The pitas you make at home are worlds apart from the stuff you buy in stores, and watching them puff to glorious heights in your oven is culinary magic at its best. Pita is actually a very straightforward bread dough: water, flour, yeast, salt, and that’s about it. What makes it puff so impressively is the dual action of water turning to steam and the yeast becoming hyperactive when both are hit with the heat from the oven. The pita has been rolled so thin that this action forces the top and the bottom of the dough to separate and balloon outwards to create soft pockets. Pita is also great make-ahead bread. The flavor actually improves after a few days of chilling. The following recipe, from The Kitchn, yields 8 pitas but can be doubled for larger families and filled with a wide array of tasty fillings.
1 cup warm water, not hot or boiling
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons coarse kitchen salt
1-2 teaspoons olive oil, optional
- To form dough, mix water and yeast together, and let sit for about five minutes until yeast is dissolved.
- Add both flours, the coarse kitchen salt, and the olive oil, if using. Stir until a shaggy dough is formed.
- To knead the dough, sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out dough.
- Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, till the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed.
- Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with little olive oil. Set the dough in prepared bowl.
- Turn until it is coated with oil. Cover with clean dishcloth, let the dough rise until doubled for 1-2 hours.
- At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until needed. It will keep refrigerated for about 1 week.
- Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 8 equal pieces.
- Flatten each piece into a thick disk. Sprinkle the pieces with more flour and cover with a kitchen towel.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into circle 8-9 inches wide and about quarter inch thick.
- Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough is not sticking to the work counter.
- Continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. While shaping the pitas, heat the oven to 450°F.
- Place rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone or baking sheets and bake them for about 3 minutes.
- Once in the oven, the pita will start to puff after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned.
- Remove the baked pitas from the baking stone and keep the cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel.
- Pitas are best eaten immediately after cooking. Any leftovers will keep in an airtight bag for several days.
Warm Homemade Pitas