How to Make Perfect Pita Bread Every Time, it’s easier than you think, and you’ll never go back to the stuff in bags again, guaranteed!
I promised you homemade pita bread when I posted last week’s CRUSHED LENTILS, and here it is: the perfect, easy, user-friendly pita recipe. It took a few tries to get it just right, but now I’ve got it down, I’ll happily pass it along to you. We eat vast quantities of hummus in our house, so this recipe is going to be well used. This is a basic, no skills required bread, but even though it’s a simple process, you’ll still get that primal thrill when you turn flour and water into pillowy rounds of soft, warm bread. Rip it, cut it, fold it, wrap it, or stuff it — it’s a wonderfully versatile bread.
This is nothing like the mass-produced pita bread you find in the supermarket, which is usually dry and a little bit like cardboard. This bread is soft and chewy, and not at all dry. I’m going to be using the word soft a lot, I can tell, but that’s what I love about it. We will definitely experiment with whole grains eventually, but for this first recipe I’m sticking with all purpose flour, I think it makes a more appealing pita.
I used my stand mixer for the 5 minutes of kneading, and that made the whole process a breeze. That kneading turns a sticky blob into an elastic dough that rolls out easily. Use the same principle you would for pie dough; you want to start with a round disk, and roll from the center out, constantly shifting your rolling pin around the circle to keep it even. Don’t fret if you can’t get perfect circles, it doesn’t matter in the least.
The dough cooks right on the stove top, on a hot griddle or pan, in just a couple of minutes. Get the pan hot, at medium high heat, and leave it there. My gas burner goes from 1 to 7, and I kept it at mark 5. The dramatic puffing that you see above is a little unreliable…sometimes it puffs, sometimes it doesn’t, but the bread is great either way. The puffing is what makes the inner pocket, so that you can cut it and open it up, but I don’t generally use my pita that way, and I prefer the thicker, ‘pocketless’ version.
The minute they come off the heat you wrap them in a clean kitchen towel. The steam softens the bread and gives it the perfect texture. When they’re cool, store them in zip lock bags.
- 1 cup water, at about 100F, or warm but not hot to the touch
- 2 tsp (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the dough and oiling the pan)
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 cups all purpose flour (fluff the flour before scooping and leveling)
- Put the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl if doing by hand) and sprinkle in the yeast. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Blend in the oil and salt, and then mix in the flour. Once the flour is incorporated, knead for 5 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic.
- Coat the dough lightly with oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with plastic and then a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm spot for an hour, it will double in bulk.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Cut it in half, and then cut each half into 3 pieces, so you have 6 total. I like to take each piece and form a round ball, that way it is easier to roll out evenly. Keep the rest of the dough covered as you work with each piece.
- Roll out one of the pieces of the dough into approximately a 6 inch round.
- Heat a skillet or cast iron pan on medium high until it is hot. My gas range goes from 1 (low) to 7 (high) and I kept the heat at mark 5. Lightly oil the pan for the first piece of dough, but after that you should be fine without adding anything additional.
- Lay the round of dough on the hot pan and cook for about 30 seconds, until you start to see bubbles, or lumps, appear. Flip it over and cook for one minute. Then flip it again, and cook for a final minute.
- Remove the bread and immediately wrap it in a clean kitchen towel. The steam will keep it soft. While one pita is cooking you can be rolling out the next piece of dough.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough, and keep all the pitas stacked inside the towel until they have cooled. Then you can store them in plastic baggies.
- The puffing can be a little bit capricious…if you really want it to puff and make an inner pocket, cut your dough into 8 instead of 6 pieces, and roll them on the thin side. Make sure your pan is hot. I prefer the thicker, softer rounds of bread, but it’s up to you. These can be cooked in the oven, but again, I tried that and wasn’t happy with the results. The pan gives you more control.
This is one of those super satisfying projects. If you like hummus or other Middle Eastern dips you need to try this recipe. My husband likes to cut the bread in small triangles and toast them with a brushing of olive oil and a dash of seasoning, but mostly I like to use them as is, to enjoy their wonderful fresh baked quality. If you want to keep them for a few days, store them in zip lock baggies, in the fridge. You can freeze them, too, but I really recommend eating them right away!
For a slightly different spin on a Middle Eastern flat bread, try my LAFFA BREAD recipe!
don’t forget to pin it!