Make Your Own Pita

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When Mike and I went to visit a friend of ours in Windsor last fall, she brought us to a lovely Lebanese restaurant called Mazaar.  The owner was a consummate host, moving easily through the tables and stopping to greet everybody individually (and most of them by name), sharing a glass or two of arak as he went.  Our friend, along with the rest of the group that we joined, worked for a national radio station.  Being a man who knew which side of the bread his publicity was buttered on, he treated our table of crazy loogins to much better service than we had any right to deserve. Along the way, he also just happened to keep popping by under the guise of bringing out several free ‘samples’ of the appetizers that he knew were their favorites:  the cardiac special garlic dip, mouthwatering baba ganouj, and the house made pita pockets.

Have you ever had pita fresh from the oven, when it’s still warm, slightly sweet, and puffed out with a hot baked pride?  After you have, the doughy pockets that you get from a grocery store just can’t satisfy you anymore.   You need REAL pita.  FRESH pita….HOMEMADE pita.  The good news is that if you have flour, yeast, and an average set of kneading hands, making pita at home is totally in your pocket…oh jeez.  Yeah, I’m sorry that I did that too.  

Pita Bread

Makes 16 rounds of 6″, or 8 rounds of 10-12″

  •  1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour *

* You can also use 3 cups of all purpose with 1 cup of whole wheat flour if you like a heartier pita.

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In a large mixing bowl add the active dry yeast, olive oil and sugar.

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The water should be warm like a comforting bath – not tepid like room temperature, and not scalding like a hot shower.  If you can, try to picture just a few degrees warmer than body temperature. If your water is too hot then the yeast will die.  Let’s try not to kill our yeast today.  Tomorrow, maybe, but not today.  If the water is too cold then they’ll stay fast asleep.  Just like Goldilocks, you want the water to be juuuuust right. Add the warm water to the yeast in the bowl and give it a quick stir to combine.

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Yeast likes warmth and sugar almost as much as I do, and if you leave it be for 5-10 minutes you’ll see it ‘bloom’.  If you’ve waited 10 minutes and your yeast still hasn’t started to get a rabid froth going on, discard the mixture and start again.    You may need to open a new packet of yeast if that one was past it’s prime.

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Add the salt and flour to your yeast, and stir it around until it starts to come together.  If it feels really dry you can add another tablespoon or two of water as you work the dough.  This has less to do with the ease of kneading than the final product, because if the dough is too dry then it won’t puff up properly when you bake it.

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Very lightly dust some flour over your work surface and turn the dough onto it.  Gather it up into a ball and start to knead it gently.  As the dough comes together it will get easier to knead.  I find kneading dough to be an incredibly cathartic experience.  Sometimes it’s a great outlet for my chronically bubbling rage, but other times (such as this one) I just blank out.  Completely.  Like when somebody comes over to say, “Penny for your thoughts?” and instead of muttering a caustic comment about inflation I just keep staring straight ahead, with my tongue lolling just slightly to one side.  

I have a theory that a couple of years ago, the last time that I had a really good night’s sleep, malevolent dwarves snuck into my bedroom and stole a moderately unimportant part of my brain.  I would try to prove it, but, well…..missing brain, and all that.  

After about 10 minutes of kneading, you will feel the texture change from a rather thick ball of dough into a satiny smooth elastic orb.  When it feels silky and resilient, you’re done.  Lightly coat a clean mixing bowl with oil and turn the dough around in it until the surface is shiny.  Cover the dough with a nice clean tea towel and leave it in a warm and draught-free spot to rise for an hour or two until it doubles in size.

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So….I got distracted, as you can see from the dough below.  That’s okay, it needs to be punched down anyway.  Preheat the oven to 475F with the rack on the lowest possible level.

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Ease the dough out of the bowl and onto your counter/work surface.  If it feels really sticky (as opposed to puffy and oily) you may want to dust the board lightly with flour.  Knead the dough for another minute or two until all of the air is pushed out.

Roll your ball of dough out into a long tube and cut it into however many individual pitas you want to make.  This amount of dough will make about 16 small (appetizer) pitas, or 8 large (dinner) pitas.

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Form each chunk into a small ball and roll it out until it’s 1/8″ thick.  If the dough feels like it’s sticking to either your rolling pin or the table, dust it with a tiny bit more flour.  Transfer 1-2 pitas (depending on how big they are) to an ungreased baking sheet.

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After the dough is rolled out, let it rest on the sheet for 10 minutes before baking.  Right before you pop it into the oven, sprinkle just a few droplets of water onto the top of the pita.

Bake your rounds in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  If the dough is moist enough it will puff up like a gloriously tasty bread-balloon.  

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The pitas cook quite quickly, so keep your eye on them.  They’re ready as soon as they’re puffed up and just golden brown around the edges.  And if they don’t puff up perfectly?  Meh.  Life isn’t perfect.  As long as they’ve bubbled up there will be a pocket on the inside.  If you don’t have any swelling and bubbling at all going on…well, eh, HEY, YOU MADE FLATBREAD!  That’s the magic of the kitchen.

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Oh, warm pita, freshly baked – how deep IS our love?

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Not that you need any suggestions on what to do from this point forward, but if you’re looking for a dip then pita pairs delightfully with Middle Eastern spreads like a roasted red pepper, walnut & feta dip, or a trio of hummus.  Hummi?  Maybe even an Indian spiced eggplant dip, just because.

If you made larger pitas to go with an entree, they would be just perfect for cradling some kafta with tahini, chicken tikka kebabs, or pineapple & mint shrimp skewers.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    She’s not kidding about zoning out while she’s kneading, everyone. I came into the kitchen while she was doing it, told her about my day, got a beer from the fridge and was on my way out when she said, “Oh hey! You’re home!”

    I am clearly central to our home life.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      You make me out to be such a shrew. However, let me point out from your comment: you got a beer from the fridge. Singular. Maybe, next time that you’re trying to solicit some attention, you could take note of the corkscrew on the counter…….

      • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

        Oh, sweetheart, I always take note of the sharp objects in a room — especially when I’ve been making fun of you.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo!

    It’s true. There’s NOTHING like fresh pita.
    Homemade flatbread of any variety is a thing of beauty.

    On another level, you two crack me up… Mike, even zoned out gals need a drink every now and again 🙂

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Too right, lo! It’s too easy to forget what thirsty work pounding the hell out of dough can be.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Ah, I remember the first time I made pitas and was absolutely not expecting it to work. Then when it puffed up I was so excited that I called Chris at work…They’re gorgous.

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    Pita recipe noted…are there one-on-one lessons available? This is too easy to pass up!

  • http://www.colette2008.blogspot.com Colette

    I chanced across this website a month or two ago, and I have to say – you make me want to cook. 🙂 I tried the pitas today. They turned out more like flatbread, and they are very, very good.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Colette, I’m so glad that you liked the pitas! Thank you for checking out our site, I’m always just so pleased when people make some of these things at home. And…I’m actually blushing as I type that.

      If the pitas turned out more like flatbread, that could be for one of two reasons:
      1) the oven was not hot enough when they went in. Some ovens run hotter than others, but you could try increasing the temperature a bit next time and that may help.
      2) If there is not enough moisture then the pitas will not puff out like bread-balloons. That’s fine if you want more of a Greek-style pita, but if you want a pocket bread I would recommend using a bit more water to make a moister dough.
      Bread making is a funny thing, in that your results will vary according to the humidity, temperature and wild yeast in your home, the gluten level of your flour, how salty your salt is, and so on. Finicky, yes, but well worth it!!
      If you like flatbread, the dough that I make is foolproof, easy, and next to no work at all. I’ve got two variations of toppings on this site (Pear, pesto and parmigiana on one and drunken figs with Bresse Bleu on the other), but if you just want the bread as is, I used the same dough for both of them and I would totally recommend it.

  • Ronda

    yay! I am SO glad I found your site Tina, I can’t find khobz for love nor money on my travels and have been thinking it is too hard to make at home but now I see it may just be possible for me to do and will definitely try this :o)
    Cheers !

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  • http://colette2008.blogspot.com Colette

    I’m a little late in saying this, but I’m a Sparks leader (5 & 6 year old girls), and at our mother-daughter camp this April, the girls made pita dough, which we used as crust for make-your-own pizzas. They loved it, and they were very proud of themselves. (The mothers were impressed too.)

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Colette – that’s wonderful!! Sparks are the sweetness. I used to be a Brownie leader and it was so much fun. What a great idea to make pita-pizzas with the girls. Good job!!

  • Slauditory

    Tina, I made these this evening. It was my first experience using yeast in baking–I’m trying to be a more adventurous cook. Everything turned out awesomely, despite me accidentally making the dough too wet (so my hands and forearms were caught up in a matrix of dough as I tried to knead). Yay! I’m going to make one of the dips on the appetizer page tomorrow to go with it. I’m so glad you have this awesome website!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Slauditory – good for you! That’s WONDERFUL news! Now that you’ve made bread once and know you can do it, I swear it’s going to get into your blood. Hey, you should try out the flatbread recipe because it’s easy as sin and I know a couple of people who swear by it (including me). Don’t feel compelled to use my toppings, but do try your hand with the dough! I’m just pleased as punch that your pita turned out well. And you know, a wetter dough is better for pita because it encourages them to puff up.

      If you’re going to make a dip to go with your lovely fresh pita, may I suggest the red pepper, feta and walnut dip? Or, if you can’t find pomegranate molasses, good ol’ hummus won’t let you down. Good luck!

  • nina

    Hi,
    Did you know someone is using your recipe and your pictures in their website(forum) under her/his name?
    Their site is a commercial site and so they are actually making money with other ppl’s recipies.
    “Najma” the person who has this recipe in herr post is the owner and the manager of this website.
    Not sure if you are happy with what she is doing.
    Have a nice day,
    N

  • Isabelle

    I love your blog and sense of humour. Keep up the great work.

  • mtngigi

    When my mother made pita bread she used a giant wooden paddle to slide the rounds into the oven and onto a large piece of black cast iron that would be hot (who knows where she got it?).

    The bread would puff up right away, and then she would run the loaves under the broiler to brown the tops. Oh how I wish I had helped her more on baking day – it was so much work. Us kids would eat that bread as fast as it came out of the oven. She made dozens and dozens and dozens of loaves in one day.