Thank you to WonderMix for sponsoring today’s post on how to make pita bread at home.
Today we are talking bread, but not just any bread, we are talking about pita bread. Pita is a style of bread that originated in the middle east. It is famous for its inner pocket, which is perfect for stuffing. While I have tried many pita recipes, none of them turned out right in my home kitchen. It took me FOREVER (aka 13 years) to figure out what I was doing wrong. However, my persistence paid off and I have figured out how to consistently get thin, pliable pita bread at home. Read on for all my tips and tricks for making pita at home or head right to the recipe.
Back in college, my best friend and I had a habit of ordering take out. We’d go back to her house and binge watch the day’s episode of General Hospital followed by reruns of Sex and the City while we stuffed our faces. It was a meal that still to this day is one of my favorites: chicken shawarma (aka Girls’ Night Chicken).
Over the years I was able to recreate the hummus, toum, and a version of chicken shawarma. The perfect pita bread, however, has always eluded me. I want a pita bread that is thin, pliable, and a little bit chewy. Also, it needs to puff up and create a pocket that is strong enough to hold the filling without breaking. It would be easily achieved in 700 – 800 degree wood burning stove, but it’s not so easy at home.
I have probably tried a dozen different recipes. I have tried the oven method, the pizza stone method, the stovetop method, and the buy it from the store because I give up method. All except one of them caused my smoke alarms to go off, but none resulted in a perfectly puffed pita. Until now.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! (Thank you James Beard.)
Last year, while my husband and I were moving, I picked up a copy of the 2010 version of James Beard’s “Beard on Bread” and I had a minor epiphany. Instead of trying to recreate the wheel, why not start with a recipe that actually works and adapt it? After following Beard’s recipe to the letter I got 6 of my 8 pitas to puff, and I was ecstatic! I could make pita bread!!
The problem was that the pita were not coming out with the right texture. Also, his recipe was written to prepare by hand – no stand mixer. So, I went back to the kitchen and started making changes. It took about a year, but I have finally figured it out. I now have a method that leaves me with thin, soft, pliable pita, that puff in my home oven.
The biggest difference between my version and James Beard’s version is that mine has been created for the stand mixer. While I love getting my hands messy when making most doughs, I find that pita dough is a little less forgiving and the results are more consistent with a stand mixer.
This past May at the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City, I was fortunate enough to meet the guys behind WonderMix. WonderMix, who is sponsoring today’s post, is my new favorite kitchen gadget. It’s the reason I now own a blender (that can chew through ice). It’s also why my KitchenAid has been banished to the back of a cabinet.
In the short time I’ve owned mine, I’ve fallen in love with it. It stands up to heavy doughs without dancing all over my countertop, mixes more quickly and efficiently, creates less of a mess, and is overall easier to use. It kneads dough in half the time and the whip attachments can make meringue out of a single egg white. It’s a powerhouse that is built to last, but at a price that’s much easier to swallow. Add it to your holiday wish list or find yours on Amazon today.
For this recipe I use the dough hook with the dough divider in place. The divider cuts through the middle of the dough, which helps this smaller batch of dough mix more evenly. Together with the dough hook they knead the dough in only five minutes. By hand it would take closer to ten.
Did you know that yeast is alive?
The first step to great results with a yeast dough is to ensure your yeast is alive and active. I use instant or bread machine yeast, which works faster than active yeast. Yeast is often purchased in little paper packets, but it’s also often available in a glass jar. If the yeast is stored incorrectly, it can die before it’s expiration date. I’ve had a recipe fail ONCE due to dead yeast, so I test my yeast before adding the other ingredients.
To do so, simply add the yeast and sugar to the water in the recipe. The water should be between 120 and 130 degrees. Colder and it may not activate. Warmer and it may kill the yeast. The water from my faucet is around 125 degrees, but I test it with my meat thermometer to make sure. The sugar feeds the yeast and, if all goes well, the yeast will start foaming. Once it does you are good to start adding the other ingredients.
I use an unbleached, artisan bread flour for my pita bread. Yes, I am aware that using about 20% whole wheat flour makes for a more puffable pita recipe. However, the original I’ve been trying to recreate was a white bread pita so that is our goal.
While you can substitute the bread flour for an all purpose flour, there is a reason I recommend bread flour. Bread flours have a higher level of protein, which helps with the gluten development and adds strength to the bread. In the case of pita, which should be both chewy and strong enough to hold the filling, the extra protein does make for a better pita.
As you add flour to the dough, watch for it to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This is how you will know that the dough has enough flour. Once the sides are consistently pulling away as in the photo above, set the mixer to the lowest setting and allow it knead the dough for five minutes.
Volume vs. Weight
When it comes to baking, measurements by weight are much more accurate than the volume measurements many of us Americans grew up using. So much more accurate that the more time I spend baking, the more I rely on weight measurements. A basic kitchen scale runs about $15 and could mean the difference between perfectly puffed pita and a pocketless pita. I have listed estimated volume measurements, but I think it is one reason my earlier pita struggled to puff.
In addition to weighing the flour, I also weigh the dough balls when dividing up the dough. Pita bread cooks quickly and requires a hot oven. Twenty seconds can be the difference between undercooked and overcooked pita. Having the dough balls all the same size means they will cook at the same rate and increase your chance of successful pita puffing.
The Smoke Alarm & The Oven
Remember back at the top where I mentioned that all of the methods I’ve tried result in me setting off the smoke detectors? Well, even though I’m now getting consistently puffed pita bread, I still have to take measures to prevent my smoke detectors from going off.
For this pita bread recipe I’ve found that a preheated baking sheet works best, but there is always a little bit of excess flour that lingers behind as you bake the pita. This flour, along with any remnants in your oven, will burn up while operating your oven at 500 degrees and may result in your smoke alarm going off.
Due to that, pita bread is a recipe I won’t tackle unless I can open my kitchen windows and turn on my loud exhaust fan. It helps with the excess heat as well as any slight smoking issues. PSA: Smoke detectors are there for your safety and should not be tampered with just to make homemade pita bread.
Tips and Tricks
I’ve made many mistakes in figuring out how to make homemade pita bread, but I did it so that you can make yours right the first time. Here are the most important tips that I’ve learned along the way.
- Roll the pita evenly. Thicker or thinner sections can prevent puffing.
- The extra 15 minute rest between rolling is ESSENTIAL to getting the dough as thin as possible.
- Don’t crowd the pita onto the baking sheet. They need to lay perfectly flat, without rolling or bunching at the edges.
- The hotter the oven = the faster the pita cooks = the thinner the result.
- After you remove the first pita, close the oven door for a minute or two to allow the temperature to come back up before baking the next pita.
- Finished pita will be firm to the touch. It should be immediately wrapped in a clean tea towel to trap the steam and help soften the pita bread.
- If your pita bread cooks until it turns golden or gets char marks, it will get crisp and crunchy instead of soft. If you really want char marks, finish off your pita in a cast iron skillet over high heat.
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Homemade Pita Bread Recipe
This recipe for how to make pita bread at home will guide you through all the steps needed to make soft, pliable, thin, pita bread that is perfect for stuffing with your favorite fillers. Whether it’s Girls’ Night Chicken Shawarma, a BBQ Chicken salad on the go, or bacon and eggs for breakfast, this pita is strong enough to stand up to your fillings, but soft enough to not fall apart.
This pita can be stored at room temperature for 3 – 5 days in an airtight container, or frozen for longer storage. If your pita seems a bit stiff after thawing out, wrap it in a damp (not wet) towel and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave.
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- 30 ounces bread flour (about 6 cups)
- 16 fluid ounces warm water (2 cups)
- 0.5 ounce instant yeast (4 1/2 tsp or 2 packets)
- 0.08 ounces sugar (1/2 tsp)
- 0.5 ounce kosher salt (1 TBSP)
- 2 fluid ounces olive oil (1/4 cup)
- 0.5 fluid ounce olive oil (1 TBSP)
In the bottom of the stand mixer add warm water (120 - 130 degrees), yeast, and sugar. Allow to sit until yeast becomes foamy, 3 - 5 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt, and 10 ounces (2 cups) flour. Mix to combine, then scrape down sides of bowl.
Add another 10 ounces (2 cups) of flour, mix to combine, then scrape down sides of bowl.
Add another 5 ounces (1 cup) of flour. Mix on low. With the mixer running, add the last 5 ounces (1 cup) of flour a bit at a time. Watch for the dough to pull from the edges. Once it's no longer sticking, stop adding flour and run the mixer on low for 5 minutes to knead the dough. Dough should have an elastic consistency that resists pulling and springs back easily.
Place dough in a large bowl and cover with the additional 1 TBSP of olive oil, turning to coat completely. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide into 8 equal sections**. Shape into balls and rest for 30 minutes.
Place a baking sheet on the second to lowest rack and preheat oven to 500 degrees***, or the hottest it will go.
While oven heats, start rolling the pitas out to 1/8". It may resist rolling the first time. Move on to the next one and let the first one rest. After about 5 minutes of rest roll go back and roll the first one again. You may have to roll and rest the pita two or three times to get it to 1/8".
Once the oven and baking sheet are hot, re-roll the first two pitas to get them as thin as possible. They will double in thickness as they bake. Quickly transfer them to the hot baking sheet and close the oven door. Bake 4 minutes. The pita will puff up like little pillows, but DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN while they are baking.
Remove the finished pita and wrap it in a clean tea towel. Finished pita will be firm to the touch, but the tea towel will trap the steam and help soften it.
Let the oven door stay closed a minute or two to regain heat loss while you re-roll the next two pitas. Repeat the re-roll and bake steps with the remaining pitas, placing them in the tea towel with the other baked pitas.
*Baking time based on baking two pitas at once, with a 2 minute rest period to let the oven reheat.
**For best results weigh the sections of dough.
***If your oven does not safely reach 500 degrees, you can adjust the temperature down and add time. Pitas baked at a lower temperature may not puff as evenly and they will be thicker than pita cooked at 500 degrees. Do not bake at less than 450 degrees. For 8 pitas:
- 475 degrees = 5 minutes
- 450 degrees = 6 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1/2 pita
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 232