Pita is a Middle Eastern flat bread that is not only easy to make, but also versatile. Truly fresh pita though can be difficult to find, as pita bread is never as good as when it first comes fresh from the oven. Most pita bread sold in local markets, unless it is baked fresh on the premises, is likely to be a very poor imitation of what can be baked at home.
We often don’t think to keep pita on hand, but quite honestly, there’s no reason not to. If you can make a pizza dough, pita bread is really no more technically challenging. It takes roughly the same amount of time from start to finish as a pizza dough, and uses only a few staple ingredients.
Yield: 12 Large Pitas
Time: 15 Minutes Active Time; 2 Hour 20 Minutes Inactive Time
Stand Mixer (Optional, can be mixed by hand)
2 Clean Kitchen Towels
2 Cups Water
1 tsp Pure Honey
1/2 oz Active Dry Yeast
14 oz Whole Wheat Flour
14 oz Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 2 Tbsp
Sea Salt (Optional)
Preheat grill (or oven) with the pizza stone to 500F
Activate The Yeast
Take 1 cup (8 fl oz) of warm water, between 90-100 F, and stir in the honey, and dry yeast. Set aside until the yeast has activated, and a foam has formed on the surface.
Prepare The Dough
In the bowl of the stand mixer add the salt, whole wheat, and all purpose flour, and briefly stir.
Make a well in the center of the flour, and add the remaining cup of water, oil, and the yeast mixture.
Mix on low speed for 4-5 minutes, or until the dough begins to gather around the hook. If the dough is wet, add just a little extra all purpose flour.
Using well-floured hands, gather the dough into a ball, and lightly coat the dough with the remaining oil.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel, or plastic wrap, and set the bowl aside for an hour at room temperature, until the dough as doubled in size.
Gently deflate the dough with your hand, re-cover the bowl, and rest the dough for an additional 20 minutes.
Shape The Dough
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide the dough into 12 even pieces. I recommend weighing the dough when you turn it out, and dividing that weight by 12 to establish a target size for each of the pieces. If your dough weighs 3 lbs (48 oz), dividing by 12, each dough ball should be approximately 4 ounces. Cutting the dough with a sharp serrated bread knife is efficient, and won’t excessively degas the dough.
Shape each piece into a ball, and on an area of the work surface that is unfloured, cup your hand over the ball, and quickly rotate your hand in a circular motion to shape into a tight ball.
Set the dough to one side, under a damp kitchen towel.
When each ball has been shaped, on a floured section of the counter, roll out each ball, turning a quarter turn after each pass to maintain the circular shape, until the dough measures approximately 7-8 inches in diameter, and is approximately 1/8 inch thick.
Set each round aside on a lightly floured surface, or baking sheet, and cover with a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out.
Allow the dough rest again for 50-60 minutes before baking.
Baking The Pita
Although a pizza stone is not essential, the pitas will bake better on a hot stone, and are more likely to puff, creating a pocket, than if baked on a sheet pan.
Preheat the grill (or oven) to 500F, allowing a few extra minutes for the pizza stone (if using) to come up to temp once the oven is preheated.
Just before baking, sprinkle the dough rounds lightly with salt (Kosher or Sea Salt works best). Once the pizza stone is hot, transfer the dough to the stone quickly, but carefully, as excessive handling will prevent the dough from puffing and forming a pocket. Be careful not to overlap the dough circles on the stone. Bake, with the grill door closed, for 5-6 minutes, turning the dough over once part way through cooking, after the dough has puffed, to ensure even browning.
As each batch is baked, stack the pitas, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel, to keep them warm.
Serve the pitas warm, filled with your favorite sandwich filling, dip, or spread. For a breakfast sandwich try filling pita bread with scrambled farm-fresh eggs and arugula. Fill a pocket with Greek salad for lunch, or top with fresh pesto, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella, to turn a few in to individual pita pizzas for dinner. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Homemade Pita Chips
A good way to use up extra pita bread, is to make your own pita chips. Once the pita is cool brush each round, on both sides, lightly with olive oil. Slice each pita into 8-12 wedges, and arrange the wedges in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle the wedges with sea salt, and bake in a 350F oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the pita is crisp and lightly browned.
Fresh-baked pita bread will store, tightly wrapped, for 2-3 days, or may be frozen for up to 6 months.
Definitely my favorite way to eat eggplant. I promise I’ll share that recipe soon!