Pita bread is ancient, but still best when eaten fresh of course…
Simplicity is key for this recipe. I think flatbreads, from all over the world, be it naan, chapati, lavash, pita, or tunnbröd from the Northern regions, are meant to be everyday, unsophisticated and natural. They are old fashion fast food and that is why making flatbreads should not be overly complicated or laborious.
With this recipe, because we are talking sourdough, you have to plan ahead a little bit. It takes longer for the dough to develop than if you were using a yeast based dough. Personally I find it works best to make the dough 24 hours in advance. For example, when you come home from work you make the dough that you are going to use the following day. Next day, you come home, preheat the oven, do some shaping and bake the pita bread, while preparing the things you want to eat with them.
The best thing about this bread is the ‘puffing up’ part. I can never get enough of watching the bread inflate just a few minutes after trowing the dough in the oven. I still jump up and down with joy when that happens. And watching this, you can be sure you will have your bread pocket to fill after it comes out of the oven.
Lets get baking!
|Ingredients for the Pita
|wheat (bread / plain) flour
|sourdough culture (100% hydrated, equal parts flour and water:
see our recipe here)
Making the Pita
Make the dough by kneading all the ingredients in a free standing mixer for 4-5 minutes (by hand 8 to 10 minutes). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for up to 24 hours at a cool room temperature (18 – 20°C / 64 – 68°F). Like I said in the introduction, 24 hours works perfect for me and my sourdough culture to get the right dough consistency and taste development. But every culture is different and can act different so you have to give it a few tries to find your own optimum.
For the next step you divide the dough in 8 equal parts (slightly over 100 g each) and shape into balls. Cover and leave to relax for 10 minutes while you preheat your oven as hot as possible. Some ovens go to 250°C / 480°F, but if yours goes to 300°C / 570°F, that’s even better. Make sure the stone or rack you are going to use is also in the oven while you preheat, because you want your bread baked directly on a hot surface. I preheat our household oven to 300°C / 570°F conventional setting and just before I put the first pita in the oven I switch to the convection setting (which only goes to 250°C / 480°F). It is a sort of trick to get the best from both settings, first get the oven as hot as possible and after that the hot air helps with the puffing up part.
Now take a ball of dough and gently shape it by hand to a disc shape (see first picture in the gallery above). Take a disc and, with a rolling pin, roll out the disc to a circle of around two to three millimeters thickness. I love to practice my skills to get the perfect circle, but you can also make oval shapes. The bread will be equally delicious. You can also do this second shaping part by hand, but I have found that the puffing up bit works best when I try and roll out the dough evenly. Always roll from the middle to the edges and turn the dough a few times, so it will be rolled out evenly and round.
This pita is filled with spicy shoarma chicken and a garlic yoghurt dressing, but it is also classically good with falafel for instance
Now ‘throw’ a rolled out disc on the hot rack or stone. Be swift so your oven does not drop in temperature too much. You can bake several at once of course, but it is best to do a trial version of one pita first and see how that comes out. Now watch how it puffs up (the fun part!) and take it out after 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat the process with the other dough balls.
You can keep the baked pitas warm between two tea towels (they will stay warm for quite a while this way). I think they are best eaten fresh and warm but you can freeze leftover pitas (no longer than a few weeks). Thaw them and give them a minute in your toaster. Still delicious!
If you want to make a quick yeast version of this recipe use 290 grams of water and 7 grams of instant yeast for the dough. Leave to proof for 1 hour, divide and make balls and leave to relax for 10 minutes. You can follow the recipe from there.