Pita bread is a marvelous invention – you can stuff your salad in one and eat it on the go or you can use it to scoop up wonderful spreads like hummus, skordahlia, tzaziki sauce, roasted red pepper spread or any other dip or spread you fancy.
Since I live 10 miles from the closest grocery store, I can’t always dash off to buy something I need for dinner so I either alter my dinner decision or make what I need from scratch and that includes making pita. Pita bread is a very simple bread – if you can make pizza dough, you can make pita’s with that recipe. If I’m out of sandwich bread, I’ll make pita bread if I have the time.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup water, heated
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place the heated water in a bowl (follow directions on the yeast package for temperature guidelines) and add the yeast, the sugar, stir, and wait a minute to make sure the yeast is active. Add half a cup of flour and whisk the flour into a batter. Add the salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil and whisk for another minute. Add another half cup flour and whisk it for about a minute. Keep adding 1/2 cupfuls until you can no longer use the whisk. Now you start using your hands. Add the remaining flour to make a firm dough and knead it until it has a glossy even surface – if it’s sticking to the bowl add some flour – 1/4 cup at a time. Real important with bread to knead it to release the gluten which helps it stay together and not crumble after it’s baked.
When the dough is ready to be set aside to rise, spread some olive oil in the bowl the bread will rise in. Cover it with a clean damp cotton towel. Since it so dry here when the north wind blows, I usually put a glass baking pan in the microwave and heat some water in it. Then I place the covered bowl of dough in the microwave (free of drafts and now warm and cozy thanks to the pan of heated water) and in about 45 minutes, the dough has doubled in bulk and you can begin making the pitas.
Punch down the dough and knead it for a minute in the bowl to get out the air pockets and make it a smooth round ball. Sprinkle some flour on a bread board (big cutting boards work just fine) and shape it into a smooth round ball. I usually cut it in half first and cut each half into sixths and place the little balls of dough back into the oiled bowl. Shape each ball just before you roll it out on a floured surface. Roll out each ball of dough to a pita about 6 – 7″ pita. Place the pita on a floured cookie sheet – do not stack the pitas on top of each other as they need to rest and rise for 10-20 minutes before they are baked. Place the cookie sheet in a warm draft free location and keep covered with a clean dry cotton towel. Repeat this process until the dough is all shaped into pitas.
I use my barbecue for a lot of stuff so I know it takes about 10 minutes to reach 550 degrees (I start with the temperature above what I need because the temperature will drop a bit when opening the barbecue cover). I remove the pitas from the floured cookie sheets and put them on a piece of foil that I transfer to the barbecue. I close the cover and check the temperature. If it’s fallen below 500, I leave the setting alone but check the temperature in a few minutes and adjust it to 500 if the temperature has risen. If it hasn’t gone below 500 degrees, I turn the temp down to 500 and check on the pitas in 2 to 3 minutes to see if they have ballooned up yet. If they have, I gently turn them over and let them cook another minute or two at most. I place them in a glass baking pan and either cover them with the tin foil they were baked on or a fresh clean cotton towel. After they have cooled down a bit, they are ready to be cut in half (use a pizza cutter as knives have a tendency to seal the cut edges together) and stuff with your favorite fillings.
If you are making pizza, divide the risen dough into two and use one half of it to make pizza.
This recipe makes one 12 inch pizza and about 6 pita breads or 12 pita breads if you aren’t making pizza.
Healthful changes you can make to this recipe:
instead of 2 1/2 cups of white flour
use 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
If you have it, you could also substitute 1/8 cup white flour with 1/8 cup soy protein powder.
If you really like garlic, you could add several cloves crushed garlic to mixture while using the whisk. You can also add other spices such as basil or rosemary, fennel, oregano, sage, etc. during the whisking stage – I don’t recommend you use all of these into one recipe – pick one that will complement the ingredients of the pizza you will be making or what you plan on putting in the pitas. How much spice? Start with half a teaspoon to see if you like it and the next time you make this dough adjust the amount accordingly.