Pita breads are easy to find in stores, but they can be thick or thin or have pockets or not. I like my pitas thin and with pockets. But store ones that are thin and have pockets usually fall apart when you fill them with a lot of stuff.
I recently made Beef Steak Pitas for this blog. The thick, pocket-less pita that I bought at a local Mediterranean market reminded me: I can make my own pitas!
Sometimes you just have to do it yourself to get it right. I made these last week and they turned out perfect. I enjoy the nutty taste and chewy texture that the whole wheat flour lends these breads. I like watching them puff up in the oven. I love taking out a hot one, cutting it in half, filling it with a slice of cheddar cheese, and ooh-ing and aah-ing at the experience.
(I also like filling them with a lot of stuff. I also like that they store well, on the counter or in the freezer.)
In 1999, I wrote up my method for pita breads in my old blog (here is the history of that blog). Here is that post, along with my slightly updated recipe for pitas.
I was inspired to make these after a member of a news group I was reading, rec.food.baking, asked for suggestions as to how to get pita bread to bake with even crusts. No one else in the group was posting an answer, so I dug out my old recipe (it’s been at least 15 years since I tried these, back when I was baking with more whole grains than I do currently) and gave it a whirl. And yes, I did use a bread machine to do the dough, sorry, but I like the freedom it gives me, plus I’m busier than I used to be. The recipe works just as well if you do the kneading by hand, then let it rise until double, punch down and form the loaves.
I was amazed at how good they came out – nutty and chewy and utterly delightful. I get such a kick out of the way they puff up, but then I’m easily entertained. They make a great pocket for fillings, because they stay together much better than the store-bought cracker-like pitas. Most of these had even crusts top and bottom, though a couple were uneven: I have no explanation as to why, I thought I did them all the same. (Guess they were rebel pitas.)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 generous tablespoon olive oil (you can use any vegetable oil)
- 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons gluten flour (or regular flour)
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (not white wheat flour)
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 2 tablespoons yeast
Mix in bread machine on the dough cycle, monitoring the dough after the first few minutes in the machine, adding a little more flour or water if necessary to keep a nice ball of dough. If you can, leave the dough a little bit wetter than you would for conventional loaves. When the cycle is complete, divide the dough into 10 pieces, knead each piece briefly, then roll each into a 6 inch circle. At this point, you may let them rise until puffy, about 20 minutes.
Put a heavy griddle on the bottom of your oven. If you have a gas oven, this really means on the BOTTOM; in an electric oven, you must use the lowest rack (take out the upper rack). Heat the oven and the grill to 425˚ for at least 15 minutes before you start baking the pitas. Place the loaves on the heated grill, a couple at a time, and bake for 6-8 minutes. They should puff up magically! If desired, you can then place them under the broiler to brown the tops.
Note: You can use a baking stone instead of a griddle.
Here are my 10 little pitas, ready for the oven.
Here they are magically rising when I opened the oven to take a peek!
Here is one of the baked pitas. These actually kept their puffiness and I had to kind of squish them down before storing in plastic bags.