I really enjoy bread. Take me to any restaurant with great bread, and I’m in heaven. Sometimes, I regret that I’ve even ordered an entrée because I want to make a meal out of my bread basket.
There are ALL kinds of bread in this world, and many nationalities have their own unique types.
The French have their baguettes, the Italian their rustic ciabatta, the Chinese have the steamed buns, etc.
One of the most iconic breads in the Middle East is pita.
Pita, also known as Arabic, Lebanese or Syrian bread, is generally a round, flat, pliable, slightly leavened flatbread baked from wheat flour that originated in the Near East more than four thousand years ago. It’s used in many Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle-Eastern cuisines.
Besides pita’s unique shape, the fact that it can be made both without or with an interior pocket makes this flatbread very versatile. When made to have a pocket, the flattened rounds are baked in a very hot oven, which makes them puff up dramatically and creates a pocket within the interior.
Unlike thousands of years ago when pita bread was individually baked on fire-heated stones, today’s modern bakeries make pita by the thousands per hour with automated machinery and huge ovens.
As I mentioned about pita’s versatility, it’s most common use nowadays seems to be as a sandwich bread/wrap used for gyros (souvlaki), in kabobs, for shawarma, with eggs or with falafel. It is often torn into bite-sized pieces and used as a scoop for dips, such as hummus, baked or deep fried and served as chips.
Depending on the country or region, the dough pita is made from, and the way it is cooked (and then used) creates unique pita styles, which is why no matter what recipe you use, you’re likely making it authentic to some locale.
Of course, it is easier and more practical to buy pita bread than to make it, but sometimes it’s just fun to do something different and revisit a centuries-old tradition. And as bread baking goes, it’s rather easy to make. Here’s how.
Makes about 10 pitas
1 package Instant Yeast (or quick rising yeast)
½ cup Lukewarm Water
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 ¼ tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Granulated Sugar
1 cup Lukewarm Water
- Dissolve yeast in the ½ cup of lukewarm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes until water begins to bubble. If it does not, it is likely that your yeast is inactive. If so, get a new yeast package and begin again.
- Combine flour and salt in large bowl.
- Make a small depression in the middle of flour, and pour yeast water in depression.
- Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.
- Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, you’re good to go.
- Coat large bowl with vegetable oil (or spray), and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down, so all of the dough is coated.
- Allow to sit (covered) in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
- Once doubled, roll out in a THICK rope, and pinch off 10 to 12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 F, and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet in that same oven set at 500 F.
- Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5 to 6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.
- Pull the pre-heated baking sheet out of the oven and place as many pitas on the sheet as can fit comfortably. Then immediately place in the oven for about 4 to 5 minutes or until they puff up. Turn over and bake for 2 more minutes on the opposite side.
- Once the pitas are removed from the oven, they will still be inflated, but you can gently depress them to flatten them.
- Once flattened, allow the pitas to cool to room temperature and then store them in an airtight zip-locked bag. Your pitas will last a good 4 to 5 days at room temperature, a couple of weeks in the fridge or about a month in the freezer.