Today we are talking bread, but not just any bread, we are talking about pita bread. Pita bread originated in the middle east and is famous for its inner pocket, which is perfect for stuffing. While I have tried many pita recipes, it took me FOREVER to figure out how to adapt pita to the home kitchen. Now I can consistently get thin, pliable pita bread at home and you can too!
Thank you WonderMix for sponsoring today’s post. To learn more, check out their website at WonderMix.
Back in college, my best friend and I had an almost weekly habit of chicken shawarma take out. To this day is still one of my favorite meals which I now call Girls’ Night Chicken. The one element of that dish that took forever to figure out, was the perfect pita bread.
I wanted a pita bread that is thin, pliable, and a little bit chewy. Also, it needs to puff up while baking to create a perfect pocket that is strong enough to hold the filling without breaking. While this is easily achieved in 700 – 800 degree wood burning stove, it’s not so easy at home.
Over the years I 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.
Making Pita Bread in the Home Kitchen
I recently 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 biggest problem is that his recipe was written to prepare by hand – no stand mixer. While it’s not a total deal breaker, it takes a lot more energy to make bread without the help of modern kitchen appliance. Also, his pita turned out a lot thicker than what I wanted.
So, I went back to the kitchen and started making changes. It took about a year, but I have finally figured out a method that leaves me with thin, soft, pliable pita that puff in my home oven.
Using a WonderMix Mixer
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, the results are more consistent with a stand mixer.
WonderMix sent me a complimentary mixer blender combo for finalizing this recipe. The WonderMix stands up to heavy doughs without dancing all over my countertop, mixes quickly and efficiently, and creates less of a mess. It’s a powerhouse that is built to last, but at a price that’s a little easier on your wallet.
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.
Working with Yeast Dough
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. 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. Since we are proofing the yeast, it should be added to water between 105º and 110º degrees. This temperature allows the yeast to get a jumpstart on doing its job, without being hot enough to kill the yeast. 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.
What flour makes the best pita bread?
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 and I prefer the texture of an all white bread, so that is our goal.
While you can substitute with an all purpose flour, bread flours have a higher level of protein. This 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.
Volume vs. Weight in Baking
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 relying on volume measurements 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.
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.
Recommended Kitchen Tools
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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.
If this is your first time working with yeast, go practice with my English Muffin Bread recipe first. It’s much more forgiving and will get you comfortable with making bread at home. For other great bread recipes, see my entire bread recipe collection.
If you like this recipe, please give it a FIVE STAR rating and share on Instagram #reneenicoleskitchen.
- 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 (105 - 110 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