What’s a week of Middle Eastern cooking without a recipe for pita bread! When you lay eyes on a pita, it’s likely lying there pale and unimpressive, amid an array of positively mouth-watering delights. It probably seems bland and like it may not contain very much flavour, but that, gentle reader, is exactly the best thing about it!
Pillowy and mild-tasting, pita provides the perfect backdrop to let the flavour of whatever you choose to pair it with shine. Smear it with hummus, stuff its pockets with falafel or just salad veggies and slaw, roll it up encasing creamy shawarma – the possibilities are endless! It’s fairly easy to make (I stand testament to that!) and uses only the very basic ingredients. The only thing that can really go wrong for you is if your yeast isn’t active or if you’re oven/ stove isn’t hot enough. Remember both, and you’re golden!
Grab some flour and season it with salt. I used all-purpose flour, but you could also do half all-purpose and half whole-wheat. I’ve known people to have great results from both! Meanwhile, get your yeast proving by following instructions on the pack.
Pour in the yeast-water mixture into the flour and mix it up till it just comes together.
Turn it out onto a counter, knead like your arms need a workout and form a smooth ball of dough. Grease a bowl with olive oil, roll the dough around it, cover it and set it aside to rise!
The dough should’ve doubled and be all airy and fluffy. Get some of that air out by punching it down.
Divide it into 8 equal portions and roll them all into balls. Cover them up or they’ll dry out!
Dust a dough ball in some flour. Dust your counter in some flour. Dust your rolling pin in some flour. Basically dust everything within the a metre of the dough with some flour. Phew. Now, roll the ball into a disc. Nice and gentle, turning it often so you don’t have to yank it off the counter later!
Now, if you’re cooking the pita in the oven, roll out as many pitas as your baking sheet or stone will hold (don’t forget to pre-heat your oven AND the baking sheet/stone). Pop them in a really hot oven on a really hot baking stone and bake for 3-4 minutes till they all puff up. These will almost all be pale. Oh, and I was doing about three hundred things all at once when I was making these, so I hope you’ll understand that I forgot to take pictures of the pitas in the oven. Sigh. I have a picture of a nice, puffy one after it came out though! Yay.
If like me, you like your pita to have lovely little brown spots and a fair bit more taste than the pale ones, then to the stove and skillet you must turn. Agreed, it’s cumbersome to do them one by one, but they taste SO much better! And I have all the pictures this time. Win! So yes, pop a pita round on a very hot skillet and wait for spots to appear.
Once they do, flip it and cook the other side.
Pray that the other side has cooked. Or if you’re not me, use your spatula and check for yourself and flip it over.
In India, making phulkas, an unleavened whole-wheat bread, is a meal-time staple in many, many homes. So a fair number of people know how to puff bread up on a skillet. But if you don’t, it’s no big deal! Using a bunched up cloth, gently press on the sides while rotating the pita – this will coax the pita into puffing up. Once you see a puff forming, gently press it down so that the air inside spreads through and the whole pita puffs up. Savvy?
Adapted from The Kitchn
Prep Time: 2½ hours | Cook Time: 5-15 mins | Makes 8 rounds
3 cups all-purpose flour + more for rolling the pitas
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
½ tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp Olive oil
- Dissolve ½ tsp sugar in 1 cup warm water. Sprinkle 2¼ tsp active dry yeast in and set aside for 5-10 minutes till frothy.
- Meanwhile, mix together 2½ cups all-purpose flour and salt. Make a well in this and add the frothy yeast mixture. Process this using a stand mixer, hand mixer or by hand till a shaggy dough forms.
- Use the remaining ½ cup flour to coat the surface of your counter. Turn the dough out onto the floured counter and knead till it’s smooth and pliable, about 3-5 minutes.
- Coat the inside of a clean bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil and roll the ball of dough in it to coat it as well. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for about 2 hours. At the end of this time, the dough should have doubled in volume. Gently punch it down to deflate it.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Dust each ball in flour and using a floured rolling pin, roll each one out to a disc around ¼” thick.
- To cook the pitas in the oven –
- Pre-heat your oven and baking tray to 200°C or 400°F, while making the dough balls.
- Carefully remove the baking tray form the oven and arrange as many pita rounds as will fit without overlapping.
- Pop it back into the hot oven and bake for 3-4 minutes until they puff up. (Some won’t, but don’t worry about that!) Store the cooked pitas in a hot box or other covered container.
- Do this for all the uncooked pita rounds.
- To cook the pitas on the stove (cook it like you would a phulka) –
- Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat till it’s very hot.
- Place a pita round on the skillet and let it cook till spots start appearing on the surface, about 30 seconds
- Flip the pita, and the let the other side cook for about 30-45 seconds.
- Now, flip it again and use a clean, bunched up cloth to gently rotate the pita while coaxing it to puff up. Store the cooked pitas in a casserole or other covered container.
- Do this for all the uncooked pita rounds.
- Serve with an assortment of dips (hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, mutabbal) or use as a base for falafel wraps!
ADAPTATIONS & HACKS
- If you don’t intend on using all of the dough at one go, you can refrigerate it for use the next day or freeze it for use much later. Do this after the dough has risen and been punched down!