Week of Bread: Pita

February 1, 2008 at 10:35 am 38 comments

 Dough mixing and kneading station in my kitchen

It’s Friday once again and SFTF’s Week of Bread deserves a grand send-off.  Except that it’s not really ending.  I’ve got way too many other bread recipes begging to be propelled into cyberspace.  Shall I keep on going with bread recipes next week, or should I take a week off (still post of course, but not about bread) and come back later in February with more?  I don’t want to bore you lovely readers of mine.

Measuring out flour

Okay, it’s time for the big reveal this first week at least since the masses are clamoring for it.  By “masses” I mean my friend, Christine, who’s in the know about my recipes before they hit the blog, and by “clamoring” I mean she sent me an email yesterday wondering if I was posting the pita one today.   She’s been wanting to try it and for good reasons since it’s probably my favorite bread recipe at the moment and a real show-stopper when you pull out a basket of warm pita breads you made yourself! 

Homemade Pita Bread

What your dinner guests won’t know (unless you spill the beans…shhh) is how incredibly easy it is to make your own pita pockets.  It’s really just a matter of preheating the oven and the baking sheet.  So much warmth provides the yeast with instant gratification, which in turn spits out lots of air in the dough, forming the quintessential pocket between two delicious crusts. 

Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and add your oil and water

Once again, you’ll notice a distinct difference between this homemade version and the store-bought package.  Pita from the store, at least here in the States, is usually very soft and comes in uniform circles that lay flat.  You wouldn’t know there’s a pocket until you slice into them and sort of force the pocket to appear as you stuff in your falafel or lettuce or whatever.  I don’t normally think of pre-packaged pita as anything more than a vehicle for the fixings inside.

Sloppy soft dough prior to kneading

In delightful contrast, homemade pita is crisp on the outside and chewy in an airy sort of way on the inside.   It puffs up and displays a distinct pocket in the center right form the start.  You’ll never get uniform circles so it’s best to surrender to the charm of mismatched oblongs.  And best of all, they’re heavenly just as the simple bread they are, especially when served warm right out of the oven.  In fact, I only got to use one for a sandwich since D and I happily munched on the rest of them all evening long the day I made them.

Roll out dough into oblongs

If you’ve got kids, making these this weekend would be a fun activity.  Then they can take them in the school lunches  to show to their friends and feel the satisfaction of having helped make their food from scratch.  Heck, even if you don’t have kids, these are still nice to make over the weekend so you can pack them in your lunches next week.  But really, I’m willing to bet a batch of homemade bread that you’ll not have any left by Sunday night.  Better double up those measurements!  

Look at that pocket!!

P.S. – Thanks for the sympathy for my dentist woes yesterday.  For those of you wondering, my tooth is once again whole and my mental state is relatively intact. Hoorah!

PITA BREAD
Taken from The Big Book of Bread

2 1/2  c. white bread flour
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 t. superfine sugar
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
about 1 cup warm water

Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl and then stir in the sugar and yeast.  Make a well in the center of the dried ingredients and add the oil and about 3/4 cup of water to start.  Mix to form a soft dough – if it isn’t coming together, add a little more water.   

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until smooth and elastic.  Clean the bowl, lightly spray with oil, place dough inside and cover with a dish towel.   Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. 

Punch down dough and divide into 8 equal pieces using a pastry cutter or by pinching dough between your forefinger and thumb.  Shape pieces into balls and roll each out into an oval about 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches long. 

Place on a floured dish towel and cover with the oiled plastic wrap again.  Let rise for 20-30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 450F and place three baking sheets (ideally lined with parchement paper but can just be sprayed instead)  in the oven to heat at the same time (if you don’t have three sheets, just make pita in batches). 

It is important to have the oven and baking sheets hot to ensure they will puff up and form a pocket inside.  Place two dough pieces on each baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.  Transfer the pitas to a wire rake to cool slightly and then cover with a dish towel to keep the warm and soft until served. 

If making pita bread in advance, reheat under the broiler if you wish to serve them warm.

(makes eight)

Gorgeous freshly baked pita bread

 

Entry filed under: Bread, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , .

Week of Bread: Pesto Whirl Week 2 of Bread: Sourdough

38 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gintoino  |  February 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Hummmm pita bread….I always thought this was way too complicated to bake. Thank you for leting me know it isn’t😉
    I changed my mind and decided to start with this one and not the Pesto whirl. I will do it tonight and eat it with some home made tzaziki. (the pesto will have to wait).
    I will let you know how it goes. If everything goes well I will have some extra for tomorrow’s breakfeast (with some home made fig jam like I had it in Tunis… yum yum yum)

    Reply
  • 2. Julia  |  February 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    pita bread mmm. i’ve been waiting for a chance to make falafel and pita – i almost did a couple weeks ago but let the chickpeas soak so long that they smelled gross and had to toss the idea. hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks i’ll get a chance to try out your pita recipe!

    Reply
  • 3. Jennie  |  February 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Gintoino – Oh no, I didn’t mean to tempt you away from the pesto whirl bread! Althought, if I had to pick between the two, I would make the pita too. 🙂 Ahhh…tzaziki and fig jam too! We really must stop having the very same taste in foods! Yes, yes, please let me know how you find the pita recipe to be. 🙂

    Reply
  • 4. Jennie  |  February 1, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Julia – Now falafel is one thing I’ve never made from scratch but you’ve got me thinking that I should next time I make the pita. Do you have a falafel recipe you swear by that I should try?

    Reply
  • 5. Christiane  |  February 1, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Wow – these look really amazing and easy! I’m definitely going to give these a try. And homemade falafels are super easy! I love to make them. See how this recipe grabs you – http://28cooks.blogspot.com/2006/03/falafels-with-cilantro-and-tahini.html

    Reply
  • 6. Jennie  |  February 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Awesome, Christiane! I’ve bookmarked it and will give it a try this weekend. 🙂 Thanks!

    Reply
  • 7. gintoino  |  February 1, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Hi jennie, I just had to let you know that the pita breads were great! Next time I definitely will double (or more) the amounts. 8 pita breads disappeared in no time! They were lovely with the tzaziki😉 It’s definitely a winer!

    Reply
  • 8. Jennie  |  February 1, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Wow, that was fast, Gintoino!! You really meant it when you said you were going to make them right away.🙂 Seems like you might be addicted now too! You’ll be making more for the fig jam, yes?? 🙂

    Reply
  • 9. gintoino  |  February 1, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Totally addicted! And not the only one…I’m being “forced” to bake some more tomorrow morning for breakfast with fig jam.

    Reply
  • 10. therealpotato  |  February 2, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Yum… more bread recipes please, I’m loving this!

    Reply
  • 11. canarygirl  |  February 2, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Gorgeous pitas! I can’t wait to try them….I’ve been looking for a recipe for ages, and yours looks easy enough to try!🙂

    Reply
  • 12. gkbloodsugar  |  February 2, 2008 at 7:58 am

    They look perfect. Forget shop-bought ones.

    Reply
  • 13. Jennie  |  February 2, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Real Potato – There will be more bread recipes, have no fear! 🙂

    Canarygirl – So glad I could be of help…let me know how they turn out for you!

    Gkbloodsugar – Ahemn to that! 🙂

    Reply
  • 14. Joel  |  February 2, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, I must try these for sandwiches! More bread, please!

    …mmm…carbies…

    Reply
  • 15. enthusiasm : archive : » links for 2008-02-02  |  February 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    […] Pita Bread recipe (tags: baking bread recipe pita) […]

    Reply
  • 16. loveTOeat  |  February 4, 2008 at 3:35 am

    will try them tonight and let u know.. been really in the cooking/baking mood lately..nothing better than freshly home baked bread..

    Reply
  • 17. Courtney  |  February 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    I tried these last night, and preheated both the oven and pan, but they still wouldn’t puff up. Would it help if the oven was hotter, or if I sifted the flour twice or something? I’m not good with improvising on bread recipes, so I don’t know how to fix this. They were so delicious (even un-puffed) that I want to make them work.

    Reply
  • 18. Jennie  |  February 5, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Hi Courtney — good question… couple suggestions. 1) make sure you’re allowing your oven & pan enough time to really get up to temperature (depending on the age/model of your oven, give it at least 10-20 minutes). 2) once you have the pita rolled out into the oblongs, be sure to let it rise again for half an hour to get air back into the dough. If you didn’t get a nice big rise out of the dough the first time, your kitchen might have been too cool to keep the yeast happy so turn up the thermostat a little too. 3) How are you preparing/lining the baking sheets? I realized I failed to give any specific directions above (sorry), but I would suggest baking the pita on parchment paper, which I think gives the dough more freedom to pull away and shift during the baking process. If you have a Silpat liner, that would work well too.

    If all these suggestions fail to yeild some puff in the pita, come back and I’ll mull it over some more… At least they were tasty still! 🙂

    Reply
  • 19. Peggy  |  February 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Jennie!

    I need your suggestions on what kind of bread to use for making bread bowls for serving soup. What kind of bread do restaurants use for this kind of thing? I am really, really enjoying your series on breads. I especially liked the picture of you and your brother when you were kids helping to bake the bread. Keep up the wonderful work!

    Reply
  • 20. Jennie  |  February 6, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Peggy — Good question and one that I think I’ll post a specific recipe for sometime in the future. Most restaurants use a basic crusty Italian loaf, though reall several types of bread will work. What you are looking for is a sturdy crust that won’t break once the soup is inside and soaking in to the bread. If you’re needing something yet this week, the post I’ll be putting up Friday for a rosemary olive oil loaf would be a good choice. You would just split the dough into about 8 or so equal pieces instead of baking one large loaf. Stay tuned for the details…

    I’m not surprised you like the picture.😉

    Reply
  • 21. Week 2 of Bread: Rosemary Olive « Straight from the Farm  |  February 8, 2008 at 10:52 am

    […] baking lately has been superb, but there have been two clear front-runners.  Last week it was the pita.  This week it’s this rosemary […]

    Reply
  • 22. maven  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Great recipe, I’ll have to try it! I’ve just been using a standard 1.5lb white bread recipe and dividing the dough into 12 balls. I did get a hint from the Greek restaurant in town. He said to cook the pitas 3 at a time directly on the floor of my oven (or on a pizza stone on the floor of the oven)at 500F for 3 to 5 min. They puff beautifully this way.

    Reply
  • 23. Jennie  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Maven, but I don’t think I’d want to make them on the floor of *my* oven…I”m not exactly known for my oven cleaning skills.😉 Still, if I ever get a pizza stone, I’ll definitely give that a try. I’m also not sure if my oven goes up to 500! Too bad we all can’t have those wonderful traditional stone ovens the greeks and italians have!

    Reply
  • 24. Julia  |  February 15, 2008 at 12:40 am

    So I didn’t make the cinnamon rolls last weekend, but I did make the pitas. So fun! I must not have rolled them thin enough because they were small, and they puffed up a bit, but partly because they were so thick. So I’ll have to do it a little differently next time. I stuffed them falafel and it was yum-my. http://woundedchef.blogspot.com/2008/02/falafel-in-pita-with-red-cabbage-slaw.html

    Reply
  • 25. Jennie  |  February 15, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Julia – So glad you tried the pita! I read your post to see how they looked and how you made them. I would suggest, if you don’t mind me saying, that next time you forego the tin foil and try the hot baking sheets (get those big oven mits that make it impossible to burn yourself🙂 ) as I think that might be why they didn’t puff enough. Tin foil will never get hot enough to “shock” the dough into creating a big air pocket from the steam that’s created by the immediate introduction of high heat. Sounds like you had a wonderful meal there though with all the fixin’s! I will have to try your falafel recipe soon.🙂

    Reply
  • 26. Laurie  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    What a wonderful recipe to bookmark! Great pics also..🙂

    Reply
  • 27. Jennie  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks, Laurie! Come back often!!

    Reply
  • […] Their wheat doesn’t grow here, though). And I used this recipe that Jennie posted at Straight from the Farm. It was my first attempt, with mixed results. But for my first real try at yeasted anything, I have […]

    Reply
  • 29. wonderment » Blog Archive » Where to even begin?  |  April 4, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    […] To go with your hummus, another pita bread recipe […]

    Reply
  • 30. Kieran  |  May 17, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Every time we make pita bread, it doesn’t puff up! What are we doing wrong?

    Reply
  • 31. Jennie  |  May 19, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Kieran –
    Are you preheating your baking sheet? make sure it’s been preheated for at least 15 minutes so it’s really hot. it is the sudden shock of heat that forces the air into the pockets and puffs them up. Hope that helps! Also, sometimes when I make them one or two won’t puff so sometimes it doesn’t always work. But still you should be getting most of them puffed. 🙂

    Reply
  • 32. Maggie  |  June 4, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    My sister and I just made a batch of these and ate half with a yogurt and lentil dip. They were so soft and delicious, kind of like naan. And it was great to open the oven and see those puffy little pillows! They will definitely be in the repertoire. Do you think they’d work well with some whole wheat flour? Thanks so much for the great recipe.

    Reply
  • 33. Jennie  |  June 5, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Maggie – So glad you enjoyed them. 🙂 Yes, they are great when made with whole wheat flour too. Just be sure to keep a little white flour in there… maybe a 4:1 ratio of wheat to white. Helps the dough develop enough gluten.

    Reply
  • 34. Ann  |  July 16, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Not that i have beautiful bread pans, but how do you keep your pans from warping from the excess heat with nothing on them? Just curious, or did I miss something. I enjoyed reading about your breadmaking and will be back. Thanks!

    Reply
  • 35. Jules  |  August 29, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for popping by my blog. Your pitas look lovely. Your recipe is v similar, apart from I don’t rise my pita dough. I’ll have to try rising it next time.

    Reply
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