Pita bread is the perfect tutorial level to bread making at home. The process is easy and straightforward, but also employs techniques such as proofing and kneading. Eating freshly baked bread is a life changing experience, and pita is one of the easiest ways to do it.
What is pita bread?
Pita is a round flatbread common in the Mediterranean and Middle east. Despite being a flatbread, pita is yeast leavened for additional flavor and a lighter texture. One unique characteristic of pita is the empty air pocket that forms via steam while cooking. That pocket is often used to contain meats and vegetables in the form of a wrap or sandwich, such as chicken shawarma. Pita can be used to scoop sauces or dips, such as hummus. It can also be cut and baked into crispy pita chips.
Why should you make pita at home?
Making homemade pita is the economically sound choice. This recipe uses a total of $1.18 of ingredients to make 8 pitas, totaling 21 cents per pita. Compared to the $1.59 pack of four pita, equaling 40 cents per pita. Even the cheapest storebought pita I could find (shoutout trader joe’s) is twice more expensive than making it at home.
But time is money, and buying pita is most certainly faster than making it. Right? I suppose it is if you’re counting total time, but the bulk of time it takes to make pita is inactive time. This recipe takes two hours total from start to pita, but that includes 30 minutes of autolysing, 1 hour of proofing, and a ten minute secondary proof. A total of 1 hour 40 minutes of the dough just sitting there while you do something else. Active time, such as forming the dough, kneading, and cooking totals only twenty minutes.
The one thing that may be holding you back is humanity’s greatest fear: “the unknown”. Making bread from scratch may feel like a difficult and messy operation. And for some breads that is the case. But pita is as easy as it gets. No stand mixers, no kneading till your shoulders are on fire. It’s just a matter of combining the ingredients, waiting a bit, shaping, and cooking. Even if you mess up on forming the pocket, you still end up with a delicious flatbread.
If you need more reason than that, homemade pita just straight up tastes way better. It’s no secret, freshly baked bread hits different. A simple fact of life.
Better than Storebought Pita
2 tsp active dry yeast
1¼ cups warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- Combine water, sugar, and half a cup of flour in a large bowl. Mix it together until a homogenous froth forms. Let sit for a few minutes and check for bubbles to ensure the yeast is alive and active. Add the salt, olive oil, and the rest of the flour. Mix together until a sticky cohesive dough forms. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour a clean flat surface, then turn your dough onto the surface. Knead until smooth, gradually adding small amounts flour to prevent sticking*. This should only take 2-5 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and springy, form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Coat the surface of the dough and the sides of the bowl with a little extra olive oil to prevent drying. Cover and let proof for one hour at room temperature.
- Punch the dough once to deflate any large air pockets, then move the dough to a flat work surface. Divide into eight equal pieces and shape into balls. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
- On a floured surface, roll out one dough ball into a large thin circle about 8 inches wide. If the dough keeps shrinking back in size too much, set it aside for a few minutes to relax the gluten a bit.
- Heat a large cast iron pan on medium heat. Lay the pita onto the pan. Cook one side for 1-2 minutes, flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. During this time roll out the next pita**. Then cook both sides again for about 30 seconds each. Set aside the cooked pita and replace with the next one.
- *The final dough should still be somewhat sticky, so do not add too much flour. Excess flour will hinder steam rising and you will be less likely to form a pocket.
- **If you aren’t comfortable leaving something on the stovetop unsupervised, you can roll out all the pita at once, stacking them inbetween sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking.