how hot it is where you are. If you are tight on time see the notes to see how to shorten rising time)
When the dough doubles in size punch it down and then pinch out 10-12 small pieces, depending on the size you like your pita.
Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered with a damp clean towel for 10- 15 minutes.
Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles, 3-4 mm in thickness
Place circles of dough on a flat board or a table, covered with dry cloth and then place a clean damp cloth over the dough circles and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
Baking Pita bread
In the meantime, Preheat oven to 270 C or to the highest temperature your oven will go.
Place the rack at the very bottom of oven or better yet take it out all together and place your baking sheet directly on the oven floor.
Preheating your baking sheet is an essential step to get your bread to puff up perfectly. If you have a pizza stone you can use that to make pita bread but again you need to get it good and hot before you start baking bread.
Gently place your dough circles on the preheated baking sheet, make sure that you place the dough flat on the baking sheet, any wrinkles will prevent the bread from puffing up and once you place the dough you will not be able to move it, it will stick to the baking sheet until the bottom is baked.
Bake each batch for 2-5 minutes till the bread puffs up, when they do flip the dough on the other side and bake for 1-2 more minutes.
Using a spatula remove the puffed pita bread from the baking sheet and out of the oven, serve hot or cover with a clean dry towel till the bread cools down.
If you leave the pita bread uncovered as it cools it will become dry and crusty
When the bread cools place it in your storage bags.
Storing Pita bread.
Fresh pita bread will keep in a bag at room temperature for 2-5 days. In the freezer it will keep in good condition for up to a month. Just take the amount you need out of the freezer and warm on your stove top or in the oven for a minute or two
You can use this same recipe to make whole wheat bread. Replace up to half of the flour with whole wheat flour and proceed with the same recipe. Just keep in mind you will probably need more water because of the whole wheat flour.
If you are short on time and need th dough to rise quickly. Heat the oven to 180 C for 5 minutes then turn it off and place the bowl with the dough covered with the damp cloth in the oven. the dough should double in 15-20 minutes maximum.
Pita bread troubleshoot
My dough did not rise
1. your yeast was inactive to start with.
Proofing the yeast (mixing it with water and sugar and waiting for it to foam and bubble) before using it helps you avoid this problem. If the yeast doesn’t foam and bubble discard it and start with new yeast.
2. The place you left the dough in is too cold
In cold weather it takes longer for the yeast to raise the dough. Always put the dough in a warm place or see the notes about using the oven
3. You did not allow enough time
The time required for the dough to double in size depends on how hot or cold it is where you are. The colder the weather, the longet it would take for the dough to rise.
My pita bread did not puff up
1. Your oven is not hot enough.
Allow the oven enough time to heat at 270 C before baking.(10 -15 minutes would be best).
2. You did not allow the rolled dough to rest before baking
3. When you placed the rolled dough on the baking sheet it was not flat
My pita bread became hard and crusty when it cooled
You did not cover the bread when it came out of the oven. You need to keep the bread covered with a clean dry cloth or towel till it cools down