Why this recipe works Pita breads vary dramatically depending on the region of the world where they’re made. The thin, wheaty versions, often called Arabic bread, hail from all over the Middle East. We’re partial to Greek-style pita, with a pillowy interior ideal for sopping up sauces and dips, and a structure strong enough to support succulent gyro ingredients. But the pita bread that’s sold in the supermarket—no matter the style—is dry and tough, its stiff pockets unable to support sandwich fillings without splitting at the seams. Pitas don’t need to come in bags; we aimed to make a Greek-style pita at home. To create a light crumb with substantial chew we turned to bread flour. Even though our pita was light, it was also tough. Increasing the amount of olive oil in the dough from 1 tablespoon to a generous ¼ cup tenderized the crumb nicely. While traditional Greek pita doesn’t always have a pocket meant for stuffing (it’s often held like a taco and wrapped around sandwich fixings), we felt that our pita was lacking without it. The tricks to getting the dough to puff up during baking and create this open pocket were a well-hydrated dough and a hot oven: We preheated a baking stone in a 500-degree oven; as soon as the dough hit the hot stone, the top and bottom exteriors began to set. Meanwhile, all that water in the dough turned to a cloud of steam inside, creating pressure outward. The exterior maintained its shape without stretching, while the steam inflated the dough into a balloon, creating the perfect pocket. Our favorite baking stone measures 16½ by 14½ inches. If you have a smaller baking stone, you may need to bake the pitas individually. Pitas can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- makes eight 8-inch pitas
- resting time 20 minutes
- rising time 1 to 1½ hours
- baking time 8 minutes
- total time 2¼ to 2¾ hours, plus 10 minutes cooling time
- key equipment rolling pin, baking stone, pizza peel
- 3⅔ cups (20⅛ ounces) bread flour
- 2½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1⅓ cups (10⅔ ounces) water, room temperature
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2½ teaspoons sugar
1). Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk water, oil, and sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved.
2). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.
3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.
4). Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into quarters, then cut each quarter into halves (about 4 ounces each); cover loosely with greased plastic.
5). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth.
6). Generously coat 1 dough ball with flour and place on well-floured counter. Press and roll into 8-inch round of even thickness and cover loosely with greased plastic. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 10 to 20 minutes before trying to stretch it again.) Repeat with remaining balls. Let dough rounds rest for 20 minutes.
7). One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Gently transfer 2 dough rounds to well-floured pizza peel. Slide rounds onto stone and bake until single air pocket is just beginning to form, about 1 minute.
8). Working quickly, flip pitas using metal spatula and continue to bake until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer pitas to plate and cover with dish towel. Repeat with remaining dough rounds in 3 batches, allowing oven to reheat for 5 minutes after each batch. Let pitas cool for 10 minutes before serving.
variation whole-wheat pitas
Reduce bread flour to 1¾ cups (9⅔ ounces) and combine with 1¾ cups (9⅔ ounces) whole-wheat flour in step 1.
problem The pitas don’t puff.
solution Roll the dough thin.
Pita bread puffs when it comes in contact with a scorching-hot baking stone. The stone immediately turns all the water in the dough to steam. However, if the dough isn’t thin enough, that heat won’t reach the dough from bottom to top quickly enough to initiate a dramatic puff.
problem The pitas are crunchy.
solution Flip the pitas quickly.
These thin dough rounds cook quickly on the 500-degree stone. Waiting a few seconds too long to flip the pitas on their second side means they’ll overbrown and become crisp upon cooling. Be sure to flip the pitas as soon as you see a single air pocket form.
a step-by-step guide
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